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Heartlessness In a world full of sins, human beings are susceptible of doing evil towards others. Some people commit evil actions for good intention, but some do because of their selfish interests and desire for power. In Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, it is questionable whether the characters and the society have displayed cruelty and inhumanity among other characters. Heartlessness of humanity is evident throughout the novel. By examining the corrupted values, abuse, and discrimination visible in the society of Afghanistan, it becomes apparent how evil humankind can be. Hosseini portrays the struggles of two young Afghan women, Laila and Mariam, in war riddled Afghanistan. Both women are years apart by age, but are forced to marry an older man, Rasheed, who they do not know. The women learn to co-exist as they endure Rasheed's mental and physical abuse. The women in Afghanistan have to face arranged or forced marriages, poor education and restrictions brought on by the Taliban. The lack of respect and freedom of Afghan women compels them to fight for their rights to halt the inequalities they face in society.
Corrupted values are detrimental to society by the fact that it takes away one’s freedom and a chance to live. Marriage is the voluntary union of two people, who choose to be together and nobody else for the rest of their lives. In the case of Afghan women, they deal with forced under-age marriages. Freedom is a basic fundamental right that every person deserves to have. The opportunities to speak, believe, and pursue happiness without any restriction defines freedom of a person. Some Afghan women have been wed off at a very early age, some at the age of thirteen to men much older than them. Although the legal age for marriage in Afghanistan is sixteen for females and eighteen for males, many people, particularly in rural areas, either ignore the law or claim that they are not aware of it. According to the Women's Ministry and Women’s NGOs, “approximately 57 percent of Afghan girls get married before the age of 16.” (Reid) These marriages have a negative effect on girls in many ways; “it blocks them from an education and causes pregnancy.” (Reid) Afghanistan has the world's second worst rate of maternal death during childbirth. About “16 out of every 100 women die giving birth.” (Ghosh-Ahmed) Childbirth before they have reached physical maturity at such a young age can lead to serious physical trauma, psychological disturbance, and sometimes lifelong physical and/or emotional inability. At such a young age these women are being wed off and it is obvious these women are being forced to marry, since they are too young and uneducated to make such difficult decisions. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) estimates that “up to 80 percent of all marriages in Afghanistan are conducted without the consent of the parties involved.” (Nutt) The practice of forced marriages is carried out for many different reasons, including giving a girl in marriage as repayment for a debt, to resolve a feud, or even to just get rid of her. Many Afghan families determine whom a daughter should marry without her consent. It is bad enough these women are too young and forced to marry older men, some of the women must deal with their men marrying other younger women. Islam allows men to have up to four wives as long as they can treat them equally. This is awful and devastating to a woman who has devoted all her life to her husband to end up being played second fiddle to some thirteen to sixteen year old girl. It is a sad case for these women, they must devote their entire lives to a man they were forced to marry without even accomplishing a goal or a dream.
In Mariam's case, she was a burden to her family and so they just took the first offer for her. “Rasheed is here, in Heart; he has come all the way from Kabul. The nikka will be tomorrow morning, and then there is a bus leaving for Kabul at noon” (Hosseini 45). Mariam was not even consulted in whether she wanted to marry Rasheed, let alone she had never seen or met him before. She was forced to marry at the age of fifteen. However, Mariam finds hope in her marriage as something that could lead to contentment and possibly to love, but her marriage actually devolves into abuse and oppression. A marriage in Islam is usually a sacred union of two people who choose to respect and honor one another in all situations. It is supposed to be a joyous occasion for females. Marriage, however, is a nightmare in which both Mariam and Laila are abused emotionally. Moreover, since the marriages in the novel were forced, they are not likely influenced by love. Laila had no choice but to marry Rasheed because she had nobody left to take care for her; all her friends and family had died or moved because of war. In this marriage, Mariam tries to love her husband as a commitment, but in return, what she gets in only emotional abuse from him. If love cannot be seen in a marriage, abuse is inevitable when someone makes a mistake. Furthermore, Rasheed coercively forces Mariam to eat pebbles. Rasheed’s brutal action to Mariam proves that human beings are capable of harming other people, even those who are significant in their lives.
