Mariam is one of the two protagonists of Khaled Hosseini’s novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. The novel takes place in Afghanistan during the time period from the early 1960s to the mid-2000s and it shows the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila, who are brought together by difficult circumstances. Throughout the novel, Mariam’s character is developed in a way that creates a deep understanding of her personality, motivations, and struggles.
Mariam is introduced in the novel as an illegitimate child who was born out of wedlock in a small village outside of Herat. Her mother, who was abandoned by Mariam’s father, married her off to a much older shoemaker named Rasheed when Mariam was 15 years old. Mariam is initially portrayed as a timid, introverted girl who is obedient to her parents and later to her husband Rasheed. However, as the story progresses, Mariam slowly develops a stronger sense of self and becomes an empowered woman who fights for her own rights.
One of the most defining aspects of Mariam’s character is her fierce loyalty to her mother. Despite being illegitimate and abandoned by her father, Mariam cherishes her mother’s love and holds onto her memory even after her tragic death. Her mother’s love is the only source of happiness and comfort in Mariam’s childhood and shapes her understanding of the world. Mariam’s loyalty to her mother is further reflected in her insistence on visiting her grave every week and talking to her as if she was still alive. Her mother’s presence in her life strengthens her resolve and gives her the courage to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Mariam’s marriage to Rasheed is the turning point in her life. Initially, she is hopeful of starting a new life with Rasheed, despite the large age difference between them. However, her hope is soon crushed under Rasheed’s abusive behavior and his misogynistic attitudes. Rasheed entraps Mariam in his house and restricts her from stepping outside. He beats her up mercilessly and makes her feel worthless. Mariam’s character undergoes a transformation during this period where she learns to resist Rasheed’s authority and fight for her own rights. She stands up to him on several occasions and even rebels against his attempts to control and subjugate her.
Mariam’s struggle against Rasheed’s oppression is further strengthened when Laila, her co-wife, arrives in the household. At first, Mariam is apprehensive about Laila’s presence, fearing that Rasheed would abandon her for Laila. However, Laila and Mariam soon develop a close bond and become each other’s support system. Mariam becomes Laila’s confidante and offers her a shoulder to lean on during difficult times. Mariam’s character evolves from being a victim of abuse to a fierce protector of her loved ones.
Mariam’s transformation is complete when she sacrifices her life to save Laila’s children from the explosion of a rocket fired by the Taliban. Her selfless act of heroism is a culmination of her journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Her death is not just an end to her character but serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that women make in war-torn countries like Afghanistan.
Mariam’s character is also defined by her struggles with her identity. Being an illegitimate child, Mariam constantly grapples with her sense of belonging. She yearns for her father’s love and attention, even though he had abandoned her. She also seeks validation from Rasheed, who constantly belittles and abuses her. However, her sense of identity is rooted in her connection with her mother, who she tries to emulate throughout her life.
Mariam’s relationship with her father is also a critical aspect of her character development. She harbors a sense of bitterness and resentment towards her father for abandoning her as a child. When her father tries to make amends with her later in life, Mariam is skeptical of his intentions and initially turns him away. However, in the end, Mariam forgives her father but admits that his love and attention are too little too late.
Another defining trait of Mariam’s character is her strength of will. Despite being subjected to abuse and oppression, Mariam refuses to break down completely. She draws strength from her mother’s love and develops a fierce resilience that allows her
Mariam represents the plight of Afghan women and the resilience they exhibit in the face of adversity. Her struggles mirror the challenges faced by many women in a patriarchal society, and her growth and transformation serve as a testament to the strength of the human spirit.
In the nutshell, Mariam is a complex and multi-dimensional character in “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” Her journey from vulnerability to strength, her unwavering resilience, and her capacity for sacrifice make her a memorable and inspiring character in the novel.
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