A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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A Thousand Splendid Suns Quotes

Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Riverhead Books edition of A Thousand Splendid Suns published in 2007.
Part I: Chapter 1 Quotes

She understood then what Nana meant, that a harami was an unwanted thing: that she, Mariam, was an illegitimate person who would never have legitimate claim to the things other people had, things such as love, family, home, acceptance.

Related Characters: Mariam, Nana
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

The first time Mariam hears the word "harami" is when she breaks a piece of Nana's beloved tea set—it is a way for Nana express her anger and condemn Mariam. As a five-year-old, Mariam could not grasp the full implications of the word, which means "bastard." But here Mariam claims that she understood the implications of the word even as a small child. "Harami," as a term of shame and judgment, carries with it a label that stigmatizes the person as unloved and unwanted. This is something that Mariam grasps almost immediately and deeply fears: it is why she will cling so closely to Jalil, who seems to offer a way to escape from such isolation. Nana's use of the word also underlines just how much even she, as someone who suffers from the rigid social structures in place, has internalized these structures herself, such that she has almost come to believe what they imply for her and her daughter.


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Part I: Chapter 3 Quotes

“It’s our lot in life, Mariam. Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have. Do you understand?”

Related Characters: Nana (speaker), Mariam
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has told Nana that she would appreciate the chance to go to school, like Jalil's other children. But Nana is skeptical that this is a possibility, and besides, she doesn't think that Mariam needs the kinds of skills she would learn in school. Instead, Nana tells Mariam, she only needs to learn how to "endure." This advice is not only for Mariam: in using the first-person plural of "us" and "we," Nana lumps herself in this category as well.

"Women like us," according to Nana, are women who have been abandoned by society and are condemned to live at its fringes. Importantly, Nana does not include all marginalized people in this group, but only the women: as the group structurally prevented from attaining the same opportunities as men, women are doubly affected when they are also poor and exist outside of traditional family structures. Nana has a deterministic view of this society; that is, she does not seem to believe that any aspect of society itself can be changed. Instead, she and Mariam can only learn how to live based on what is permitted to them. They are condemned to suffer, but their "success" will depend on how well they react to this suffering—how well they persevere.

Part I: Chapter 6 Quotes

For the first time, Mariam could hear [Jalil] with Nana’s ears. She could hear so clearly now the insincerity that had always lurked beneath, the hollow, false assurances.

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,

Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”

Related Characters: Mariam (speaker), Jalil
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has returned to Jalil's house after Nana's funeral, and Jalil has told her that he will allow her to stay with him. There was a time when nothing would have made Mariam happier than to be able to live with Jalil. Now, however, Nana's suicide has changed everything. It is not that Jalil's character has been transformed by Nana's death: instead, Mariam simply recognizes the aspects of his character that she had been unable or unwilling to see all along.

Throughout Mariam's childhood, she had idolized Jalil, refusing to see him through Nana's eyes and instead remaining convinced that he was a kind, good father. Only now can she recognize that what she believed to be his goodness was only a pleasant façade concealing a deeper insincerity. After all, Jalil directly participated in keeping Mariam and Nana isolated and apart from his "true" family. Now Mariam's loyalty has shifted definitively to Nana. However, this change of heart comes too late for Nana, who did not live to see her daughter fully come to to terms with her father's true self. Mariam's belated realization will long haunt her.

Part I: Chapter 10 Quotes

“But I’m a different breed of man, Mariam. Where I come from, one wrong look, one improper word, and blood is spilled. Where I come from, a woman’s face is her husband’s business only. I want you to remember that. Do you understand?”

Related Characters: Rasheed (speaker), Mariam
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Rasheed is pleased with the dinner Mariam has cooked for him, and he offers to show her around Kabul the next day. But he will require her to wear a floor-length burqa: as he hands it to her, he scornfully talks about the more modern men in the neighborhood, who allow their wives to walk around in short skirts. Like Mariam, Rasheed is from a more rural part of Afghanistan, where more modern, Western customs are not only looked down upon but are often unthinkable.

It is not so much that Mariam is bothered by these customs of dress, but rather by what these customs symbolize in Rasheed's mind. For him, the burqa is meant to proclaim that Mariam is his property, that she belongs to him alone. Even her face cannot be seen by others for risk of allowing other men to have so much as a glimpse of this property. Mariam feels suffocated, not to mention intimidated, by these assumptions, which seem to rely on a code of violent patriarchal honor and reputation.

