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In A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, there is an underlying theme of women’s rights (or the lack thereof), that is prevalent throughout the entire novel. This novel shows that women in Afghanistan have no rights and are forced to marry a specific person with no say in the decision and the women are forced to wear extensive clothing, such as a burqa to cover their faces. I believe that this patriarchy in the novel shows that women had no power in Afghan society and men viewed them as objects rather than people. An example of how women had no rights in Afghan society is when Mariam is talking to Nana about wanting to go to school. Nana replies to Mariam by saying, “What’s the sense in schooling a girl like you? It’s like shining a spittoon. And you’ll learn nothing of value in those schools. This is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don’t teach it in school (Hosseini 18).”

Nana is saying that it would be pointless to teach Mariam and compares her being taught to “shining a spittoon”. Shining a spittoon means trying to make something unappealing better, but no matter how much you shine it, it is still a spittoon. Nana is saying that no matter how much she could learn in school, she would still be viewed as a woman; a woman with no rights and no credibility in Afghan society. Another example of the lack of women’s rights in Afghan society is when Mariam and Rasheed are eating in the kebab shop near the Haji Yaghoub.

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It states, “And the burqa, she learned to her surprise, was also comforting. It was like a one-way window. Inside it, she was an observer, buffered from the scrutinizing eyes of the strangers. She is no longer worried that people know, with a single glance, all the shameful secrets of her past (Hosseini 73).” This is saying that Mariam is essentially looking at the world through a one-way window. She can see everyone, but no man pays attention to her. It states she is an “observer” who is essentially hidden from the “scrutinizing eyes of the strangers”. Meaning that she is hidden from strangers who would examine her and judge her if she didn’t have her burqa on.

This shows how Afghan society feels about women. There are dozens and dozens of other examples in this novel that show how women have no rights in Afghan society. This novel does a fantastic job of shedding light on this situation and goes to show how some might feel about forced marriages and wearing a burqa in public.   

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