A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns


Khaled Hosseini

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Themes and Colors
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Thousand Splendid Suns, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

History and Memory in Afghanistan

As Laila, Babi, and Tariq drive out on a day trip from Afghanistan, their taxi driver tells of the tumultuous history of the region. He concludes, “And that my friends, is the story of our country, one invader after another.” The novel deals with a thirty-year swath of Afghan history. It begins with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan up until their withdrawal in 1989, and continues through the infighting among the Mujahideen throughout the…

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Suffering and Perseverance

None of the characters in the novel is a stranger to pain and suffering, either physical or emotional. However, this suffering takes different forms. The loss of loved ones brings its own kind of acute pain—often in a way that seems to lack any kind of redemption. On the other hand, there are other types of suffering that the characters willingly endure in the service of others.

A Thousand Splendid Suns seems to grapple with…

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Shame and Reputation

A particular kind of suffering in the novel has to do with shame, which comes up again and again as both a pain to be endured and as a tool to inflict on others. In the first case, shame is linked to responsibility and ensuing guilt for an incident in a character’s past. Mariam’s mother’s suicide, after Mariam runs away to Jalil, is one example of such shame. Laila feels her own sense of…

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Love, Loyalty, and Belonging

In A Thousand Splendid Suns, love may not conquer all, but it is a stronger tie than many other social bonds, from social class to ethnic status. Love makes the novel’s characters act in sometimes irrational ways, and their erratic behavior can often be explained by the strong loyalty that stems from love. Mariam’s love for her father Jalil remains constant despite hints that he is ashamed of her harami—she ultimately turns her…

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Gender Relations

By telling the story of A Thousand Splendid Suns through the perspective of two Afghan women, Hosseini can emphasize certain aspects of Afghan life and history that differ from the established historical narrative. The novel, in fact, draws on the limitations imposed on women in Afghan life in order to explore how women have lived, endured, and subverted these constraints.

Gender relations differ throughout the novel depending on the occupying forces and the laws that…

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Female Friendship

Though gender norms shift throughout the course of the novel as a result of changing occupations and laws, one constant theme is friendship between women. The relationship between Mariam and Laila rests at the heart of the novel, as even its structure reveals: Part I takes Mariam’s perspective, Part II takes Laila’s, and Part III alternates between them. Laila also treasures her friendship with her classmates Giti and Hasina, with whom she shares laughs…

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