Part I: Chapter 15 Quotes

It wasn’t easy tolerating him talking this way to her, to bear his scorn, his ridicule, his insults, his walking past her like she was nothing but a house cat. But after four years of marriage, Mariam saw clearly how much a woman could tolerate when she was afraid.

Related Characters: Mariam, Rasheed
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has had multiple miscarriages in the years since she first married Rasheed, and she knows that her husband is furious at her for not giving him a son, a prized and crucial possession among traditional families. Rasheed has lost any minor tenderness that he once may have shown Mariam, and now in addition to feeling scorned and ridiculed Mariam also has to deal with being frightened by Rasheed's unpredictable moods and tendency to beat her. 

Rasheed treats Mariam not as a fellow human being, much less his own wife, but as an animal or a possession, something hardly worthy of attention. Mariam had hoped that she would find long-sought love with her new husband, but now that hope seems wildly naive and optimistic. Instead, Mariam begins to espouse some of the same beliefs that Nana had tried to equip her with when Mariam was a child. She has learned to "tolerate" all that Rasheed hurls at her, rather than fight or challenge him. Fear, rather than preventing her from persevering through the shameful way he treats her, is what ensures that she will be able to accept what happens to her.

Part II: Chapter 16 Quotes

“I know you’re still young, but I want you to understand and learn this now,” he said. “Marriage can wait, education cannot. You’re a very, very bright girl. Truly, you are. You can be anything you want, Laila. I know this about you. And I also know that when this war is over, Afghanistan is going to need you as much as its men, maybe even more. Because a society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated, Laila. No chance.”

Related Characters: Hakim (Babi) (speaker), Laila
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

Laila's friends have been joking around about how to ward off unwanted suitors, but Laila recognizes that she does not need to worry about such problems, since Babi wants her to get an education. Here she recalls what he has repeated to her multiple times.

Babi's advice could not be further from Rasheed's understanding of the proper place of a woman in Afghani life. Rather than considering the home as the women's sphere, Babi thinks that the education of women is not just positive but necessary for Afghanistan to recover from its many wars and succeed in the future. He sees Laila as an example of how the next generation can repair the mistakes and failures of earlier generations, and he understands that that can only take place if all citizens are educated. Babi thus makes the education of women not a private question, a question of giving women opportunities now often barred from them, but a question that is directly linked to the national future of the country.

Part II: Chapter 18 Quotes

“To me, it’s nonsense—and very dangerous nonsense at that—all this talk of I’m Tajik and you’re Pashtun and he’s Hazara and she’s Uzbek. We’re all Afghans, and that’s all that should matter. But when one group rules over the others for so long…There’s contempt. Rivalry. There is. There always has been.”

Related Characters: Hakim (Babi) (speaker)
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

Unlike Laila's family, which is Tajik, Tariq's family is Pashtun, meaning that they speak Pashto rather than Farsi—but they revert to Farsi when Laila comes to visit, for her sake. Although Laila is not old enough to fully understand all the ethnic conflicts of the country, Babi has explained to her that these two ethnic groups traditionally have not gotten along. However, he also tells her that, from his point of view, such quarrels are not only silly but are also dangerous—especially because the conflicts have so often turned violent.

Babi attempts to instill in Laila a sense of belonging to and gratefulness for the nation of Afghanistan, beyond the quarrels that he sees as petty and belonging to each group. Still, Babi acknowledges the suffering that can result when one group does manage to triumph over others and keep them subservient to its own interests. This inequality, he suggests, is what is at the root of the most violent of ethnic conflicts in Afghanistan, and perhaps what prevents the country from coming together as a unified nation. 

Part II: Chapter 19 Quotes

It was hard to feel, really feel, Mammy’s loss. Hard to summon sorrow, to grieve the deaths of people Laila had never really thought of as alive in the first place. Ahmad and Noor had always been like lore to her. Like characters in a fable. Kings in a history book.

It was Tariq who was real, flesh and blood.