All children deserve to learn and go to school but in Afghanistan, many girls have been forced to abandon their education because of marriage. If these girls were given a chance to learn instead of becoming wives, then they might finally be able to fight for their inequalities. According to Mrs. Habiba, a second grade teacher, and Mrs. Q'rmrun, a principal, “over two-thirds of the nine-year-old girls sitting on the stone floor in a classroom an hour from Tora Bora were either already married or soon to become wives” (Jones 23). At such a young age, these girls have not even learned math or know anything about sex but are already married. Education for girls under the Taliban only went from bad to worse. The Taliban focused solely on studies for boys and denied nearly all girls the right to attend school. During the Taliban's rule, “only about 3 percent of girls received some form of primary education” (Lantos). When the Taliban fell in late 2001, Afghan women had a better future to look upon because change was around the corner. The Ministry of Education reported that “5.2 million students were enrolled in grades one through twelve” in 2005. This includes an estimated 1.82-1.95 million girls and women. An additional 55,500-57,000 people, including 4,000-5,000 girls and women, were enrolled in “vocational, Islamic, and teacher education programs, and 1.24 million people were enrolled in non-formal education programs” (Lantos). Despite numerous positive steps forward in education for Afghan women, violent attacks on schools by resurgent Taliban and other forces continued to force some schools to close. The Feminist Majority Foundation has reported “over 30 attacks on girl's schools since the fall of the Taliban” (Lewis). Women continue to move forward in Afghanistan and hope for a change despite the efforts by others to stop the movement.
Hosseini illustrates two stories about education that most women in Afghanistan go through. It is known that Mariam was born to a poor background and was raised up by a bitter mother, named Nana. Nana did not let Mariam do anything because she was worried that she would lose her. Nana says, “What's the sense schooling a girl like you? It's like shining a spittoon. And you'll learn nothing of value in those schools” (Hosseini 17). Mariam wanted to learn but Nana refused to give her an education. This belief of Nana is a blinded, selfish, and ironic characteristic of a typical mother. Usually, a mother will always think for the best for her child; but in this case, Nana portrays the contrary. Her belief deteriorates her moral and ethical values, in which, it also affects the chance of her child to be educated. Education is one of the keys to having a successful life. Thus when Nana died, Mariam had no choice but to marry Rasheed. Meanwhile, Laila, had a fairly normal background and an encouraging father, Hakim. “I know you're still young, but I want you to understand and learn this now. Marriage can wait, education cannot. You're a very, very bright girl,” Hakim says (Hosseini 103). Laila's father believed in her and allowed her to continue her education, which gave her the confidence and mentality to stand up to her future husband, Rasheed. “It's a good time to be a woman in Afghanistan. And you can take advantage of that Laila" (Hosseini 121). This shows that women in general were evolving in Afghanistan and with education they could finally rise, but unfortunately the Taliban ruined all that. After the death of Laila's parents, Laila had no choice but to get married, leaving behind her bright future.
Prior to the rise of the Taliban, women in Afghanistan were protected under law and increasing rights in Afghan society. Women received the right to vote in the 1920s and in the 1960s, the Afghan constitution provided equality for women. There was a mood of tolerance and openness as the country began moving toward democracy. It is estimated that by the “early 1990s, 70% of schoolteachers, 50% of government workers and university students, and 40% of doctors in Kabul were women” (Lewis). That all soon changed when the Taliban took over. They forced all women to quit their jobs and made a law that women were not allowed to work except for a few female doctors. The Taliban first became prominent in 1994 and took over the Afghan capital, Kabul, in 1996. Some hoped that the Taliban would provide stability to the country. However, the Taliban soon imposed a strict and oppressive order. The Taliban went on to impose laws against women such as, no woman was allowed to leave home without a male escort. A ban was imposed on women from being treated by male doctors, and whipping of women in public was instituted as a punishment for having exposed ankles. The Taliban brutally enforced a dress code that required all women to be covered under a burqa. The fate of women in Afghanistan was intolerable, even world leaders were appalled by the acts of the Taliban. The burqa that imprisons them is a cloth prison, but it is above all a moral prison. The torture imposed on little girls who dared to show their ankles or their polished nails is appalling. There were stories of women being beaten for little things; “One woman who was caught with an unrelated man in the street was publicly flogged with 100 lashes”, in a stadium full of people (Jones 26). She was lucky. If she had been married, and found with an unrelated male, the punishment would have been death by stoning. Such a brutal punishment, for something so insignificant, is just heartless. The Taliban laws were not all against women; some were imposed on every civilian, such as the banning of music and television. The reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan was a dark time for both women and men; but in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban were taken down and a better future for Afghanistan was born.
