Summary and Analysis
Part 1: Chapter 8
The next morning, Mariam is given new clothes to wear for the wedding ceremony. She is escorted back to the long, wooden table, and given a green veil to wear over her face. Rasheed, a heavy, slow-gaited man, enters the room and a Mullah that Mariam has never met performs a shortened version of the wedding ceremony. As part of the ceremony, the couple look at each other's faces in a mirror. Mariam, while pleased with her own looks, finds Rasheed unattractive.
After the ceremony, Rasheed waits on the bus to Kabul while Mariam says goodbye to Jalil. Mariam tells her father that once she worshipped him, but now she never wants to see him again. Mariam gets on the bus and Jalil pounds at the windows, but she refuses to make eye contact with him. Rasheed comforts her half-heartedly as the bus pulls into the street.
Hosseini employs similes, foreshadowing, and conflict to forward the plot as well as provide deeper insight into Mariam and Jalil's relationship. Through the use of similes, Hosseini illustrates Mariam's mood about her nuptials. Mariam, in describing her new husband, compares his voice to dry leaves and his skin to rotting apples. Through these comparisons she not only tries to make sense of her husband by comparing him to things she knows well, but also signifies that her first impressions of him are unappealing. In contrast, she notes her own appearance during the ceremony. While able to note her flaws — patchy dry skin, for instance — she's also able to see something of interest there. Mariam's view of herself compared with her view of her husband suggests that even though her family has devalued her and forced her into a loveless marriage, she still has a level of self worth.
Hosseini suggests that Mariam's story will contain several twists and turns by alluding to the fact that in 27 years she'll sign her name just as she is on this day, under the gaze of a mullah. While the reason for this future signature remains undisclosed, by mentioning it, Hosseini assures the reader that, while Mariam may feel defeated at the moment, she is still only 15 years old with a long life ahead of her.
The chapter's final conflict between Jalil and Mariam provides insight into both characters. First, it shows us Mariam's stubbornness. While she may have agreed to marry Rasheed, she refuses to forgive her father for forcing her into such a position. She insists that he never visit her again. However, when Jalil hears his daughter's rejection of him, he is unable to accept it, pounding on the windows as the bus she boards pulls away. Thus, Jalil's actions indicate that some of his feelings for Mariam are genuine and heartfelt. Jalil, as a father, is flawed, but perhaps well-meaning. This again raises the novel's question over what makes a good father: the ability to avoid mistakes or to feel regret over the ones made?