Talk about finding love in a hopeless place. The characters of A Thousand Splendid Suns are wounded in wars, stuck in abusive relationships, and rejected by their families. They have to struggle every day to survive. How do they get through it? It's simple: love. It might sound clichéd, but love proves to be their saving grace.
All you need is love—really. The characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns learn that the only refuge from a harsh, uncompromising world is the love between individuals.
The one enemy of love, according to the novel, is power. It doesn't matter if it's on a small scale or a big one—power will suffocate love at every turn.
War! Hoo! Hah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! A Thousand Splendid Suns is defined by war, but that doesn't mean it has to like it. The novel does not shy from showing you the horrible reality of war and its effect on regular people, but it's not a hopeless tale. Instead, it's concerned with how people manage to endure despite the horrors that surround them. War is tough, sure, but people are tougher.
In A Thousand Splendid Suns, all war is inherently evil, and even so-called "just wars" can end up causing more harm than good.
The novel shows why revolutionary wars usually fail. Different political and cultural factions can come together in the face of a common enemy, but those alliances quickly fall apart once the common enemy is gone.
If there's one subject that A Thousand Splendid Suns focuses on, it's the nature of women. Laila and Mariam live through a rough period for women's rights in Afghanistan. They're controlled by the government, treated as property by their husbands, and forbidden from taking part in society. Yet, through their strength and resilience, the two women are able to overcome these obstacles. It might not always be pretty, but that's the point. The women in the novel aren't like Princess Peach waiting for their Mario—they're incredibly tough women trying to take control of their own lives.
While many novels define femininity as soft or sensitive, A Thousand Splendid Suns uses characters like Mariam and Laila to show that femininity is actually defined by inner strength and courage.
A Thousand Splendid Suns argues that men's fear of women does not only damage the individuals involved, but also society as a whole.
Poverty becomes a crippling problem in A Thousand Splendid Suns. We see its psychological effects on characters like Rasheed and Aziza. Characters that used to be vibrant and energetic, like Zalmai, become lethargic and inactive as they suffer through poverty.
That's not to say the novel is all about being broke. Sure, we see the effects of systemic poverty, with even hospitals desperately short on cash, but we also see how war only makes the situation worse. In the end, it's only the strength of the human spirit that gets the characters in this novel through all the hardship.
Poverty is represented like a disease in A Thousand Splendid Suns. The experience of living in impoverished circumstances has undeniable physical and psychological effects on those involved.
Rasheed and the Taliban—two representations of corrupt male authority—use the fear of poverty to maintain control over women.
Like The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a love letter from Khaled Hosseini to his birthplace of Afghanistan. Although Hosseini left the country for America as a child, his fiction remains focused on the country of his youth. Hosseini has a great admiration for his country's rich artistic and cultural legacy, but he's not afraid to criticize the things that he perceives as problems.
Hosseini suggests that Afghans must cast aside their ethnic differences in favor of broader nationalism to rebuild a new Afghanistan.
A Thousand Splendid Suns defines the major cultural conflict of Afghanistan as the tension between conservative rural communities and modern cities.
For once, we have to agree with Kanye—no one man should have all that power. A Thousand Splendid Suns is filled with bad dudes who prey on the weak. For some, like Rasheed, this means using violence and manipulation to hold power over a few individuals. For others, like the Taliban, it's about keeping a whole country of people under your fist. In both instances, however, we see that power can be defeated. It certainly isn't easy, but the only thing that can defeat overwhelming power and violence is love.
The novel suggests that power depends on instilling fear, whether of physical violence or emotional pain, in others.
In A Thousand Splendid Suns, the Taliban uses its moral power to prevent women from partaking in any degree of public life; this keeps them from speaking out against their oppression.
A Thousand Splendid Suns talks a lot about the importance of education. Yes, we all know that school isn't always the most fun thing in the world, but characters like Laila have to struggle just to get a high school education. First off, there's a war going on, which makes walking to school a dangerous prospect. There's also the pressure against girls going to school and getting educated. Luckily, characters like Laila and Babi know the importance of education and overcome these hurdles whenever they reach them.
Women are faced with immense social pressure against getting educated in A Thousand Splendid Suns, but the novel suggests that this ends up just hurting the country as a whole.
The Taliban's decision to ban women from going to school is, in effect, a response from conservative groups in Afghanistan to the Soviet-led push for greater access to education.
Nobody loves his or her family all of the time. That's just a fact of life. Despite this, A Thousand Splendid Suns suggests that there's no one more important than your family. The novel also suggests that the concept of "family" extends beyond blood relatives. Think about how Mariam and Laila develop a mother-daughter relationship, or think about the bond between Tariq and Zalmai that begins to grow at the end of the novel. Sometimes family is your blood, and sometimes it isn't—but your family, however you define it, is always at the center of your life.
A Thousand Splendid Suns sometimes portrays family as a burden, but it always portrays it as a burden worth carrying.
The novel doesn't limit the concept of "family" to just blood relatives. On the contrary, Mariam and Laila's mother-daughter relationship shows that other people can fulfill familial roles.