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Gender Roles and Male Dominance in 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'

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A Thousand Splendid Suns is a fiction novel which is set in Afghanistan during the Operation Enduring Freedom in the 1960s to the early 2000s. This novel is based around two young women, Mariam and Laila, who are dealing with the struggles of an underdeveloped culture that is discriminant towards women. The Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini wrote A Thousand Splendid Suns based on his knowledge. The excerpt in question is happens after Mariam marries Rasheed and she starts tackling her duties as a wife. This particular passage is set in Kabul, and the author explains Mariam’s new life as a married woman through various themes; however, I believe the most prominent theme would be gender roles concerning male dominance. Hosseini further builds up the theme surrounding gender roles and uses the motif of the burqa, a traditional outer garment for Islamic women, to symbolize the paradox of freedom in imprisonment. The author also outlines the theme by using comparisons and the lexical field of oppression throughout this passage.

To express the theme of gender roles throughout this passage, Hosseini paints “a sensation of shrinking. This man’s will felt to Mariam as imposing and immovable as the Safid-Koh mountains looming over Gul Daman.” Mariam’s inner thoughts emphasize the authority that men have over women in Afghanistan. The simile comparing Rasheed’s “will” to “mountains” unmistakably demonstrates that Mariam feels it is futile to battle back. Additionally, Hosseini references the mountains “looming over” the town that Mariam is familiar since she had grown up there. Hosseini uses this reference to describe how men in Afghan culture have dependably and-it appears will keep on controlling women, similarly as the mountains will always be there.

Furthermore, the burqa itself turns into a symbol of mistreatment and oppression for Mariam as it is constrained upon her; it is a symbol of Rasheed’s will and control, and it destroys the little fondness Mariam had for Rasheed. Hosseini depicts “the suffocating way the pleated cloth kept pressing against her mouth.” This quote shows how the author portrays the troublesome idea of patriarchal culture through the silencing of women. However, Hosseini combines them with soft consonants, mirroring the softness of the fabric and how continued oppression can become even comforting, as it does for Mariam. The personification, though, reveals that a burqa is merely a tool of patriarchy; it “presses” as if with a mind of its own “against her mouth” and is “suffocating,” making breathing, speech and quick movement harder.

This passage also sheds insight into Mariam and Rasheed’s relationship. As they traverse Kabul, Mariam finds Rasheed’s proximity increasingly soothing and comforting. Amid Mariam’s first meal in a restaurant, she overcomes the unfamiliarity of eating among strangers by taking comfort in what she knows: Rasheed. Mariam accepts his orders without any resistance and seeks solace under the Burqa which becomes a veil to protect herself from the outside world. “It was like a one-way window. Inside it, she was an observer, buffered from the scrutinizing eyes of strangers. She no longer worried that people knew…all the shameful secrets of her past”. This sentimental custom serves as a shield from wandering eyes and protects her from her past worries.

For Mariam’s situation, even though the burqa did, make her submissive to her spouse as it was intended; it likewise gave her a feeling of solace. The narrator states ‘And the burqa, she learned to her surprise, was also comforting.’. The burqa spares Mariam from the cruelty of the real world. It is a veil on her past, so she does not feel like individuals can see her identity and how she became; a harami, or a child with separated parents — her dad an affluent and notable figure in the public arena, and her mom a housemaid. Under her burqa, she can consider life to be she has never witnessed it. She is free of individuals’ uncivil gazes, and she never again feels like she is the focal point of everybody’s look. Under the burqa, Mariam discovers comfort and security in its folds, and also an opportunity. She feels the opportunity to think as she wishes and to hide her flaws.

Nevertheless, Mariam is still imprisoned since she is still under Rasheed’s control. Mariam specifies that “Rasheed’s presence was of some comfort,” but not Rasheed himself. This means that Mariam feels trapped under his command however she is still able to find a sense of freedom inside that prison because she knows that it is futile to fight against this male dominance.

As can be seen, a variety of literary techniques are used to depict the theme of gender roles surrounding male dominance. These devices allow the reader to understand that this one piece of cloth can dominate and control so many women. One cannot, in any way, shape or form quantify the number of men who set themselves as dominant or the thousands of ladies that were holed up behind the shroud of their burqas. This passage outlines the imprisonment of women under these patriarchal circumstances in Afghanistan. However, the passage also describes a sense of comfort and freedom while being imprisoned. Hosseini uses symbolism, comparisons and the lexical field of oppression to create a deep connection between Mariam and the reader regarding gender inequality. There may be other themes that can be identified in this passage; however, these literary techniques allow the reader to grasp the concept of freedom in imprisonment fully. Mariam accepts the fact that she is under Rasheed’s control, as she seeks solace in uncomfortable situations. This passage indeed enables the reader to see what Mariam and other women are experiencing through her perspective and to realize that gender inequality is a genuine and wide-spread issue.    

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Gender Roles And Male Dominance In ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. (2022, February 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-roles-and-male-dominance-in-a-thousand-splendid-suns/
“Gender Roles And Male Dominance In ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’.” GradesFixer, 18 Feb. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-roles-and-male-dominance-in-a-thousand-splendid-suns/
Gender Roles And Male Dominance In ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-roles-and-male-dominance-in-a-thousand-splendid-suns/> [Accessed 24 Jun. 2022].
Gender Roles And Male Dominance In ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Feb 18 [cited 2022 Jun 24]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-roles-and-male-dominance-in-a-thousand-splendid-suns/
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