Summary and Analysis
Part 3: Chapter 29
Rasheed, Mariam, and Laila sit down to dinner. Rasheed tries to comfort Laila by putting on a show of sympathy, going so far as to praise a commander he normally despises just because the commander is a Tajik, like Laila. During dinner, Mariam realizes this show is romantic — and that Rasheed has plans to take on a second wife.
After dinner, Mariam confronts Rasheed, who openly admits he plans on asking Laila to marry him. At first, Rasheed tries to convince Mariam that it'll be good for their reputation — it is not proper for a young unmarried woman to stay with them. Then Rasheed plays on Mariam's sympathy by describing all the horrible fates that await Laila if she's sent away — rape, kidnapping, and poverty among them. That night, Mariam tells Laila of Rasheed's intentions. Laila immediately accepts Rasheed's proposal.
In Chapter 29, the parallels between Laila and Mariam grow through Rasheed's determination to marry yet another teenage girl with limited options. Hosseini once again returns to the recurring theme of gender roles. Just as Mariam was a teenage girl without choices, so is Laila. Like Mariam was at the time, Laila is too young to get a job, and her gender makes her vulnerable in violence-ravaged Kabul. In contrast, Laila's father ensured that his daughter would have the education to prevent such circumstances from happening — unlike Jalil, who made no effort to help his daughter in her time of need. However, the violence erupting throughout the nation makes Hakim's dream for Laila unattainable.
Thus, through this repetition of circumstances, Hosseini drives home the point that cultural notions of gender-appropriate behavior are particularly harmful and limiting to women. Decades have passed since Mariam was a child-bride, yet Laila is stuck in the same circumstances. Furthermore, the imbalance of power between the sexes is widely perceived as proper in Kabul. The culture of Afghanistan dictates that Rasheed cannot help Laila escape Kabul or gain employment, but he can marry her to "help" her. — Once again, the war compounds the limitations on women. In a time of peace, Laila might have been able to seek out a different life. However, due to the violence, such options are extremely unsafe. Marrying Rasheed becomes a viable, albeit tragic, option.