Summary and Analysis
Part 1: Chapter 12
Ramadan, a month-long religious observance in which Muslims fast during the day and eat after sunset, arrives a few months after Mariam moves in with Rasheed. Mariam enjoys the fact that she's finally celebrating within a larger religious community. Rasheed, however, observes the fast only occasionally and gets angry and short-tempered when he does not eat. The month of fasting ends with a three-day holiday called Eid-ul-Fitr, during which the entire community celebrates with gift giving and fireworks. Rasheed and Mariam go to a nearby park and watch fireworks. As she's watching the fireworks, Mariam realizes how much she enjoys being part of the citywide celebration, and wishes her mother could be with her to see her new, contented life.
On the second day of Eid-ul-Fitr, Rasheed invites over a few male guests. When they arrive, Mariam retreats to her room so they cannot see her, a practice that makes her aware of how much Rasheed prizes her. The next day Rasheed leaves to call on other friends and Mariam cleans the house. Her cleaning leads her to Rasheed's bedroom, which she has never entered before. Despite her guilt, Mariam snoops and goes through his bureau. In one drawer Mariam finds a gun, which she assumes is for protection. Nestled below the gun are pornographic magazines, which shock Mariam. But she lets it slide, having decided that Rasheed is a man with male needs who was without a wife for so long.
Mariam looks in another drawer to find pictures of Rasheed's dead wife and son. Mariam lingers over the picture of the three of them, noticing how his first wife is beautiful but sullen, and seems to be pulling away from Rasheed's embrace. Mariam spends the rest of the day mulling over what she's discovered. She is comforted by the idea that they've both lost people they love but are now able to build a new life together.
In Chapter 12, Hosseini contrasts Mariam's pleasure in celebrating with the community during Ramadan with Rasheed's secrecy, which shows that Mariam and Rasheed are fundamentally different despite Mariam's growing sense of comfort in the relationship. Mariam's refuses to acknowledge the warning signs presented in the chapter. Mariam does not confront Rasheed about his lack of participation in Ramadan — this, despite his traditional religious beliefs regarding the role of women in society — or about his grumpiness when he does participate. Mariam is unsettled when she finds a gun and pornography in the house, but she dismisses both because of her gender stereotypes: Rasheed's a man, so of course he has a gun to protect his wife and home, and of course he had sexual needs before Mariam arrived. While she's able to talk herself out of worrying about the gun and pornography, she has a harder time ignoring the photograph of Rasheed's wife. Eventually, she dismisses the picture as well, by focusing on what she and Rasheed have in common (they have both lost loved ones) rather than the distance between them.
All of Mariam's reactions, or lack thereof, show that she is unable to challenge her fate or question the life she's ended up with. Part of her motivation is her great sense of loss and shame — she does not quite feel she deserves happiness, nor does she see how she can do any better than the life handed to her by Jalil's wives. While Mariam's response reveals much about her, her discoveries also tell the reader more about Rasheed. The materials Rasheed keeps in his dresser paint a picture of a more complex man than the one Mariam has known so far. Clearly, Rasheed's religious convictions he holds in public are different from his private interest in pornography, making him something of a hypocrite. Mariam's betrayal of Rasheed's wishes to keep his bedroom and life private foreshadows future strife between them. For instance, while Mariam believes the gun is for protection, she has no evidence to base this on, so the possibility exists that Rasheed could turn the gun on Mariam. And why is Rasheed's first wife so sullen and unwilling to accept Rasheed's embrace in the photograph? The characterization of Rasheed in this chapter suggests he is not the grief-stricken but fundamentally good man Mariam is trying to believe he is.