Study Guide

A Thousand Splendid Suns Pinocchio

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Would you have guessed that a novel about women in Afghanistan would have so many American pop culture references?

Despite our surprise, Hosseini's allusions to American films actually add interesting depth to his characters. The best example of this is his use of the Pinocchio cartoon to develop Mariam and Jalil's relationship. The film acts as a subtle plot point and can be seen as a metaphor for Mariam's growth through the novel.

You could easily miss the first reference to Pinocchio in Part One. Remember when Mariam begs Jalil to take her to a movie on her birthday? That was Pinocchio, a "special type of film" (a.k.a. a cartoon) that was completely new to the country (1.5.5). Jalil's refusal to take her to the movie—despite the fact that he owns the movie theater—emphasizes how he doesn't fully accept Mariam as a daughter.

We next come in contact with Pinocchio at the close of the novel, after Mariam's death. Laila has received Mariam's inheritance, but she "does not understand" when she pops in the cassette tape that was included and Pinocchio comes on the screen (4.51.137). Of course, we the readers (we're the smartest) know how powerful that gesture is. Jalil is asking for forgiveness from Mariam and trying, in a very small way, to rebuild the childhood that he helped destroy.

But it goes deeper than that. The plot of Pinocchio reflects Mariam's own journey. At first, both Pinocchio and Mariam are not "real" in some sense. Mariam is a harami, isolated from social life and from her father, Jalil. Pinocchio happens to be made out of wood. But then they're both thrust on a perilous journey where they overcome some pretty terrifying odds.

They emerge from the other end transformed: Pinocchio becomes a human boy and Mariam finally finds a family in Laila and Aziza. She is no longer a harami—she's just Mariam.

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