A Thousand Splendid Suns: Context

A Thousand Splendid Suns: Context

Historical and Political Context

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns takes place in Afghanistan from the 1960s to the early 2000s. This period is marked by various significant political changes starting from the monarchic rule of Mohammed Zahir Shah to the ousting of the Taliban.

  • The Soviet invasion in 1979 significantly influences the course of the novel, leading to a huge exodus of Afghans to neighbouring countries and filling the narrative with war and violence.

  • The dominance of the Mujahideen and the Taliban marked the country’s continued instability, with each regime imposing its ideologies and restrictions, particularly impacting women’s rights.

Cultural and Social Context

  • The novel brings to light Afghan cultural norms and traditions, often marked by deep-rooted patriarchy. This is reflected in Rasheed’s abusive treatment of his wives, Laila and Mariam, and their position in society.

  • The practice of polygamy, as seen in Rasheed’s marriages, was and is still prevalent in certain parts of Afghan society.

  • The novel highlights the status of women, their subjugation and marginalisation, showcasing the disparity and unfair treatment they receive, such as the inability to move freely without a male companion during the Taliban regime.

Literary Context

  • Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is often compared to his debut novel, The Kite Runner. Both novels explore themes of familial love, sacrifice, and the effects of war-torn Afghanistan on individual lives.

  • The novel is grounded in the style of realism, drawing from the socio-political conditions of the time. Hosseini’s vivid descriptions and character portrayals aim to provide an immersive experience of the lived realities of his protagonists.

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns embraces elements of tragedy, particularly notable in Mariam’s life story, fostering a deep sense of empathy within readers.

  • Finally, the novel can be viewed as a bildungsroman for Laila, documenting her life journey from a hopeful, ambitious girl to a woman who has endured unimaginable hardships, yet emerges resilient, ultimately contributing towards her nation’s rebuilding efforts.