Summary and Analysis
Mariam puts on the burqa with Rasheed's help. At first Mariam finds it disorienting to see the world through a screen and to have her peripheral vision inhibited. Once she's dressed, Rasheed takes her for a tour of Kabul; they visit a park, eat kebabs and ice cream, and go to Chicken Street, a marketplace for the upper class of Kabul. Throughout the tour, Mariam is struck by the "modern" women, as Rasheed calls them, women wearing makeup and short skirts. Rasheed greets several fellow shopkeepers on their tour, but does not introduce Mariam or bring her into these conversations. At the end of their trip, he buys her a beautiful shawl, which Mariam finds very touching.
Later that evening after they've returned home, Rasheed comes to Mariam's room and has sex with her, despite her initial protests. A virgin and very frightened of the experience, Mariam is racked with pain and confusion after they finish, even though Rasheed has assured her there's nothing shameful about a husband and wife making love.
In Chapter 11, Hosseini further develops the theme surrounding gender roles and illustrates the changing nature of Rasheed and Mariam's relationship. Mariam's wearing of the burqa allows her to contemplate her own role in her marriage and as an adult woman, and to contrast it with the "modern" women she sees. Although she finds the burqa uncomfortable at first, later, during her tour of Kabul, she finds it comforting as it lets her be invisible, freeing her from her concern that others still see her as an illegitimate child. But despite her growing comfort wearing the burqa, she doesn't lose her sense of curiosity about the women she sees. She imagines them receiving the education denied her and thus having access to opportunities that seem out of her reach. By contrasting Mariam's sense of self with her awareness of the "modern" women around her, Hosseini provides a textured portrait of Kabul in the early 1970s — a time where traditional and progressive notions of gender behaviors coexist, allowing for exchange between people of different cultural and religious values.
Chapter 11 also sheds insight into Mariam and Rasheed's relationship. As they explore Kabul, Mariam finds Rasheed's presence more and more comforting. During Mariam's first meal in a restaurant, she overcomes the unfamiliarity of eating among strangers by taking comfort in what she knows: Rasheed. When he buys her a shawl and she recognizes this gesture as sincere, unlike the gifts Jalil tried to lavish on her, she warms to him even more. Although she's unpleased by having sex with Rasheed, she limits her protest and listens when he tells her sex between married people is not shameful. By ending on a final image of the moon covered by a wedding veil of clouds, Hosseini uses metaphor to further establish Mariam's growing acceptance of Rasheed. Unlike earlier, where she used metaphors to describe her distaste, her use of a wedding veil to describe the moonlight indicates a new appreciation for and comfort in her married life.