About Khaled Hosseini’s a Thousand Splendid Suns
Depending on which culture you come from and who you are asking arranged marriages could be seen as just an everyday fact of life or they would even be seen as a blasphemous tradition that should be done away with entirely. In Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns you get a taste for what it is really like for a young woman who is forced into an arranged marriage. The story begins with Mariam, an Afghani woman, remembers her mother calling her a harami when she was just five years old — although it is many years later before she learns the word means “bastard child.” That derogatory name follows Mariam her entire life and eventually is the reason she is forced into an abusive marriage with a man much older than her named Rasheed. Mariam’s mother, Nana, was a house cleaner for Mariams father; Jalil who was a wealthy business man, shortly after Nanas tragic death Jalil wants nothing to do with Mariam his harami child and agrees for her to be married while she is just fifteen years old Rasheed.
Shortly after their marriage Mariam has multiple miscarriages which causes Rasheed to become very hateful and violent towards Mariam by beating her and calling her names. Years later fate would bring another young woman named Laila into the marriage after her parents are tragically killed by a bomb and she has nowhere else to turn after Mariam found her laying in the street and nursed her back to health. From there both Mariam and Liala learn to live with each other and Rasheed, learning to cope with his violent and brutal outburst until one day where he almost beats Liala to death after learning she has been visiting an old friend while he is at work Mariam picks up a shovel and kills him. Knowing they cannot get away with such a crime Mariam turns herself into the police knowing she will be executed so Liala can live her life free to be with her childhood lover and two children in the beautiful mountains of Kabul. Knowing Mariam sacrificed her life just so Liala could be free from the terrible entity of an arranged marriage makes the reader wonder although this book is entirely fictional how common are these type of abusive arranged marriages? And are they really better off for either the man or the woman? And most importantly since arranged marriages are so widely accepted with both religions and societies what are the emotional effects on the young girls and their own futures when put into this situation.
Historical evidence will show that in ancient times there is a strong prevalence of arranged marriages that are still the format for today’s times arranged marriages; the partners do not have the final say over who their spouse will be but they still give full consent to marry the person chosen by their parents or close relatives. History of arranged marriages can be seen all across the world and in many different cultures such as the Middle Eastern, Asian, and even all the way back to Victorian Europe. Although strong evidence rightly proves that the majorities of these matches were heavily based on economic endeavors and not love, it was some time later that the church intervened to acknowledge that they would support any couple in love who wanted to tie the knot. Currently, arranged marriages are predominant in the Middle Eastern part of the world. To people outside of the cultures that participate into the tradition of arranged marriages they can always seem skeptical, however, for the most part it has been recorded as a success story in most cases.
According to most sources there is no actual informational data on when exactly the tradition of arranged marriages became a part of any culture. It is however, widely perceived that it has been around as long as the idea of marriage itself. Although more common in the Eastern part of the world it is not exclusive/. Arranged marriages also existed in the United States. Mostly in the 1700 and 1800s and occurred in southern states mostly often to first and second cousins. During this time it was thought that this was the way to keep the blood line of an aristocratic family line to stay pure. Presently, it is illegal to marry a first or second cousin during these early centuries there was no sort of law forbidding the marriage so it occurred quite frequently. Some of the many hardships of a marriage of this kind were all laid on the woman’s shoulders where her primary job was to produce a male heir. It was also common place and widely tolerated by their societies for the husband to have a mistress or sleep with female slaves.
However, if a woman was even slightly thought to have slept with a man outside of her marriage she would be totally ostracized and scorned by the rest of society forever. It is thought by many who relish in the tradition of arranged marriages that they are less likely to end in divorce because of the similarities the bride and groom would likely share as a result of their upbringing. Normally they would share the same religious background, come from the same general cultural society and even in some cases grew up together as childhood playmates. In present day America arranged marries are still practiced by the Amish, strictly devout orthodox Jews and certain members of Unification churches.
Ever since ancient times in the Chinese dynasties marriage has been seen as very important in a person’s life. For the male side it determines the prosperity and future of his own family; while for the female it meant that her own family would not see her for a very long time unless her husband allowed. Which is why it was very important for the parents to chose an ideal partner for both the individuals and the family. In a feudal society a marriage would hardly be dictated by a young couple’s love but rather their parents’ ultimate desires. It was only after both sides of the families permission would the sacred marriage procedures go forward. Conditions that were always taken into account were issues such as wealth and social status. Other essentials to the marriage process were the commonly recognized ‘Three Letters and Six Etiquettes’ The first of the three letters were the betrothal letter, the gift letter with a list of gifts and finally the wedding letter read on the day the groom meets his bride at her home.
The Six etiquettes are as follows: Proposing where when a boy’s family intends to make a match they invite a match maker to meet them at the girls home and if the proposal is a success the match maker is usually showered in a feast and with many gifts for the families to show their gratitude. Next is birthday matching after the boys family knows the girls full name and birthday they depend on the match maker to decide if this is a successful match taking the Chinese zodiac into consideration. After it was deemed a successful match, next comes the presenting of the betrothal gifts where the boys family would present the girls family with gifts. Along with presenting the wedding gifts which is of the grandest etiquette of them all. At this crucial step of the wedding process the gifts presented to the girl’s family symbolize respect and kindness as well as showing capability of providing a good life for the girl. Selecting the wedding date is also a vital part of the wedding process. The boys family typically asks a local fortune teller to chose a date according to the astrological calendar that would be proper for the ceremony and lastly the actual ceremony that typically contains traditional Chinese wedding elements such as the color red, thrown rice and colorful fireworks. Of course marriage traditions vary with different regions but for the most part have been maintained for thousands of years.
Personally I would never want to live in society where arranged marriage was the normal way of life. I think people should be free to love and marry whomever they choose. Whether that be a person outside of their race, culture, nationality, religion or even a person of the same sex as them. I can understand why this was a tradition for the different cultures and could ultimately be seen as a way for the parents of the couple to make sure they are creating the best and most comfortable life they can for their children but to me I just seems like the couple is having freedom taken away from them that they rightly deserve.