Rasheed, having heard enough from Zalmai, sends him upstairs. Zalmai understands the trouble he's started and looks at Laila and Mariam in distress. Laila, knowing the boy meant no real harm, urges him to obey his father. Rasheed whips Laila with his belt. Mariam claws at Rasheed, trying to stop him from hurting Laila. He drops the belt and lunges at her. A new vigor rises in Mariam: What has she ever done to deserve this, she wonders? Laila smashes a vase over Rasheed's head and he turns back to her, pressing her to the floor with his hands wrapped around her throat. Realizing Rasheed has murder in mind, Mariam runs out to the tool-shed, grabs a shovel, and returns to whack Rasheed over the head with it. Stunned, Rasheed looks up at Mariam, an evil smirk forming on his face. Mariam knows she has no choice but to kill him. She raises the shovel and brings it down on Rasheed with all her might.
Chapter 45 marks a significant turning point for Mariam. It shows the culmination of all her life's experiences: the pain and sorrow Rasheed has caused her, as well as the joy and love she feels with Laila, force her to kill Rasheed. At first, Mariam is motivated by righteous anger and a sense of justice. Throughout her marriage, Mariam has accepted what fate has brought her, asking nothing of Rasheed or anyone. During her battle with Rasheed, she realizes just how little she's asked and how little cruelty she's deserved; she's lived life like a martyr. But now, when the person she loves most is threatened, Mariam realizes that all of her endurance hasn't once increased her worth in Rasheed's eyes. For the first time, Mariam sees her worth and believes that she's never deserved the anguish she's had to endure.
Her second and equally powerful motivation is saving Laila's life. Mariam realizes after her first swing at Rasheed that if she does not kill him, he will kill them both. While Mariam is ready to die, she's not ready to lose Laila. Through her decision to kill Rasheed, Mariam values her role as a mother above all else; like any mother, she's willing to do whatever it takes to protect Laila. These two motivations, one born out of a new sense of self-worth and one born out of selfless love, provide us with a complex portrait of Mariam and show us how both love and hate are powerful shapers of the human spirit.