Role of Women in Afghanistan


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In the way of more literary techniques that Hoisseni employs, the most recurring technique I saw was the way she used nature as a metaphor for the characters. Mariam is characterized the heaviest by nature symbolism and imagery. When the novel starts, Mariam and her mother’s value is first compared to a weed, “A weed […] something you rip out and toss aside.” (Pg.8) A weed is considered to be something useless, something that no one wants, and Mariam is similar to this as she is a harami, an outcast, and has no place in the social order. The next time we see nature imagery, Mariam has grown and it represents the next stage of her life. She describes love and hope as “Twin poisonous flowers” (Pg.250) that she uproots and kills whenever they get the chance to arise in her because she’s never seen what is like to appreciate those qualities and doesn’t care to as her life becomes more and more of just getting through. Another connection is how love and hope are uprooted just like it was uprooted from her as a child when her father let her down time and time again until she gave up on receiving love and having hope. When Laila and Aziza come into her life, Mariam is finally able to let herself love and break down her walls created by the men of her life. When she sacrifices herself for them in the end, this is when Laila says Mariam is “as hard and unyielding as a block of limestone” that Mariam is not weak and she can be uprooted now as she was in her childhood, she is no longer being ignored like a weed. The author uses these nature metaphors to chart Mariam’s growth, to show how she doesn’t let her upbringing or the hand life has dealt her, keep her from growing into exactly what she was meant to be, like a flower, and she cannot be ignored and tossed aside as many women are because she is not a weed, she is a block of limestone that will not break. This goes into the theme of resilience as we see firsthand how women can be broken down and still fight the laws and tradition by showing their own strength and fighting for a voice. Hoisseni also uses dreams as an allusion in the novel to incorporate real-life events that happened. Laila’s dream sequence of burying her daughter alive showed how she felt like she was complying with the Taliban and their oppression of women. Laila’s nightmares were also sparked by real-world events that happened and by reading this novel it offered insight into some events that actually happened and the pain that they caused. This allowed for the reader to have a deeper look and gain more insight plus awareness into the oppression women face in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the author uses the character of Rasheed, Mariam and Laila’s husband, as an allegory to the Taliban. He represents every value the taliban stood for and his actions in the novel of the way he treats his wives and the restrictions he puts on them. Many readers may not realize it at first, but there is a reason why Rasheed can become hated so easily and that’s because while he may be an individual, he shows the oppression women face on a collective scale as well, with women being treated like that all across the country. Overall Hoisseni focuses on using literary techniques through her characters to depict not only the characters’ oppression but the oppression women faced on a wider scale as well by incorporating real events that raise awareness and reveal the resilience these women were required to have.

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The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and A Thousand Splendid Suns both use varying literary techniques to reveal a greater message and theme of womens’ resilience along with the use of literature to help raise awareness about the oppression of women in Afghanistan. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell focused on using more metaphorical techniques to depict the theme whereas the author of A Thousand Splendid Suns chose to use a combination of metaphors with allegories and nature imagery. I think that both accurately portray the themes of womens’ suffrage and resilience however I think that in A Thousand Splendid Suns the literary techniques were used more to an advantage. I think that using Rasheed as an allegory was really the big technique that allowed me to connect the Taliban with the treatment of women. By the author using Rasheed I was able to picture what the Taliban’s morals were and how they interacted with their wives in a greater sense as we were experiencing it much more intimately. This is something we don’t often hear unless we go searching for it, which is why this novel does such a good job of raising awareness and developing the themes. The Pearl That Broke its Shell ultimately held more resonance for me in the way of depicting what life in Afghanistan is like and offered a deep dive into how complex cultures,values, and traditions can be intertwined within a society. However the novels also connect through the use of imagery and extended metaphors in the way of nature. Nature can be a powerful tool in describing the setting or experience of something and both authors used it to show different aspects of the characters. For Hashimi it was to depict the metaphorical cage women are put in when being oppressed and for Hoisseni it was to show how a woman can grow and gain resilience out of oppressive circumstances. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and A Thousand Splendid Suns both offered an immersive storyline, multiple even, and both used complex metaphors and literary techniques to help the reader better feel the pain and suffering of the characters and the atmosphere of the country’s society as a whole while also managing to tell different stories and weaving them into one in similar yet beautifully different ways.

Overall, A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Pearl that Broke Its Shell both paint a similar picture of Afghanistan and use similar themes of womens’ suffrage and resilience through the development of complex characters and storylines that allow the reader to almost feel the pain and suffering that women have to go through every day in Afghanistan. As the fight for womens’ rights continues around the world, novels like these can provide insight into why change is needed and help raise awareness for the oppression of women in Afghanistan to bring about that change. The movement for womens’ rights in Afghanistan has been a long time coming but through the use of literature, more people can help in the fight to achieve equal rights and freedoms that the women still lack compared to the far progressing womens’ rights movements in other countries. This is why novels such as these are so important and why it’s so important that authors portray these themes in relation to real life events because what is being portrayed in these novels is happening in real life and this is something that needs to be talked about and needs action to enact this change for what should be basic human rights to equality. Therefore analyzing literature and how it has an impact on raising awareness for current issues on a global scale through its portrayal of themes that connect can be beneficial to bringing about social change.       

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