Saturday, May 17, 2008

Splendid Suns - Rasheed

Rasheed (Mariam's husband) is not portrayed in a positive light in this novel. However, at the beginning Mariam's marriage, Rasheed appeared to be a loving and indulgent husband.

Let's look at the situation:

Mariam was a 15 year old who had lived a totally sheltered and pampered existence. (OK, so it wasn't pampered from our standpoint, but in that society, she is indulged, loved, and was never hungry. She received regular gifts, an excellent education, and had a safe, warm home.) After her mother's death, Mariam was totally traumatized - both by the manner of her mother's death, and by the destruction of her dreams of the happy life she'd lead with her father.

Enter Rasheed. He is much older than Mariam. He takes her to a home that is far more spacious that then home where she grew up. He seems to recognize that she's frightened, lonely, homesick, confused, and not quite prepared for the marriage. He gives her time.

Rasheed did not ask her to assume her wifely duties (in any sense of that word) immediately. He took her around his city, showing her the sights, familiarizing her with her new home. He let her know when he expected more.

And, when they finally consumated their marriage, he took the time to reassure her that what they had done was normal and that she should not feel shame.

Even the burqa was an expression of his concern for Mariam. In the United States, the burqa (the most concealing style of Moslem head covering for women) is more seen as a form of opression. However in the highly male-dominated society present in Kabul, it's almost understandable. Uncovered women were seen (by some) as available for any sort of contant - honorable or dishonorable.

What if the social climate changed in the United States to being as male-dominated as Afghanistan is/was? Would you wear a burqa? Would you encourage your wife or other family members to wear one?

No comments: