Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter 9



Rasheed and Mariam arrive at his house in Kabul late the next day. While his two-story home is much larger than the kolba where Mariam grew up, it's sparsely furnished and in poor condition. Mariam breaks into tears on her arrival, and while Rasheed puts up with her tears, he lets her know he hates to hear a woman cry. Rasheed gives Mariam a brief tour of the house, taking her upstairs to the two bedrooms. Rasheed tells Mariam that he prefers to sleep alone and gives her the guest room. Mariam is relieved, but still overwhelmed and Rasheed teases her again before letting her settle into her new room.


Chapter 9 provides a foundation for Mariam's new life by establishing setting and expanding the theme of gender roles. First, by providing the reader with a physical description of Rasheed's home, the reader gains insight into both Rasheed and Mariam's characters. Rasheed's house is shabby, poorly furnished, and on a crowded street, indicating that he's not as well to do as Jalil's wives depicted him. Rasheed's upkeep of the house indicates that he cares little for creature comforts and is not one for housekeeping. Furthermore, Mariam's reaction to the house shows that she was never concerned about his wealth — she lived in much sparser conditions before — but that the sheer unfamiliarity of his house is paralyzing to her. Through her comparison of Rasheed's house to the kolba, Mariam craves the comfort of the familiar and every new thing reminds her of her loss.

Rasheed's reaction to Mariam weeping alludes to future conflicts between the two. Although Rasheed realizes that Mariam is going through a life-changing situation, he has little true sympathy for it. He allows her to cry but only after telling her he hates to hear a woman cry. Already, Rasheed is enforcing his idea of what a woman should or should not be upon Mariam even as he's making a weak attempt at empathy. Mariam's efforts to stop crying upon his request show that she too feels the constraints of her gender in this situation: she knows that as a wife, she has little to no power over her husband. As Rasheed and Mariam's life together develops, it will be important for the reader to pay attention to how traditional ideas of gender roles influence their behaviors and their relationship to one another.