Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter 6



After Nana's funeral, Jalil takes Mariam back to the kolba and appears to make a great effort to comfort her; but Mariam senses her father's inauthenticity and asks for Mullah Faizullah. Only with her elderly Koran teacher is Mariam able to cry for the first time. Later, Jalil brings Mariam to his home and sets her up in a guest room. While Jalil invites her to dine with the rest of the family, Mariam refuses, spending most of her time in her room, contemplating her guilt and grief.

One day, Mariam's 8-year-old half-sister, Niloufar, comes in the room to fetch a gramophone from the closet. The two girls visit briefly, but Mariam is too upset to befriend Niloufar. When Mullah Faizullah arrives a few days later, he tries to convince Mariam that it is not her fault that her mother committed suicide. Mullah Faizullah explains that Nana was an unhappy person long before Mariam's birth. But Mariam is still not able to rid herself of the feeling that if she had not betrayed her mother and gone to Herat, her mother would still be alive.

Mariam receives a visit from Afsoon, one of Jalil's wives (and Niloufar's mother). Afsoon insists that Mariam clean herself up and join Jalil and his wives for a conversation.


Chapter 6 finds Mariam at a crossroads: her mother is dead and her once-beloved father has fallen from her favor. Thus, Hosseini develops Mariam's character even further, and provides moments of foreshadowing through the visitors she receives.

Mariam must grapple with the challenges of her new life. With her mother gone, Mariam's finally in the house she once dreamt of inhabiting; however, that dream has become a nightmare since she now understands the social and cultural divide between she and her half-siblings. Mariam's new understanding of this divide is made clear as she refuses to take part in family activities, despite Jalil's invitation. It's obvious, through Mariam's visit with Mullah Faizullah, that she feels responsible for her mother's death. This guilt guides her behavior and fuels her desire to remain isolated. No doubt Mariam's guilt will also affect her meeting with Afsoon and Jalil's other wives alluded to at the end of Chapter 6.

Mariam's visitors foreshadow some of the events she'll have to face once she's forced out of mourning. Mullah Faizullah's presence is a comfort to Mariam. While Mariam is unable to let go of her sense of guilt, Mullah Faizullah is able to offer her both religious and personal guidance, suggesting that personal connections and religious faith may be key to Mariam's recovery from the tragic loss of her mother. However, Afsoon's visit foreshadows changes for Mariam, as this is her first time interacting with Jalil's wives. Will they take pity on her? Or will they resent her presence in their lives?