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq, Fariba (Mammy), Ahmad, Noor
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

Ahmad and Noor, Laila's two brothers, have been killed in the course of fighting, and Mammy, who has always adored them, is beyond comforting. During the funeral, Laila attempts to understand her mother's feelings, and to feel her sorrow herself, but is unable to. Ahmad and Noor, off fighting since Laila was very young, have long remained abstract figures to her rather than real, present, loving brothers. She understands the importance of their positions and their courage in fighting for their country, but these ideals have never gained a sense of reality for Laila. She can only contrast the way she feels about her brothers to the way she feels about Tariq, whom she has grown up with, and to whom she feels more loyal and loving than she feels even towards her own brothers. While Laila would never be able to vocalize such sentiments, she does allow herself these silent feelings as she attempts to come to terms with her family's loss.

Part II: Chapter 21 Quotes

“And that, my young friends, is the story of our country, one invader after another. [...] Macedonians. Sassanians. Arabs. Mongols. Now the Soviets. But we’re like those walls up there. Battered, and nothing pretty to look at, but still standing.”

Related Characters: Taxi Driver (speaker)
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Babi has taken Tariq and Laila on a day trip outside Kabul, though their final destination is still a surprise. As they ride along in the taxi Babi has hired, the taxi driver takes the opportunity to share some of his own opinions about the state of Afghanistan and the suffering it has historically experienced. The driver goes through a long list of various foreign peoples that have invaded Afghanistan. Surrounded by other countries, in a strategic location for trading and for other political gains, Afghanistan has long been a prized target for invaders.

The taxi driver does not attempt to put an optimistic spin on this sobering reality for Afghanis. The walls of the Red City to which he points—walls of a nine-hundred-year-old fortress, battered multiple times and failing, at one point or another, to defend the city successfully—have nonetheless not yet crumbled. This physical continuity is, according to the taxi driver, something to admire, and is indicative of Afghanis' general response when facing political challenges and when forced to deal with a new round of difficulties and suffering.

Part II: Chapter 23 Quotes

“By the time we’re twenty,” Hasina used to say, “Giti and I, we’ll have pushed out four, five kids each. But you, Laila, you’ll make us two dummies proud. You’re going to be somebody. I know one day I’ll pick up a newspaper and find your picture on the front page.”

Related Characters: Hasina (speaker), Laila, Giti
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

Giti has shared with Hasina and Laila that there is a boy she likes in the neighborhood, and she's thinking about marrying him. Although Laila asks her about school, Giti just looks at her. Laila realizes that she should have understood, and she recalls what Hasina had repeated to her several times throughout their friendship: that Laila is on a different path than other girls in her community. Hasina underlines that Laila's family situation is rare if not unique: there are not many fathers like Babi, who consider it vital for young women to have an education and to have all the same opportunities as young men.

Hasina doesn't seem bitter about the different expectations for her and for Laila. Nor does she seem to question her own path in life, accepting that she will marry young and have children as is expected of her. Instead, she sounds proud and admiring of her friend: for Hasina, Laila is the exception rather than the rule, and her future should be treated as such. Hasina's words thus underline the difficulty of changing expectations and norms around gender relations in Afghanistan: even if one woman manages to attain greater equality with men, this is more likely to be seen as a rare case than as a new standard. Still, Hasina is also an example of the compassion and mutual respect that the book wants to portray as empowering, even if also common, among women. 

Part II: Chapter 26 Quotes

There would come a day, in fact, years later, when Laila would no longer bewail his loss. Or not as relentlessly; not nearly. There would come a day when the details of his face would begin to slip from memory’s grip, when overhearing a mother on the street call after her child by Tariq’s name would no longer cut her adrift. She would not miss him as she did now, when the ache of his absence was her unremitting companion—like the phantom pain of an amputee.

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of the few moments in the book during which the narrator looks into the future and compares one of the character's later states of mind with how she is feeling at the current moment. Here, the contrast between Laila's current and later states is meant to show just how acute her pain at Tariq's absence is now—but also how such acute suffering inevitably softens and eases with the passage of time. This is not to say that Laila will have lost her feelings for Tariq. Instead, the book tries to show how it is possible for even those who have suffered the most, in ways unimaginable to many readers, to carry on in their own lives. The book is also interested in the persistence of love, and how it can change and mutate even while persevering below the surface. The way this takes place is described through a simile that is highly significant, given that Tariq of course has an amputated leg himself. The simile of amputation is meant to show how an absence can be its own kind of presence. 

All day, this poem about Kabul has been bouncing around in my head. Saib-e-Tabrizi wrote it back in the seventeenth century, I think. I used to known the whole poem, but all I can remember now is two lines:

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,

Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.’”

