Last Updated 24 Jan 2023

Toxic Patriarchy in the Marriage of Mariam and Rasheed in A Thousand Splendid Suns

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There are many nations around the world that establish misogynistic ideals within their societies, These regulations inflict great suffering upon women as it places limits on what they can achieve in their lives, This ultimately leads to a lifestyle dependent on others and prompts feelings of isolation and resentment upon women. This is certainly the case with Mariam, one of the female protagonists in Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. Mariam lives in a patriarchal society where she is expected to terminate her life ambitions in order to meet the demands of others. Accordingly. carrying out these obligations adversely affects Mariam’s welfare as it limits her chances of creating opportunities that could help her thrive in life. Ultimately. Mariam‘s incapability to forge a life of her own is a Sign that living in line with patriarchal ideals can lead to a reliant and resentful life.

Therefore, in Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam‘s suffering reveals that living a life based on misogynistic ideals places limitations on what girls can achieve in life, resulting in feelings of isolation and resentment. Individuals who are forced to live a patriarchal lifestyle are expected to put aside their own needs in order to make sure others' needs are met. Moreover, people who obtain power through a patriarchal lifestyle are to blame as they are the individuals who implement such ideals within their households.

This is displayed when Rasheed commands Mariam to begin carrying out her duties as a housewife: “‘Well, then, as of tomorrow morning i expect you to start behaving like a wife. Fahmidi? Is that understood?’ Mariam’s teeth began to chatter. ‘I need an answer. Yes. Good,‘ he said. ‘What do you think this is? A hotel?“ (Hosseini 65). The patriarchal constructs ingrained in Rasheed‘s psyche is brought to light by the way he treats Mariam in the first few days of their relationship. Panicularly, Rasheed expects Mariam to obey all of his commands, which in tum reveals his selfish character since he believes that wives should be submissive and devote their lives to sewing their husbands. In addition, Rasheed fails to understand that he is the one who is trying to transform the house into a hotel to work in his favour, not Mariam. Therefore, Mariam must put aside her own needs in order to make sure Rasheed’s needs are met, Furthermore. through Rasheed‘s actions one can learn that he gives no emotional support to Mariam as she adjusts to her new life, reinforcing the concept that men often regard women as a burden if they defy their needs in a patriarchal household.

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In addition, Mariam recognizes the constraints her gender has on her in this situation, as she knows that her words have little to no power over her husband. Funhermore, she beings to exhibit apprehensive behaviour when Rasheed explains his expectations, indicating she knows that she is not ready to take on the role of being a housewife Therefore. she is forced to terminate all her ambitions and do whatever she must in order to fulfill Rasheed’s wishes, in turn, leaving her no time and space to pursue her own goals in life. Moreover, this way of living clearly affects Mariam‘s relationship with Rasheed. as these new rules lead to conflict between the two characters. In addition. implementing patriarchal constructs usually leads to a misogynistic mindset as expectations are not always met.

This is demonstrated when Rasheed becomes infuriated because Mariam fails to meet his expectations: “Rasheed made a ball of rice with his fingers, chewed twice before grimacing and spitting it out on the sofrah. ‘What‘s the matter?.,. What's the matter is that you've done it again'“. He shoved two fingers into her mouth and pried it open, then forced the cold. hard pebbles into it” (103). Despite constantly falling short of Rasheed’s expectations, Mariam continues to do her best to try and please him In turn, Rasheed sees Mariam as more of a burden every time she fails to meet his expectations, This patriarchal lifestyle keeps Mariam in a lower position in the relationship as she becomes fixed in a cycle of trying to fulfill his desires and please him. Moreover, one can clearly see what Mariam is missing out on by doing these chores and living under patriarchal regulations.

In particular, her whole life now focuses on trying to please Rasheed, leaving no room for her to grow as an individual and create opponunities for herself that could potentially aid her in becoming successful in the future. This makes it easier for Rasheed to control her as she has no way to support her own life, in turn becoming dependent on him and prone to his abuse. Furthermore, the pebbles in this case symbolize the family Mariam once wished to have but now, it depicts a destruction of this idea since Rasheed considers her to be a burden for not meeting his expectations. In turn, Mariam begins to think of herself as a burden as she regularly tries to meet Rasheed’s expectations but often ends up falling short Therefore, she is constantly seen anxious and uneasy trying to please him since she knows that all of her attempts will be insufficient.

Thus, due to her na'r'veté and lack of aspirations she develops living in a household rooted in patriarchy, she possesses no altematjves and in turn, becomes caught in a cycle of violence and continues to live under Rasheed’s control. Those who become victims of living a patriarchal lifestyle often become limited in what they can accomplish in their lives, This occurs as the abuser typically expects the victim to satisfy their needs while being confined within the house. This is put forth when Rasheed says, “‘As for you, you are the queen, the malika. and this house is your palace.“ And if you need something, I will get it for you. You see, that is the son of husband I am"‘(223). Evidently, Rasheed’s only wish for Mariam is for her to remain within the house and satisfy his needs. These patriarchal regulations impose feelings of confinement on Mariam as she is not permitted, nor has a purpose to leave the house. At the same time. her whole life now focuses on making sure Rasheed is satisfied instead of making sure she is satisfied with her own life. She spends so much time trying to please him that she does not have any time to work on herself and in tum, create opportunities that can aid her in becoming a successful woman. Particularly, she is unable to go to school, thus being unable to get a job and earn her own money.

