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A thousand splendid suns are a book that reflects on the lives of women in Afghanistan. The book focuses on the lives of Mariam and Leila. These two women forced into a loveless marriage by circumstances in order to escape the hostile environment that was in the country. The antagonist of the story is Rasheed. Throughout the book, he is depicted as a selfish and cruel man who beats his wives. In addition to this, he is biased since he favors his son to Aziza. Moreover, he is abusive and a drunkard. He, therefore, represents men that existed in Afghanistan at the time the story was written.
Mariam was the daughter of a single mother and her father, Jalil, who already had three other wives, did not treat her well. This greatly made Mariam sad and dejected as she was often referred to as a harami or a bastard. This was because; her mother was a servant in her father's house when she conceived her. Jalil, therefore, built her a house in the outskirts of the town and never bothered with them again. "Jalil could afford to have others build this hut, but he and his sons did all the work. Nana says considered this acts his idea of penance, and she calls the hut a rat hole" (1).
When she turned fifteen years old, her mother died leaving her in the care of her father. "Nor was she old enough to appreciate the injustice, to see that it is the creators of the harami who are culpable, not the harami, whose only sin is being born" (1). This merely shows how unwanted Mariam was by both her parents. However, her step mothers are not pleased by her coming into the family house, and they convince her father to marry her off to a man 30 years her senior. Rasheed, her husband, is a shoe maker. He intimidates her in every way, and when she is unable to give him a child, he begins to beat her without any provocation.
Leila and her family, on the other hand, are Rashid's and Mariam's neighbors. Leila's father is an educated man who makes sure he treats all his children equally. Leila is well educated, and she is in love with a young man called Tariq. However, the war disrupts their relationship as Tariq escapes to Pakistan to avid the war. On the other hand, Leila's house is hit by a Mujahedeen rocket killing her parents instantly. However, Leila survives with some injuries. Rasheed and Mariam rescue her from the rubles of her collapsed house and Mariam nurses until she regains her health. Leila is now all alone in the world. She has no family, and her lover Tariq is presumed dead. Hence, she is horrified when she discovers that she is expectant, therefore, when Rasheed offers to marry her, she quickly jumps at the opportunity. This is because; she had no way of fending for her child also because she wanted to escape from becoming a rocket prostitute. Mariam, however, is not happy with this move, but since she is offered no choice by Rasheed, she silently harbors her displeasure. With time, however, Leila and Mariam become friends. This is because they are both faced by a common enemy who is Rasheed.
Leila is forced to endure a painful caesarian section without any anesthetic in order to save her baby. "The female doctor bent over Leila. Leila's eyes snapped open. Then her mouth opened. She held like this, held, shivering, the cords in her neck stretched, sweat dripping from her face, her fingers crushing Mariam's. Mariam would always admire Leila for how much time had to pass before she screamed" (27). This shows the pain and poor health care women were exposed to by the circumstances in the country. However, when Leila gives birth to a baby girl, Aziza, Rasheed begins to suspect that the baby is not his child. He, therefore, develops a negative attitude towards her and never fully accepts her as part of his family. He beast her and on occasion denied her food and water. Leila, therefore, is forced to take Aziza to an orphanage where she feels she will be treated better and at least guaranteed to get food.
Soon after, Leila conceives again. This time; she gives birth to a son called Zalmai. Rasheed is beyond himself with joy. He, therefore, dots on him and spoils him with everything he wants. However, this does not change Rasheed's ill treatment for Leila. Years go by, and Tariq returns to Kabul, Afghanistan. He approaches Leila who in turn takes him to the orphanage to visit their daughter Aziza. However, when Rasheed finds out, he beats Leila violently and even tries to strangle her to death. Mariam, on seeing this, hits Rasheed on the head with a shovel. This instantly kills him. In order to save her friend and Co wife, she confesses to the murder and the Taliban sentence her to death. Mariam is thus, arrested for the murder of Rasheed. Later, she is executed in the stadium, in front of thousands of spectators.
Leila and Tariq, on the other hand, escape with their children, to Pakistan. When the United States restores harmony in Afghanistan they returned home to rebuild their lives. Leila becomes a teacher in the orphanage where she takes care of other misfortune children. As an attribute, to Mariam, the two decide to name their next daughter after her. "But the naming game involves only male names, because if it is a girl, Laila has already named her.".