A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Analysis

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 Theme Icon

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 1990s. The book ends shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, which introduced many Americans to Afghanistan for the first time. Many events in the characters’ personal lives, in fact, are tightly bound to political events, and the narrator uses history as a reference for the novel’s action.

Through it all, the main characters retain a hold on what they consider the “true” Afghanistan, distinct from those “invaders” who may hold power over the country at any one time. There are often competing notions of the “true” Afghanistan, depending on the characters’ political opinions and beliefs. Babi, for instance, is distraught by an Afghanistan where women cannot participate equally, while for Rasheed such inequality epitomizes the type of country that Afghanistan should be. The reader, however, is clearly meant to take Babi’s side.

The narrator also often stresses the natural beauty and ancient history of Afghanistan, which help to define it. The Taliban’s destruction of the ancient Buddhas visited by Laila, for instance, is portrayed as a devastating attack against the nation itself. Despite the multiple invasions, bombings, and massacres, Laila and Mariam are able to keep their notion of Afghanistan intact through their own memories—for Laila, the happier times of her childhood, and for Mariam, the joy she gained from building a bond with Laila and her children. It is Laila’s continued memory of Afghanistan that compels her to return, despite the violence, at the end of the novel.

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History and Memory in Afghanistan Quotes in A Thousand Splendid Suns

Below you will find the important quotes in A Thousand Splendid Suns related to the theme of History and Memory in Afghanistan.
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:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Part II: Chapter 26 Quotes

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.