Summary and Analysis
Chapter 38 - Laila
Laila is relieved her father is not alive to see the Taliban's total destruction of all artistic and cultural artifacts that do not adhere to its strict interpretation of Islam. Books are burned and musicians beaten. Rasheed is not bothered by the changes, but simply grows a beard and visits a mosque. Rasheed even attends weekend punishment sessions at Ghazi Stadium and drinks a soda while watching thieves get their hands cut off and women accused of adultery beaten to death. One night, Rasheed tells Laila of these punishments and counters her protests with the fact that he could at any time turn her or Aziza in to the Taliban and there'd be nothing she could do to defend herself. While Laila tries to ignore him, inside she knows he's right: She has no options. Laila also realizes that she's pregnant again.
One afternoon, Laila lies on the floor with a rusty bicycle spoke and considers giving herself an abortion. In the end she decides against it, realizing the child is innocent and that it's Rasheed with whom she's angry.
Chapter 38 highlights the theme of perception through the Taliban's destruction of cultural artifacts, Rasheed's lecture to Laila, and Laila's decision not to abort. First, Hosseini demonstrates the narrowness of the Taliban's perspective through his description of the destruction they cause. From shutting down the university and cinemas to transforming restaurants into interrogation rooms, the Taliban views the world as a place to exert its will by instilling fear in those it oversees. In its perspective, there are no human rights, only the laws of Allah. As the rest of the novel attests, such a view is highly troubling for the innocent, powerless people who fall subject to such dictatorial rules.
Secondly, Rasheed's perception of the Taliban is that of an amused onlooker. Because most of the changes benefit him so far, he's not worried by the strict laws — in fact, he sees the laws as useful in his domination over his family. When he tells Laila that he could turn her or Aziza in to the Taliban, he's conveying to her his power and her powerlessness. Laila, stubborn and relentlessly idealistic despite her circumstances, has always had a hard time understanding her limitations. Through his lecture, he helps her to see just how limited her power truly is, despite her belief in her own autonomy.
Lastly, it is Laila's belief in her autonomy that allows her to make the decision whether or not to have Rasheed's baby. At first she does not want the baby because, if it were to be a boy, it would be a victory for Rasheed. However, she is not only able to see Rasheed's perspective, but also her own, and she has seen too much needless killing to participate in it. She cannot kill her child because she still believes in innocence and the value of human life, even if the world around her does not.