Related Characters: Hakim (Babi) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Saib-e-Tabrizi’s Poem
Page Number: 191-192
Explanation and Analysis:

As Babi is mourning what has become of the country that he loves so much, he confides in Laila and shares something that consoles him in times of difficulty: a poem. This classic work from the seventeenth century is what gives the novel its title. The poem itself is beautiful, but its significance for Babi lies also in the image of Afghanistan that the work calls up, an image that shares nothing with the violent destructiveness that now seems to characterize Kabul and the nation at large.

These two lines in particular suggest that suffering is not the only thing shared by Kabul’s inhabitants. The “moons that shimmer” and the “splendid suns” underline the beauty of daily life in the city—a spectacle that repeats with each rising of the sun and view of the moon at night. But these beauties are not always readily available, remaining at times “hidden” behind the various walls of the city. The diversity of experiences and lives is to be marveled at, but one should also understand the inability of ever knowing all that takes place behind the physical walls of Kabul and behind the walls of its inhabitants' memories. Even in a time of war, however, it is possible to acknowledge the persistence of such daily histories.

Part III: Chapter 27 Quotes

The girl was looking back as if waiting for Mariam to pass on some morsel of wisdom, to say something encouraging. But what wisdom did Mariam have to offer? What encouragement? Mariam remembered the day they’d buried Nana and how little comfort she had found when Mullah Faizullah had quoted the Koran for her.

Related Characters: Mariam, Laila, Nana, Mullah Faizullah
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

During her recovery, Laila has had time to ruminate on her own place in the tragedy that has befallen her family, and to ask herself what, if any, responsibility she might have in it. She settles on the fact that if she hadn’t insisted on completing an errand that her father wanted to do, she would have died rather than Babi. For her part, Mariam is quite familiar with such feelings of guilt and responsibility: she too has experienced the painful process of grief mixed up with shame after the death of a family member.

But Mariam’s own experiences do not seem to have made her any wiser, at least from her own perspective. Mariam recognizes that there is little she can say that will make Laila feel better—something she understands having realized how little others, even those she respected and admired like Mullah Faizullah, could comfort her in her own grief. That Mariam does not try to soothe Laila thus stems not from coldness or hardness but from a shared experience and understanding.

She was remembering the day the man from Panjshir had come to deliver the news of Ahmad’s and Noor’s deaths. She remembered Babi, white-faced, slumping on the couch, and Mammy, her hand flying to her mouth when she heard. Laila had watched Mammy come undone that day and it had scared her, but she hadn’t felt any true sorrow. She hadn’t understood the awfulness of her mother’s loss. Now another stranger bringing news of another death. Now she was the one sitting on the chair. Was this her penalty, then, her punishment for being aloof to her own mother’s suffering?

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq, Fariba (Mammy), Hakim (Babi), Ahmad, Noor
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

As Laila struggles to react to the news of Tariq’s death, her mind returns to an earlier moment of another person’s suffering, in another reaction to horrific news. As readers, we too can recall that moment and remember how Laila struggled to feel a real sense of loss at the death of her brothers, even as her own mother broke down in grief at the news. Now Laila can finally recognize what Mammy was feeling at that long-ago moment, but she also feels that she is being made to pay, in some cosmic way, for her lack of grief when Ahmad and Noor died. At that moment in time, she had contrasted the abstract figures of her brothers to the real, visceral presence of Tariq. Here, that comparison is tragically fulfilled, as Laila learns that the person who has always seemed most real and true to her has died. In a tragically ironic twist, Laila can only fully understand her own mother’s suffering when she is made to experience something just as painful herself.

Part III: Chapter 30 Quotes

But, miraculously, something of her former life remained, her last link to the person that she had been before she had become so utterly alone. A part of Tariq still alive inside her, sprouting tiny arms, growing translucent hands. How could she jeopardize the only thing she had left of him, of her old life?

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:

Laila had been plotting to escape Rasheed and flee to Pakistan, but now a regular morning nausea has made her realize that she is pregnant with Tariq’s child, and her plans are forced to change. In some ways, this realization makes things more difficult and complicated: no longer can Laila realistically escape, and she will have to find a way to ensure that Rasheed believes that this child is his own. But rather than feeling afraid or trapped, Laila’s pregnancy is a source of gratefulness and relief.

