Study Guide

Zalmai in A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Zalmai's personality lands somewhere between his parents, Laila and Rasheed. When he's with Laila, he takes on a sweet disposition and looks up to his big sister Aziza. When he's with Rasheed, however, he takes on Daddy's masculine air, stomping around and throwing fits when he doesn't get what he wants. Zalmai truly "worshipped his father" (3.40.11).

Then Rasheed dies. This is a joyous occasion for every other character but Zalmai, who is too young to understand his father's cruelty toward the rest of the family. Luckily, Zalmai finds a new father figure in Tariq. Zalmai resists at first, because he can tell that Tariq aims to replace his beloved father. But Tariq proves himself to Zalmai, and the two settle into a strong relationship by the end of the book. Zalmai might never truly understand what happened to Rasheed, but he's lucky to have someone like Tariq around to comfort him if he does.

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