Study Guide

A Thousand Splendid Suns Part 1

By Khaled Hosseini

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Part 1

Chapter 1

  • Mariam is a young girl who lives with her mother in the small village of Gul Daman. When she's five, her mother calls her a harami (illegitimate child) for the first time after she accidentally breaks an old family heirloom.
  • Mariam's father, Jalil, visits her for one or two hours each Thursday. He's totally affectionate with Mariam while they're together, and he calls her a "little flower" (1.1.7). When Jalil leaves, Nana always criticizes him, calling him a liar and a hypocrite.
  • Jalil has three wives and nine legitimate children back home. Talk about a busy man, right? He owns a local movie theater and a few other businesses.
  • Nana used to be Jalil's housekeeper; the two had an affair that, well, resulted in Mariam. Jalil's family swore vengeance and shamed Nana's father into abandoning her. Jalil struck a deal with his wives, and he now houses Nana and Mariam in Gul Daman.

Chapter 2

  • Nana recalls how she almost got married once when she was fifteen. Unfortunately, she had a seizure (which she calls a jinn, or evil spirit), and it scared off her potential husband.
  • Nana also talks about the day that Mariam was born. She claims that she gave birth to Mariam alone in their house and had to cut the cord herself. Yikes. Jalil, on the other hand, claims that he was involved with Mariam's birth. For now, at least, Mariam buys his version of the story.

Chapter 3

  • Although Nana dislikes visitors, there are a few people who come by occasionally, like Bibi Jo, an older woman who gossips with Nana.
  • Mariam's favorite visitor is Mullah Faizullah, a local religious leader who visits sometimes with his son Hamza. Mullah Faizullah teaches verses of the Koran to Mariam.
  • One day, Mariam tells Mullah Faizullah that she wants to go to a real school. He hesitantly asks Nana, but Nana refuses, saying that the only thing a woman needs to learn is to "endure" (1.3.40).

Chapter 4

  • Jalil's getting his visit on again. Nana, surprisingly, is very polite and subdued while he's around. Jalil tells Mariam stories about Herat.
  • Jalil gives Mariam a necklace on her fourteenth birthday. Mariam is appreciative, but Nana says that it's cheap and low quality after Jalil leaves.

Chapter 5

  • It's almost Mariam's fifteenth birthday, and she is psyched. During her weekly visit with Jalil, she asks him take her to see a new American cartoon. He avoids the question.
  • After Jalil leaves, Mariam returns to her home and finds Nana furious. She calls Mariam an ungrateful daughter and tells her that she will die if Mariam leaves.
  • Outside of the house, Mariam takes ten pebbles and arranges them in three columns. The three columns represent Jalil's three wives, and the rocks represent their children. She leaves one pebble, representing herself, to the side.
  • At noon on her birthday, Mariam gets dressed up and goes to wait for Jalil. When he doesn't arrive, Mariam impulsively heads to his home in Herat.
  • Mariam knocks on the door and is met by a young woman who gets confused when Mariam tells her that she is Jalil's daughter. A man comes out and tells her that Jalil is out of town. Stubbornly, Mariam refuses, and she ends up spending the night in Jalil's front yard.
  • In the morning, the driver returns and tells Mariam that she has to leave. He tries to bring her to his car, but she slips away and runs through Jalil's gate.
  • As she runs through the front garden, Mariam sees Jalil watching through the window. He quickly closes the blinds, and the driver is finally able to pull Mariam to the car.
  • The driver brings Mariam home to Gul Daman. A horrible sight awaits them, however: Nana has hanged herself.

Chapter 6

  • Mariam is sent to live with Jalil after Nana's funeral.
  • Mariam is given the guest room. She's visited by Niloufar, one of Jalil's daughters; Bibi Jo; and Mullah Faizullah.
  • After being there for a week, Mariam is called downstairs because the family has something important to talk to her about. Uh oh: this doesn't sound good.

Chapter 7

  • Mariam sits at a table with Jalil and his three wives. After some uncomfortable small talk, Khadija (one of the wives) tells Mariam that they want her to marry a man named Rasheed.
  • Mariam resists, but the wives tell her that Rasheed is a good man and a wealthy shoemaker. Mariam protests, but Jalil sides with his wives.
  • They send Mariam to her room and lock the door.

Chapter 8

  • The next morning, Mariam is given a dress and is brought downstairs, where she finds two men and a local Mullah (not her beloved Mullah Faizullah) preparing for her wedding ceremony.
  • Mariam meets Rasheed, her future husband, and before you can say "Yikes," the two are married.
  • Mariam has an emotional goodbye with Jalil after the ceremony. She finally tells him how disappointed she is with him, and this visibly upsets him.