After the death of her parents, Laila had been left with no living blood relations: only the knowledge that Tariq was alive and safe gave her a sense of continuity with her past. With Tariq gone, Laila feels alone in the world and bereft of anyone who could make her feel the kind of belonging she had with Babi and Tariq. The thought of Tariq’s child now gives her the strength to want to carry on, and the ability to withstand the desperation of her new life by clinging on to something that remains from her former reality.

Part III: Chapter 34 Quotes

Laila examined Mariam’s drooping cheeks, the eyelids that sagged in tired folds, the deep lines that framed her mouth—she saw these things as though she too were looking at someone for the first time. And, for the first time, it was not an adversary’s face Laila saw but a face of grievances unspoken, burdens gone unprotested, a destiny submitted to and endured.

Related Characters: Mariam, Laila
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

Laila and Mariam have so far accepted their position as natural enemies, competing wives. But now Mariam admits that she is grateful for Laila’s attempt to stop Rasheed from hitting her, for sticking up for her as no one has done before. Mariam’s expression of gratefulness causes Laila to see her in a different light. Before, Laila had considered Mariam as simply another enemy to face, another unpleasant reality in her new life. But now she begins to recognize that Mariam has struggled in similar ways that she, Laila, has—that perhaps Mariam has even suffered more than herself. The sense of stubborn perseverance and acceptance of past wrongs that she sees in Mariam’s face makes Laila feel sympathetically towards Mariam, and it also makes her wonder if she and Mariam could derive mutual strength from the things that they have both gone through—if the two women could be stronger united in their suffering than divided.

Part III: Chapter 35 Quotes

“Why have you pinned your heart to an old, ugly hag like me?” Mariam would murmur into Aziza’s hair. “Huh? I am nobody, don’t you see? A dehati. What have I got to give you?”

But Aziza only muttered contentedly and dug her face in deeper. And when she did that, Mariam swooned. Her eyes watered. Her heart took flight. And she marveled at how, after all these years of rattling loose, she had found in this little creature the first true connection in her life of false, failed connections.

Related Characters: Mariam (speaker)
Page Number: 252
Explanation and Analysis:

Since the end of their mutual suspicion and dislike, Mariam and Laila have grown continually closer, creating a surrogate family out of the two of them and Aziza—a truer family than the traditional one headed by Rasheed. Mariam’s murmurs to Aziza reflect the joyful shock that Mariam feels at being accepted and loved, for perhaps the first time in her life. As an infant, Aziza is unaware of Mariam’s shameful status as a "harami" and of her past of isolation and unhappiness.

Mariam takes solace in Aziza’s unquestioning contentment in her arms, even as she marvels that this contentment is even possible. Before now, the mere idea of children would only have served to remind Mariam of her own failure in giving Rasheed a child, especially a son. Rather than feel bitter that Laila has had such an opportunity, or upset at the existence of a child not her own in the household, Mariam delights in the chance to forge a real connection thanks to her growing friendship with Laila.

[Mariam] had passed these years in a distant corner of her mind. A dry, barren field, out beyond dream and disillusionment. There, the future did not matter. And the past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion.

Related Characters: Mariam
Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam goes through the past years of her marriage to Rasheed in her mind, recognizing the sense of disillusionment that has been the only way she has found to deal with Rasheed’s overbearing nature and the numbing disappointments that have characterized her life with him. Now Mariam recognizes that in order to persevere in her life with Rasheed, she has had to give up on some of the ideals that she held as a child. Before Nana’s death, Mariam had dreamed of finding love and belonging, first with Jalil and his family, and then, at the beginning, with a new life as the wife of Rasheed. Both of those possibilities had turned out to be false hopes. As a result, Mariam has learned to be suspicious of any of those hopes or desires. Instead, she has pushed them aside, preferring not to hope for anything better so that she will not be disappointed once again. Mariam only now recognizes this “dry, barren field” by which she describes her past as she begins to wonder if there is in fact another possibility—if she need not push all thoughts of hope or love aside.

Part III: Chapter 38 Quotes

Laila dropped the spoke because she could not accept what the Mujahideen readily had: that sometimes in war innocent life had to be taken. Her war was against Rasheed. The baby was blameless. And there had been enough killing already. Laila had seen enough killing of innocents caught in the cross fire of enemies.

