Summary and Analysis
Chapter 47 - Mariam
In the dank, repugnant Walayat women's prison, Mariam shares a cell with five other women and four children. They use a hole in the floor for a toilet and they must rely on visitors to bring them food. Mariam's cellmates treat her like a celebrity — the rest of them are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, such as running away. At Mariam's trial, she declines her right to witnesses and three judges decide her fate. The middle judge reveals that he feels compassion for Mariam, but that only Allah can forgive sins and so the judges cannot intervene. Mariam signs the verdict — only the second time in her life that she's ever had to sign her name, the first being when she wed Rasheed.
After ten days in prison, Mariam is taken by wagon to Ghazi Stadium. The young soldier accompanying her takes pity on her, telling her it's okay to be scared. She cries a little bit, but maintains her composure when she's brought into the stadium and asked to kneel before a crowd of hundreds. Her final thoughts include a wish for more of life and for a chance to watch Aziza grow up, but in the end she has no regrets. Mariam knows she did what was best for Laila, Aziza, and Zalmai. She says a short prayer before the Talib soldier lifts his gun to kill her.
Hosseini's description of Mariam's offers insight into Mariam's evolution. Despite the squalor of prison, Mariam is surrounded by women who respect her, a stark contrast with her life with Rasheed. The women vie to share their food with Mariam and share what little they have — a blanket or pillow, for instance — with her. Through these ministrations, Mariam's strength and sacrifice is honored appropriately.
Mariam's view on life has also changed. For many years of her life, the future had no meaning. But, as she walks to her death, Mariam wishes she could have a longer life. She wishes to see Aziza grow up. Through these wistful moments, it's apparent that Mariam, despite all the hardships in her life, appreciates what she was given and yearns for more of it. In contrast, Mariam also feels a sense of peace, knowing she has ultimately proven herself a good mother and friend to Laila and Laila's children. Thus, through these insights into Mariam's psyche, Hosseini once again highlights maternal qualities: a good mother wishes for more time with her children, but forgoes it if necessary to better her children's lives.