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, games, and secrets about boys—forgetting for a time about the violence and dangers of their adolescence.
By the time the Mujahideen impose their own restrictions on the place of women in Afghanistan, female friendship becomes one way to subvert these restrictions from within. Mariam and Laila, for instance, band together against Rasheed, the husband of both and the source of much of their suffering. Most drastically, this takes the form of their plot to escape. But in more subtle ways, the time they spend together drinking tea, joking, and laughing allows them to draw strength from each other and endure their oppression. Even in a society where women cannot participate in the public sphere, the book suggests, relationships between women serve not only as a source of escape but as a means to assert their own legitimacy and dignity.
Female Friendship ThemeTracker
Female Friendship Quotes in A Thousand Splendid Suns
“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.”
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.
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.