Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter 3



During Mariam's childhood, Ration Day holds a significant place in her imagination for it is the day two of her half-brothers push a wheelbarrow up to the kolba and she and Nana unload supplies. On these days, Nana throws stones at the boys as they wait for the women to unload the wheelbarrow. Mariam usually feels bad about her mother's behavior, but once she joins in and calls her half-brothers names. But Mariam feels guilty for doing so.

Nana does welcome three select visitors to their home, the first being the Habib Khan, leader of the neighboring village, Gul Daman. The second is Bibi jo, a local gossip. And the third is Mullah Faizullah, Mariam's Koran tutor and Mariam's favorite visitor after her father. After their lessons, Mariam and Mullah take walks together. On one of these walks, Mariam tells Mullah of her desire to go to school, as she has heard her half-sisters do. On Mariam's behalf, Mullah asks Nana to let Mariam go to school but Nana refuses, asserting that the only thing Mariam needs to learn is how to endure the hardships she'll encounter throughout her life.


Chapter 3 provides further insight into Nana's character and her notions of gender and it advances the theme of multiple truths through Mariam and Mullah's sharing of stories. Nana's behavior in this chapter demonstrates her bitterness. First, by throwing rocks at Mariam's half-brothers, it's clear that her scorn extends beyond Jalil to his entire other family — even boys who have nothing directly to do with Nana's suffering. Secondly, Nana's refusal to send Mariam to school demonstrates her notion of the suffering and disappointment that is, in her mind, a woman's life — so it was for her, so it will be for her child. It seems that Nana is incapable of allowing others, particularly Mariam, to be free of her anger. Nana's ideas of what women can have in society restrict Mariam's options. Because Nana does not see the need for a woman to be educated, Mariam's life choices will be limited to those that do not require an education. However, Nana's motivations remain unclear; does she truly believe an education would do nothing for Mariam? Or is she afraid of losing her daughter, the one person required to listen to and acknowledge her anger and suffering?

The storytelling in Chapter 3 enhances the theme of multiple truths by connecting Mariam's visits with Jalil to her visits with Mullah. Both men win her affection by telling her stories, Mullah going so far as to also be a good listener to her stories. With both men, the importance of these stories is not about their truthfulness, but rather about how they make Mariam feel . The stories are Mariam's only escape from her own world and insight into a different one — they're the only signs of a world with the potential to be pleasant, full of love and optimism. By establishing Mariam's alliance with men who tell stories, the reader sees the beginning of her rejection of her life with Nana.