Summary and Analysis
Part 3: Chapter 32
Before telling Rasheed of her pregnancy, Laila remembers a neighborhood party where women gossiped about his son's drowning. The women said that Rasheed had been drunk when he was supposed to be supervising his son, and that it was his neglect that caused the boy to drown. Rasheed reacts to the news of Laila's pregnancy with a cruel joy; he cannot help but point out that he'll have a child and Mariam never will. Laila is stunned by Rasheed's cruelty. Later, Mariam warns Laila that her pregnancy changes nothing between the two of them, and that Mariam will never be her servant.
As winter arrives, Rasheed takes Laila out to visit his shoe shop, which is nicer than she'd imagined it. Rasheed asks Laila if she and Mariam have been getting along. Laila lies and says they have. In truth, just a few days previously, Laila and Mariam had their first serious argument, calling each other names over a missing spoon. Laila suspects, however, that the fight wouldn't have happened if both herself and Mariam didn't have so much pent up frustration over their lives with Rasheed.
Through Rasheed's behavior and her fight with Mariam, Laila gains a deeper understanding of the man she married, and of the woman with whom she shares him. By providing insight into how Rasheed lost his first son and depicting his reaction to Laila's pregnancy, Hosseini shows a man that is cruel and domineering, but still capable of emotion. Rasheed's possessive eagerness for a son indicates that a new son would somehow make up for the one he lost. This joy, combined with his cruel remarks to Mariam regarding her infertility, show Laila just what kind of man Rasheed is: one only concerned with his own lot in the world and willing to use others — particularly his wives — to get what he feels he deserves.
Laila's understanding of Mariam grows when Mariam accuses Laila of hiding one of her spoons, Laila is surprised at how quickly she responds to Mariam by calling her names. But after the fight, Laila realizes that both of them misdirected their anger. Laila isn't angry with Mariam, but with her limited options and her unhappy marriage to Rasheed. Mariam isn't angry with Laila, but with the threat to her own marriage that Laila represents, as well as the many years of suffering she's endured.