Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter 5



Mariam tells Jalil and Nana what she wants for her approaching fifteenth birthday: to go to Jalil's cinema house and see the cartoon film, Pinocchio. Neither Jalil nor Nana like the idea, but once Jalil and Mariam are alone, she begs her father and he agrees to meet her by the creek the next day to take her to the movie.

The next morning, Mariam dresses in her best clothes and sneaks to the stream, unsure if her mother sees her as she passes by the house. Mariam waits for hours by the stream, but Jalil does not come. Finally, fed up, Mariam crosses the stream and for the first time in her life, she walks to Herat.

Upon reaching the city, Mariam is astounded by its liveliness and charmed by the market. The people who surround her and treat her as a stranger, but — unlike Nana's warnings in which strangers would ridicule Mariam the moment they saw her. Mariam asks a carriage driver for directions to Jalil's house and he agrees to take her there. On her arrival, a kindly chauffeur tells her that Jalil is out of town for an unknown length of time. Mariam refuses to leave and spends the night sleeping on the street outside the gates to Jalil's house.

In the morning, the chauffeur insists on taking Mariam back to her house, stating that she is not allowed to see Jalil. Mariam escapes the chauffeur's grasp only to see Jalil briefly in an upstairs window of the house. Once Jalil sees Mariam, he draws the curtain between them. Crushed, Mariam allows the chauffeur to drive her home. She weeps the entire time, feeling betrayed and foolish for not listening to her mother's warnings. Once they arrive at the kolba, Mariam and Jalil's chauffeur are shocked to see Nana has hung herself from the willow tree in the yard.


Chapter 5 adds complexity to the theme of multiple truths and shows Mariam's shift from childhood to adulthood. The theme of multiple truths is developed through Mariam's desire to see Herat and be a public part of her father's life. She has heard his stories, and believed them, and wants his stories of a full and lively life to be hers as well. However, what she learns is that Jalil has been selective in the information he tells her; he may love her, but only on his own terms. Once Mariam realizes that her father allowed her to sleep on the street rather than bring her into his home, she is traumatized and realizes there is more truth to Nana's stories than she initially thought. Through this realization, Mariam begins to see the flaws in her understanding of her parents; she saw only the surface of Jalil's kindness and Nana's bitterness, not the complex feelings lying beneath their behavior. Thus, Hosseini shows the reader that truth is often more complex than it initially seems, and truth can emerge in unexpected ways. While it's true that Jalil loves Mariam, it's also true that he's ashamed of her. While it's true that Nana resents her lot in life, it's also true that she wants to protect her daughter.

Through these revelations regarding her parents, Mariam comes of age. By asking to go to Herat, Mariam, for the first time, expresses something she wants — and the will to make it happen. Once Mariam decides to go to Herat and find Jalil on her own, she becomes her own person — no longer a child, willing to accept the boundaries her parents set. Finally, through her suffering and loss — first by Jalil's rejection of her and second by her mother's suicide — Mariam is orphaned, and forced to deal with life on her own.