In his novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini writes about the life of women in Taliban controlled areas. It portrays mothers, daughters and friendships between women. The novel takes place in Kabul, and it focuses on the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila, the wives of an old shoekamer named Rasheed. Mariam was the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man. She is forced to marry the man after her mother commits suicide. Similarly, Laila is the daughter of an intellectual but she loses her parents and her lover in different rocket attacks. Thus, she is made to marry Rasheed. Thereafter, the story shows the women becoming best friends and shielding each other from the unruly Rasheed. Heroes and heroines have characteristics that set them apart from ordinary people. Mariam meets the definition of a heroine because of her courage and noble cause.
The first evidence of her courage is that she goes out alone in search of her father without the permission of her mother. In fact, she has never visited Herat but “This time, she did not go back to the kolba. She rolled up the legs of her trousers to the knees, crossed the stream, and, for the first time in her life, headed down the hill for Herat (21)”. Her mother tells her about the treachery of men and warns her about the way she will be disowned by Jalil. Still, showing a courage that is unusual for a woman in the social setting of Kabul, she goes in search of her father. The second example of her courage is the fact that she manages to muster up enough willpower to kill Rasheed to save Laila and her children. After killing, she says to Laila, “I won’t have the two of you living on the run, like fugitives. What will happen to your children if you’re caught? (217)”. In fact, Rasheed has had doubts on Laila as he is aware about her relation with Tariq. One day, Tariq visits Laila and she realizes that he was not dead; but it was a deceit concocted by Rasheed. When Rasheed comes to know that Tariq met Laila, he tries to kill her. In the effort to save Laila’s life, Mariam kills Rasheed. Even after killing, she is not a coward to run away. Instead, she forces Laila to run away with her children and Tariq and decides to surrender her own life. Thus, she exhibits the quality of a classic superhero who gives more importance to the security of the people they love than their own life.
Secondly, Mariam has a noble purpose to achieve like a hero. Firstly, as a child, she demands her father, “Nay. I want you to take me (18)”. Though her mother discourages her from pestering her father and demanding him to acknowledge her as his own child, she believes she has the legitimate right to do so, and continues demanding the same. When her father fails to come and take her to cinema with her siblings, she is not ready to give up. Instead, she goes in search of her father. When he does not turn up to greet her or talk to her, she spends the night at his doorstep. It becomes evident that Mariam is a person who is willing to suffer hardships to any extent if she believes the purpose is justifiable. The second example of this quality is seen when she says “I meant it for you, Laila jo (216)”. In fact, Laila gets too frightened seeing the death of Rasheed. To comfort her, Mariam tells her about running away to a place where no one disturbs them and all of them living together in peace. This helps calm Laila down. However, the very next day, Mariam reveals the plan that she is not going with them because if she goes, the Taliban will go in search of them and will find all of them equally guilty. Therefore, she decides to surrender her own life in order to ensure that Tariq and Laila get a happy life with their children. In fact, Mariam is very aware about the kind of punishment that awaits her as she says “What do you think they’ll do when they find a dead husband and two missing wives? (216)”. To achieve the noble purpose of saving all the people she loves, Mariam decides to sacrifice her own life.
In total, though both Laila and Mariam exhibit qualities of courage, patience, endurance, and love, Mariam goes one step ahead of Laila for her sheer willingness to go to any extent to achieve what she believes is right. While Laila failed to marry Tariq as she believed it would pain her father, one can see Mariam going in search of her father against the strong opposition from her mother. Thus, Mariam teaches the reader that a real hero is ready to give everything to achieve what they believe is right.