Related Characters: Laila, Rasheed
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

Rasheed has hinted to Laila that he knows that Aziza is not his child, and he threatens her with all he could do, legally, as her husband, to punish her. Laila’s rage has not gone away by the time she realizes that she is once again pregnant, this time with Rasheed’s child. Her anger is such that she comes very close to completing a homegrown abortion, ensuring that she won’t give birth to the child of the man she despises.

Laila’s decision not to go through with the abortion is portrayed not as a sign of acquiescence to Rasheed’s power, but rather as a decision Laila makes herself to cut off the endless cycle of suffering and retribution. From her brothers and her parents to Tariq, Laila has seen first-hand how innocent people have suffered as a result of others’ desires for justice and revenge. Here she recognizes that such a process of violent vengeance can easily go on forever: it is up to her to choose, in this individual case, not to continue the cycle. She makes the decision to treat the baby as an “innocent caught in the cross fire” rather than as a symbol of Rasheed’s own malevolence.

Part III: Chapter 41 Quotes

Mariam regretted her foolish, youthful pride now. She wished now that she had let him in. what would have been the harm to let him in, sit with him, let him say what he’d come to say? He was her father. He’d not been a good father, it was true, but how ordinary his faults seemed now how forgivable, when compared to Rasheed’s malice, or to the brutality and violence that she had seen men inflict on one another.

Related Characters: Mariam, Rasheed, Jalil
Page Number: 309
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has gone to the Intercontinental Hotel with Rasheed to attempt to call Jalil. They want to ask if he can help the family, as the children are going hungry and they are in a desperate situation. Mariam has not seen Jalil for thirteen years, since he came to see her at Rasheed’s house, and she had refused to go out to meet him. Thinking back on that moment, Mariam decides she was wrong to stubbornly refuse to see her father. She does not argue that Jalil was blameless, or that she should forgive him for his behavior with her and Nana. But having lived longer and having seen greater suffering and greater evil, Mariam now acknowledges that Jalil’s sins are not on the same level as those of the Taliban, for instance, or even of Rasheed.

Mariam has developed a more nuanced understanding of the way that love and loyalty can function in families. She does not expect love to mean that families will be perfect, or that family members will not hurt each other, but she has come to accept that she can still acknowledge her father and respect him without forgetting about the pain he caused her.

Part III: Chapter 42 Quotes

[Laila] thought of Aziza’s stutter, and of what Aziza had said earlier about fractures and powerful collisions deep down and how sometimes all we see on the surface is a slight tremor.

Related Characters: Laila
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:

Laila has managed a rare visit to the orphanage to see Aziza, but as the two return together, Aziza grows quiet, worrying Laila. Aziza had told her earlier about what she’s been learning, about tectonic plates that collide deep in the earth, even if only a slight tremor is apparent on the surface. Laila ties this anecdote to the stutter that, she notices, Aziza has begun to develop.

Laila has to recognize that, although Aziza tries to be cheerful and happy whenever Laila manages to visit her, Aziza’s new life in the orphanage cannot be  pleasant. Her descent into silence is emblematic, for Laila, of all that lies below the surface, and all that Aziza refrains from saying for fear of worrying or causing pain to her mother. Laila will inevitably worry about her daughter, but her anxiety is coupled with a knowledge that living in the orphanage is the only possibility to keep Aziza alive—that Laila is trapped by her situation with Rasheed and unable to do anything else to keep her daughter safe.

Part III: Chapter 47 Quotes

Though there had been moments of beauty in it. Mariam knew that life for the most part had been unkind to her. But as she walked the final twenty paces, she could not help but wish for more of it. […] Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami daughter of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back.

Related Characters: Mariam
Page Number: 370
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final moments of Mariam’s life, as she walks out into the stadium and prepares to be executed, she once again considers her life in her mind as if going through film reels. Mariam compares the difficulties and acute suffering she has experienced to the “moments of beauty” that she remembers with Laila and Aziza. These moments were fleeting and rare compared to the regular pain, and yet for Mariam they are worth much more—and it would even be worth living longer and suffering more in order to also live through more of such moments.

Although Mariam does wish she could live longer, she ends her life with a feeling of contentment rather than regret. After yearning for love and belonging at the beginning of her life, she had pushed those hopes away, only to have them offered to her when she least expected it—not through the love of a father or of a husband but through that of a female friend. She clings to this love, which to her means more than the shame of being a harami or the isolation of being continually unwanted and considered low in the hierarchy of her society, as a kind of solace even in the midst of the final violent act that will end her life.

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