Power and War in a “Thousand Splendid Suns”

There have been many novels throughout the course of history that have discussed many issues in current society. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini, the idea of power and war against women has directly affected females in foreign countries like Afghanistan. This idea of power and war has been shown through treatment in society as well as societal ideals.

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Throughout the novel, this demonstration of power is shown through the man’s superiority and women’s oppression. In Afghanistan, it is typical for the man to have complete control and power over their women. This image is shown in the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, when Laila and Mariam’s late husband, Rasheed, demonstrates his power over his wives by treating them as if they have no dignity or worth. Rasheed exhibits this suppression of women by this quote said in the novel, You try this again and I will find you. I swear on the Prophet’s name that I will find you. And if I do, there isn’t a court in this godforsaken country that will hold me accountable for what I still do.

To Mariam first, then to her, and you last. I’ll make you watch. You understand me? I’ll make you watch (Hosseini 243). In this quote, Rasheed, Laila’s husband, shows the authority he has over Laila’s life by threatening her and two other women’s lives. He does this by telling Laila if she ever tries to escape from Rasheeds controlling grasp again, he will find her and possibly kill her. In typical Afghan habit, the men dominate over their wives lives, controlling each and every aspect the woman participates in. This demonstration of control is proven by this quote said by Cristina Masters, At the mercy of sovereign power, women, due to their function as a vehicle of ethnic cleansing, and to her sexual vulnerability, arguably becomes femina sacra at the mercy of sovereign power: she who can be killed, but also impregnated, yet who cannot be sacrificed due to her impurity (Masters 32). As stated in this quote, women are viewed as sexual objects who can be raped or killed without punishment towards the attacker.

This means that any Afghan women can be subject to rape or murder and their perpetrator will not be punished under the femina sacra. A Thousand Splendid Suns exemplifies this by showing Rasheed’s’ impulse to treat women poorly, especially his wives Laila and Mariam, with awful tendencies. This impulse that Rasheed has, comes from the Femina sacra which states “she who cannot be sacrificed but can be raped or killed”. The notion given by the femina sacra is another example of how in Afghan culture, men have the desire to do whatever they wish amongst their women. Similarly to how Hosseini suggests power, Christine Masters discusses the war on terror and how women have become accustomed to this oppression of men. Although Hosseini discusses power, Christine Masters contrasts this notion by defending Afghan women’s’ rights when she explains their roles and contributions to society as a whole. In this source, Masters is explaining the roles women take in the place of war. As women are presented in stories, they take on many roles that are accustomed to current society of the time, like master explains, “when women appeared in these war stories, they have often been cast in roles with which we are culturally well acquainted as mothers, nurses, wives and beautiful souls” (Masters 30).

In this, quote Masters discusses how during wartime, women usually portray typical roles such as mothers or beautiful wives which shows that women’s power is suppressed to typical ideals of catering to their husbands. Here the quote discusses the gender roles of men and women and how women are supposed to be submissive and compliant to their male counterparts. This means that Hosseini portrays the lives of main characters according to Afghani ideals. The author suggests that the undermining of women causes their self-worth to diminish which makes male authority to dominate more than ever. The idea of power is important because it gives men and women two completely different outcomes. For women, their power is very limited especially for Afghani women who have little to no say on how they live their lives. Meanwhile, men carry on all of the responsibility, authority, and action within their society. Power connects to Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns because he shows a depiction of men’s authority over women. Furthermore, Christine Master’s article discusses women’s roles during wartime such as housewives, contributing very little to society outside of their home.

Through Christine Masters article, Hosseini’s novel comments on how women’s roles can contribute no use for society other than their husband’s benefit. This proves that Hosseini depicts all women in A Thousand Splendid Suns to be none other than powerless slaves to their husbands call. Equivalently to Hosseini suggestion of war, Fredrica Halligan discusses the effects war takes on Afghani women. Although Hosseini discusses war in the novel, Halligan highlights this notion by giving real-life perspectives on those who have experienced war on hand. In this source, Halligan talks about how those who have been touched by war, experiences change in mind about everyday life. As represented throughout the novel, Fredrica R. Halligan states “selfishness and altruism, sex and loneliness, fear and relief, these are the themes that intertwine in the psyches of the young people who are personally touched by war” (Halligan 343). Halligan discusses those who have experienced war before and talks about how they have adapted their behaviors to their experiences. This quotation discusses behaviors that people have underwent during wartime. Selfishness, loneliness, and fear are three words described in this above quote to give the reader a sense of vulnerability for the individual experiencing hardships during war. The author suggests that Laila has experienced habitual symptoms of fear, selfishness, and altruism. The idea of war is important because it shows the impact war has on a person.

War can both mentally change the state of a human but also can cause them to live in fear. Living life in fear can cause the individual to become selfish, lonely, and altruistic which can form into other bad intentions or habits. These feelings derived from war are because people are seeking love at this hard time. War connects to Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns because of his depiction of Laila experiencing war in the novel. Through Halligan, Hosseini’s novel comments on the attitudes in the quote “selfishness and altruism, sex and loneliness, fear and relief.” These symptoms compare to Laila’s in the book through the decisions she’s made to relieve her loneliness and fear by being selfish or having sex to fill the hole that war has caused. Throughout the novel, Khaled Hosseini has given readers an opportunity to experience for themselves what Afghani women have to go through on a day to day basis. The power men and society holds on Afghani women has taken a major toll on their lives. Not only has the suppression of women caused by men made it harder for women to gain dignity or worth but also men have held back their women both mentally and physically. Furthermore, war has also played a big role in this novel because of women’s war on themselves, men, and society.

Bibliography

Marshall, Lucinda. “Women in Iraq and Afghanistan: U.S. Actions Do Little To Help.” Off Our Backs, vol. 34, no. 7/8, 2004, pp. 11–13. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20838123.

Afghan Women’s Network. “Afghanistan: ‘The Biggest Prison for Women in the World.'” Off Our Backs, vol. 27, no. 3, 1997, pp. 12–13. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20835779.

Halligan, Fredrica R. “Youth and Trauma: Terror, War, Murder, Incest, Rape, and Suicide.” Journal of Religion and Health, vol. 48, no. 3, 2009, pp. 342–352. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40344482.

MASTERS, CRISTINA. “Femina Sacra: The ‘War on/of Terror’, Women and the Feminine.” Security Dialogue, vol. 40, no. 1, 2009, pp. 29–49. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26299810.

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