Chapter 9

  • Mariam and Rasheed arrive in Kabul. While Rasheed's house is far more modest than Jalil's, it's huge compared to Nana and Mariam's home.
  • Rasheed gives Mariam a tour, but all she can do is cry. Rasheed tells her how much he hates the sound of women crying. He sure seems like a keeper.
  • Eventually, Rasheed brings Mariam to a guest room, telling her that he prefers to sleep alone. He heads back to his bedroom to sleep.

Chapter 10

  • Mariam doesn't do much for the first few days and is always sure to be in bed by the time Rasheed gets home from work. Rasheed grows tired of this, telling her that he expects her "to start acting like a wife" (1.10.17). Again, all Mariam can do is cry.
  • The next day, Mariam begins her duties as a wife, soaking lentils and vegetables for Rasheed's dinner and preparing dough to cook at the village's communal tandoor baking oven.
  • Mariam follows a group of women and children to the tandoor. One woman named Fariba strikes up a conversation, but they're rudely interrupted by the other women. Frightened, Mariam runs home without baking the bread.
  • Rasheed is actually pleased with the meal that Mariam prepares for him. He suggests showing her around Kabul the following day and hands her a brown paper bag. Mariam looks inside and…

Chapter 11

  • Rasheed has given Mariam a burqa, and he's told her that she must wear it whenever she leaves the home. Mariam has never worn one before.
  • Rasheed takes Mariam around town, showing her a local park and the American embassy. He even buys Mariam her first ice cream cone—which totally blows her mind.
  • Rasheed goes inside a shop while Mariam stands outside and watches the "modern Afghan women… [who] walked among strangers with makeup on their faces and nothing on their heads" (1.11.19).
  • Eventually, Rasheed emerges and gives Mariam an embroidered shawl as a gift. She's surprised and genuinely moved by the gesture.
  • Later that night, Rasheed and Mariam consummate their marriage.

Chapter 12

  • The Eid-ul-Fitr festival follows Ramadan each year, and Mariam and Rasheed leave the house to join in the festivities. Mariam sees Fariba again, but Rasheed mocks her and her teacher husband.
  • On the third and final day of Eid, Rasheed leaves town to visit friends, and Mariam stays home alone.
  • Mariam cleans the house, eventually making her way to Rasheed's room. Although she's never been inside, her curiosity gets the better of her, and she enters the room.
  • Mariam starts going through Rasheed's drawers. In the top drawer there is gun sitting on top of a few magazines. Mariam examines the gun before realizing that the magazines are pornographic.
  • In the bottom drawer, Mariam finds an old picture of Yunus, Rasheed's now-dead son. There's also a photograph of Rasheed with his first wife.
  • Mariam puts everything back where she found it and continues cleaning the house.

Chapter 13

  • Mariam and Rasheed are on a bus back home after visiting the doctor. Mariam is pregnant, and Rasheed is making it very clear that he wants a boy.
  • Rasheed celebrates the pregnancy by hosting a party the following night. Mariam cooks and cleans but spends the night upstairs in her room.
  • Later, Mariam visits a bathhouse at Rasheed's request. While there, she begins to bleed, and she miscarries the child. The miscarriage deeply upsets Rasheed, and his attitude towards Mariam markedly shifts.

Chapter 14

  • Mariam is deeply depressed after the miscarriage. Rasheed rarely talks to her and is downright hostile when he does.
  • In an attempt to ease their pain, Mariam suggests holding a burial ceremony for the baby. Rasheed brushes her idea aside, but Mariam goes through with the funeral the next day.

Chapter 15

  • It's now 1978. Mariam watches large political demonstrations on the streets from her window. She sees Fariba, who is now pregnant.
  • Mariam and Rasheed stay inside and listen to the radio. Rasheed talks goofily about politics (in his eyes, a communist is someone who believes in "Karl Marxist") and insults Mariam (1.15.4).
  • It turns out that Mariam has gone through six pregnancies since her first, each one ending in a miscarriage. Rasheed becomes crueler with each one.
  • A few weeks later, Mariam and Rasheed wake up to see military planes zooming over Kabul.
  • Mariam cooks dinner that night while Rasheed listens to the radio. An Air Force Colonel is claiming that the communists have taken control of Afghanistan.
  • Meanwhile, there's a jump cut to Fariba, who has just given birth to a daughter named Laila. More on her soon…
  • Back home, Rasheed is furious about dinner. He tells Mariam that the rice is overcooked. Mariam tries to apologize, but Rasheed storms outside and returns with a handful of pebbles. He forces them into Mariam's mouth and makes her chew, breaking two of her molars.

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