Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Winter Break Reading Assignment Essays


The following are the two prompts I picked and my responses, along with all the grammar mistakes and missing words. See pithy remarks for my personal comments.


What is the climax of the novel and why?

The climax of the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns would have to be when Mariam kills Rasheed. This climax is the point in which two of the characters stand up and take action. From the beginning of the novel, after Mariam is married to Rasheed, the reader is exposed to Rasheed’s short ill-temper. Although he is decent to her initially, his attitude changes after she fails to give birth to his child multiple times. Rasheed begins criticizing Mariam for her every little fault and mistake, verbally and physically abusing her, despite being a very devoted wife. Mariam endures, like her mother, Nana, before her, who once told her that “a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman”(7). This is definitely true for Rasheed. At the end of Part One, he forces Mariam to chew stones for serving him bad rice, claiming that their marriage gave him “bad food, and nothing else”(94). Mariam yet again endures the pain, knowing she can do nothing to Rasheed. However, years later, Rasheed decides to take in Laila as his second wife after he and Mariam rescue her from the rocket that destroyed her home and killed her family. He actually deceives her to do so, and Mariam is at first jealous of and angry at her. But the two women soon become confidantes, both weathering Rasheed’s storms of anger. Rasheed is a horrible man, comparing Laila to “a brand-new, first-class, shining Benz”(199), while Mariam is an old Volga. But towards the end of Part Three, Rasheed takes it too far when he almost suffocates Laila with his unmerciful grip during a fight. Alarmed, Mariam finds a shovel and strikes Rasheed in order to save “everything [she’d] ever wished for as a little girl”(319). Mariam saves Laila and preserves the future of Laila’s children, but in doing so, she sacrifices her own life when the Taliban execute her.


Trace the changes that the character Mariam experiences throughout the book.

Mariam is indeed an interesting character of A Thousand Splendid Suns. From the start, she is a na├»ve girl, frequently ignoring her mother’s stories and admonishes about motherhood and men. She practically worships her father, who has three other wives, and only visits Mariam once a week. When she journeys to Herat for the first time to see her father Jalil, she is disgraced that he doesn’t take her in, leaving her out on the streets. Mariam, after her mother’s suicide, realizes that her mother was right, that Jalil’s voice was full of “insincerity that had always lurked beneath, the hollow, false assurances”(36). Mariam is then married off to Rasheed, some 30 years older than her, and moves to Kabul. She is lonely and afraid, living in an unknown city with a man she doesn’t know. However, she begins to accept this new life, as Rasheed is initially a decent husband. But when she fails to give birth to his children multiple times, he begins verbally and physically abusing her. Mariam realizes again the suffering a wife must go through and the emotional pain of losing her children even before birth. Years later, Mariam feels hostile towards Laila after Rasheed takes her in as his second wife. But the two women learn to live together, working harmoniously with each other under the tyranny of their brutal husband. Rasheed takes it too far when he almost suffocates Laila to death. Mariam kills him with a shovel, but faces the dire consequences. She urges Laila and her children to leave without, that she would be fine; she and her children given her “everything [she’d] ever wished for as a little girl”(319). Saddened by depriving Rasheed’s son of his father, Mariam believes it to be fair that she take the punishment. Even as she is about to be executed, “one last time, Mariam did as she was told”(329) and kneels to the Taliban executioner.

1 comment:

Kevin Ta 5 said...

I really enjoyed reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, and thus, I did pretty well on this in-class essay test. The prompts are relatively easy, because all I had to do is provide sufficient evidence; there really isn't much analysis. I prefer more objective writing assignments such as this over analytic explications.