A Thousand Splendid Suns: Character Profiles

A Thousand Splendid Suns: Character Profiles


  • Mariam is one of the novel’s protagonists, hailing from a small hut in Herat. Her character explores themes of marginalisation, victimhood, and resilience.
  • She is a harami (illegitimate) child of Jalil and his housemaid, Nana. Her status as a harami highlights the gender and class inequalities in Afghan society.
  • She grows up isolated and lacking affection, barring brief visits from her father Jalil, leaving her pessimistic and resigned to her hardships.
  • Marriage to Rasheed introduces her to further abuse and oppression, yet she displays commendable strength and resilience.
  • Mariam’s character arc is notable - she evolves from a submissive, passive character into someone who stands up against her oppressor, Rasheed.


  • Rasheed serves as the story’s antagonist. His character embodies misogyny, brutality, and patriarchal ideologies.
  • He marries both Mariam and Laila successively, treating them abusively and oppressively, reinforcing the female exploitation theme.
  • His manipulative behaviour, marked by a tendency to play his wives against each other, showcases power dynamics and control over women.
  • Despite his brutality, Rasheed is a nuanced character, his harshness partly shaped by the loss of his son and stressful political climate.


  • Laila is the second protagonist and represents the crossroads of modernity and tradition in Afghanistan.
  • She grows up in a liberal household, exposed to education and forward-thinking ideals – making her more tenacious and defiant against misogyny.
  • Despite her initial hatred of Mariam (due to Rasheed’s manipulations), survival and shared experiences drive them to form a deep, sisterly bond, critiquing societal norms that pit women against each other.
  • Her decisions, like staying with Rasheed for her children, reflect the sacrifices women often make for their family’s well-being.
  • She represents hope and change, going against patriarchal norms by returning to Kabul to help rebuild her country.


  • Tariq, Laila’s childhood friend and lover, contrasts sharply with Rasheed. He symbolises compassionate, respectful love.
  • Despite his physical disabilities, he is a strong character who serves as a pillar of support for Laila.
  • His character emphasises the loss and heartbreak caused by war, as seen in his separation from Laila and the loss of his family.
  • Tariq’s return and their subsequent reunion provide a contrasting romantic ideal and hope against the oppressive marriages depicted.