The Taliban take over was a huge step back for Afghanistan and its blossoming age for women. At first, it was believed the Taliban were saviors for the Afghan people. Many people assumed they would solve the problem; for example Rasheed says, “Let them come, I, for one, will shower them with rose petals” (Hosseini 245). The people had no idea what the Taliban were doing; they fully supported it, until they started to impose laws. Most of these laws were geared towards women. Women “will stay inside [their] homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If [women] go outside, [they] must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If [women] are caught alone on the street, [they] will be beaten and sent home” (Hosseini 248). This law treats women like dogs and like dogs, women are only allowed to leave home for a walk with a male escort. Laila was often beaten by Taliban members when she would go see Aziza, her daughter, at the orphanage because Rasheed would not take her. Mariam had heard an announcement, that … “men and women would be seen in different hospitals [and] that all female would be discharged from Kabul's hospitals and sent to work in one central faculty” (Hosseini 254). The Taliban went as far as forcing women to one central hospital with limited doctors and supplies, which made child birth for many women become a nightmare. Laila suffered a horrific child birth; she endured a Cesarean-section without any anesthetic. The Taliban were heartless and unforgiving to women. Hosseini illustrates Mariam’s execution by the Taliban by stoning as the price for murdering Rasheed: Like a compass needle that point north, a man’s accusing finger always find a woman. Always. You remember that…. Something tells me you are not a wicked woman, hamshira. But you have done a wicked thing. And you must pay for this thing you have done. Shari’a is not vague on this matter. It says I must send you where I will soon join you myself. (364-365)
She embraced her brutal crime, but was brave enough to stand up for herself in a time where womens’ lives were already in danger. Heartlessness is a major characteristic that humanity displays in the novel. Firstly, it is because corrupted values are detrimental in an already hostile society. Secondly, the lack of education and abuse of women is evident in a single-sex dominated nation. Lastly, the overall reign of the Taliban is tolerable in an institution blinded with a corrupted belief. Even so, it is a fact that human beings are not perfect, hence, capable of being heartless to others. Neither human nature nor good intention can justify good actions. It is tough to be a human being; one should adapt and evolve to get along with others. Consequently, humanity cannot be basically considered human being, but a human becoming.
Works Cited
Ghosh-Ahmed, Huma. “Afghan Women: Stranded At The Intersection Of Local And Global Masculinities.” Conference Papers—International Studies Association (2006): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Apr. 2012.
Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. New York: Riverhead Books. 2007.
Jones, Ann. “Remember The Women? (Cover Story).” Nation 289.15 (2009): 22-26 Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.
Lantos, Tom. “Discrimination Against Women Ant The Roots Of Global Terrorism.” Human Rights 29.3 (2002): 7. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Apr. 2012
Lewis, Helen. “Afghan Women, Michelle Obama’s Pants And The Smacking Debate.” New Statesman 141.5091 (2012): 9. Academic Search Premier. Web 10 Apr. 2012.
Nutt, Samantha. “Freedom Denied.” Maclean’s 116.26/27 (2003): 52. Academic Search Premier Web. 12 Apr. 2012.
Reid, Rachel. “The Taliban War on Women Continues.” Wall Street Journal-Eastern Edition 14 July 2010: A19. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.…...

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...serious attitude and further probing the stereotypical aggressive male trope. Furthermore Katherine Mansfield divides her story into different episodes, each episode dictating another element of the story in the fragmented form peculiar to Mansfield. The scene then shifts towards the Burnell household, portraying Mansfield’s ability in evoking many different lives at the same time. Stanley’s dominant masculinity is blatantly declared in his actions as he directs the other inhabitants within the household, “ You might go and see if the porridge is ready Beryl”, ”You might cut me a slice of that bread Mother” and ‘Would you get me those shoes Mother” The theme of duty and responsibility to one’s family surfaces as Stanley voices, “The heartlessness of Women! The way they took it for granted it was your job to slave away for them while they didn’t even take the trouble to see that your walking stick wasn’t lost” Stanley’s words shed light on the importance of gender roles within a society; with the men procuring jobs and the women managing domesticity, subservient to the bread winners of the house. The theme of marriage is also dealt with in Stanley’s exchange with his wife Linda whose “vagueness on these occasions could not be real” This strained marital relationship between husband and wife reinforces the continual tension between the sexes, “And he meant that as a punishment to her” and is further continued in the way the domestic atmosphere abruptly changes once the......

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