Consequently, this makes her dependent on Rasheed despite him being abusive as she is not given the freedom or space to be in control of her life. Furthermore, Rasheed's manipulative nature is brought to light by the way he speaks to Mariam since he makes her believe that she is his top priority by calling her a “Queen.” As a result. she accepts the fact that he is acting in her best interest which prompts feelings of isolation and resentment as she becomes fixed in his cycle of abuse. Above all, these feelings manifest as a result of being confined within her house to satisfy the needs of her husband, in turn, having no time to create opportunities that can aid her in living a life independent of others. Moreover, an individual who suffers at the hands of patriarchy is unable to suppon a life of their own as they become limited in what they can achieve in life This is exhibited when Mariam ponders about being able to receive an education: "She pictured herself in a classroom with other girls her age. Mariam longed to place a ruler on a page and draw important-looking lines" (92).

Rasheed‘s ideas on what women can achieve in society coupled with his patriarchal constructs limits Mariam's options for what she can accomplish in her life. Despite her young age, Mariam is unable to obtain proper education due to Rasheed’s patriarchal beliefs, in turn, having no way to live a life where she is independent of others. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult for Mariam to leave her abusive relationship as she is incapable of creating her own source of income. In turn, she becomes forced to live under Rasheed’s authority which continues the cycle of abuse. Coupled with being unable to financially contribute to the household due to Rasheed's regulations and failing to meet his needs, Mariam may begin to see herself as more of a burden as she is becoming limited in what she can do to please him. Ultimately, due to Rasheed’s patriarchal constructs, Mariam becomes constrained which in time leads to feelings of isolation and resentment Mariam begins to feel isolated as a result of living a patriarchal lifestyle which limits her in what she can accomplish in life.

Likewise, individuals often begin to feel isolated and insignificant as a result of having restrictions put in place against them. This is displayed when Mariam reflects on Rasheed‘s character, “This man's will felt to Mariam as imposing and as immovable as the Safid-Koh mountains looming over Gul Daman” (71). The fact that Mariam compares Rasheed‘s presence and will to a mountain reveals how large of an impact he has on her life. To Mariam, Rasheed feels like a large mountain that surrounds and restricts her from pursuing any goals due to his patriarchal regulations. In addition, Mariam is aware of the amount of power Rasheed has over her in the relationship. which in turn, sparks feelings of isolation and resentment as she is unable to fight back, trapping her in a loop of enduring Rasheed's abuse.

Therefore, Rasheed's house turns into a shelter for Mariam as her daily life shifts from living to surviving his abuse. Consequently, this prompts feelings of isolation as she is unable to leave her abusive relationship as a result of not having her own source of income due to Rasheed’s patriarchal constructs. These patriarchal constructs and his continual introduction of regulations clearly affects the way Mariam views herself. Likewise, individuals who are made feel insignificant due to persistent neglect and restraints typically experience a drop in confidence, Mariam begins to feel insecure and isolated when she sees content women in public: “These women mystified Mariam, They made her aware of her isolated life. her plain looks. her lack of aspirations, her ignorance of so many things" (75). Mariam's reflection of herself reveals how much living in a patriarchal household with an abusive husband has affected her life, internally and externally.

When she sees thriving women in public, Mariam assumes that they received the education that was denied to her, thus having access to opportunities out of her reach. This drives her into a state of isolation as she feels as though her life could have been much greater if only she had been allowed to get educated and have her own way of earning money and supporting herself. Furthermore, she gets driven deeper into despair when she realizes that she cannot do anything about her lack of aspirations since she was denied the ability to gain her own independence and take control of her own life as a result of being forced to undertake her role as a housewife and mother. Coupled with her gender and her inability to earn money, she has no other choice but to continue to live with Rasheecl, despite the relationship being abusive and making her feel isolated. On the whole, living in a patriarchal household and having restrictions put up against her motivates feelings of isolation as she becomes limited in what she can accomplish in her life.

Therefore, Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns depicts how living a patriarchal lifestyle imposes restrictions on women's lives, provoking feelings of isolation and resentment. Likewise, Mariam is expected to stay confined within her home to satisfy her husband's needs and meet his expectations. For this reason, she lacks the time and freedom to create opportunities that have the potential to make her successful in life and become independent of others, Consequently. this sparks feelings of isolation and resentment as she becomes limited in what she may accomplish in life due to having to terminate her life goals in order to satisfy others. On the whole. living a life where others dictate one's choices results in feelings of despair and isolation as that individual is not given the opportunity or freedom to do what they wish to in life. Such individuals who force these lifestyles on others fail to recognize the detrimental effects it can possibly have on the other individual. Moreover, people usually attempt to control and exploit those who come across as weak and naive, however, those individuals may turn out to be the strongest and most resilient people they may ever meet.

Work Cited

Hosseini. Khaled‘ A Thousand Splendid Suns. Penguin Books Canada, 2008.

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