A Thousand Splendid Suns and Jane Eyre against a patriarchal society

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A patriarchal society is one in which the social system is predominantly driven by the male members of the community. Power and roles in leadership, social privilege, moral authority, and property ownership and control is dominated by the men while the women play a secondary role in all these things (Gale 2008). In some of the societies, children belong to the father too; it was the general trend in the previous centuries around the world, with the exception of the royal families, in some cases.

Many revolutions have been conducted through various ways, which helped in the emancipation of certain people and subsequent social inclusions. Some of the wars that have been fought in this regard include that against slavery, colonialism, LGBT rights, suffrage, and for gender equity and equality. Literature, alongside other methods, served to as important weapons in these quests. Books, newspapers, and other print media sources have been used in such matters. In writing, a utopia is created in which the authors, using literary devices available to them with a creative mind, eliminate the perceived problem. Khaled Hosseini (2008), in his book A thousand Splendid Suns, and Charlotte Bronte (2003), in Jane Eyre, use this and other tactics to express dissatisfaction with a patriarchal society that eliminates the importance of collaboration with women in matters of the society. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary

Mariam lives Gul Daman, a small village, with her mother. She is an illegitimate daughter, born out of wedlock, to a wealthy businessman by the name Jalil, who is a resident of Herat, a nearby city. Mariam moves to this town to live with her father after the suicidal act of her mother, after which she is married off by her supposed new family, her father and step mothers, to a shoemaker named Rasheed. The newlyweds move to the town of Kabul. After the miscarriage of her unborn child, Rasheed is angered and starts to mistreat Mariam.

Laila was born on the same night of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. She shares love interests with Tariq, a boy from a neighboring school who has one leg, having lost the other in his childhood. Tariq’s parents are forced to vacate Afghanistan for Pakistan due to the increasing war currents, and before they leave, Laila and Tariq consummate their relationship. Laila’s family makes the decision to leave, but her parents die from the injuries resulting from a stray rocket that hit their car as they parked.  Rasheed and Mariam took Laila in. During this period, she receives news that Rasheed died in hospital. Rasheed proposes to her and she agrees to marry him. However, she is pregnant with Tariq’s baby and plans to convince Rasheed that the child is his. She intends to save money so that she could flee to Pakistan. At first, Mariam resents her but when she shares the plans to depart, they become close and flee together before they are arrested and sent back to Rashid’s home. This occurrence angers Rasheed to the extent that he almost kills them.

When Laila’s child is born, he is named Zalmai. However, the couple does not live with him for long because the family becomes broke after Rasheed’s shop burns down and the child is sent to a nearby orphanage. Tariq visits their home after one of the visits to the orphanage by Laila. She discovers that the news of his death came to her from Rasheed’s acquaintance who had been hired to lie to her. Laila informs Tariq about their child, after which he promises to meet her on the following day.

When Rasheed finds out about Tariq’s visit and his intentions, he beats up Laila on that night. Mariam, feeling empathetic about Laila’s situation, kills Rasheed in order to protect her. She is arrested for the murder by Taliban and executed. Laila and Tariq move to Muree, his home. However, she decides to return to Kabul after the US invasion, stopping by Mariam’s childhood home in Herat. She is given a box that was meant for Mariam by Mullah’s son, from Jalil, her father. It contains a letter and inheritance. Laila finds use of the money in renovating the orphanage that had hosted her son. Towards the end of the novel, the reader learns that she was expectant with a second child.

Summary of Jane Eyre

This is a story about an orphaned girl who lives with the Reeds, her aunt and cousins, at the Gateshead Hall. Mrs. Reed, like many 19th century stories of orphaned children, despises Jane and treats her with contempt. She even allows John, her son, to torment the young girl into misery. Their treatment of her causes her the loss of respect from the servants at the house, who think that she is worthless and constantly remind her of her poverty. She is pushed to the wall at the age of ten, until she can no longer withstand the pressure. She tells her oppressors of what she thinks and feels about them (Anderson 2004). For this action, she is punished by being locked in the room where her uncle had died, which is christened ‘the red room’. She suffers hysterical fits thinking that ghosts would appear. Afterwards, she is sent to the Lowood Institute, which is a religion-based boarding school. 
Attending the school, she still faces many difficulties because the students there never have enough to eat, considering that the school was being run by Mr. Brocklehurst, who is mean and pretentious. They also lack clothes to keep them warm. Jane is lucky to meet Helen Burns, who is pious, and Miss Temple, who is sympathetic about her situation and those of others. They are instrumental in her turnaround, making her to begin excelling in her studies, and learning about her culture and subjects such as piano-playing, drawing, singing, and French, which made her a Victorian lady in England at the time. Ms. Helen dies of consumption during the period of outbreak of typhus. Jane still remains in the school until when she attains the age of sixteen and turns into a teacher. Ms. Temple eventually leaves the school for marriage. Jane begins to make plans for leaving school and striving to become a governess.

She is granted the job as governess to teach a French girl by the name Adele Varens, at the Thornfield house. At first, she thinks that she is working for Mrs. Fairfax but then it turns out that her employer is Mr. Rochester, a mysterious man who is also Adele’s guardian (Hesse 2004). She loves the house except for its third floor, where Grace Poole, a strangely behaved servant works.

During one of the walks, Jane meets Mr. Rochester. He had fallen to the ground from a horse. They develop interest in each other. He is rough-looking instead of classy, craggy in the place of the expected handsome gentleman look, and so are his manners. She likes these qualities because she thought them easier to relate with. He likes her tireless spirit that seems to inspire an almost unworldly strength. Jane proves to be trustworthy and reliable. When, on one evening she finds him in bed amid fire, she puts out the flames and rescues him. Afterwards, they develop a closer relationship, which is strained when he invites friends to his Thornfield house, including Blanche Ingram, whom he allows to flirt with him in the presence of Jane, with the intention of making her jealous. Rumors break out that he is engaged to Ms. Blanche. In reality, it is Jane that he wants.

Jane receives the news of her aunt’s sickness; Mrs. Reeds asked that she visits her. She forgives her and travels to go and tend to her while she was dying. When she gets back to the Thornfield house, she finds that the guests had vacated. She recognizes her attachment to Mr. Rochester, and the feeling is mutual. He proposes to her, which she happily accepts. 
At the wedding, two men come bearing the news of Mr. Rochester’s marital status; that he is already married. It is true. However, Rochester takes them to see his wife in the attic, who tried to kill him by burning him. She had stabbed and bitten her brother, Richard Mason, who had visited during the week that Blanche and other guests spent at the house. Mrs. Bertha Mason, Rochester’s wife, was insane, a condition that ran in her family. He had been tricked into marrying her for the money. Fifteen years had passed. He had tried to live with her, but when he could no longer withstand her condition, he locked her up in the third floor with Grace Poole, a nursemaid. He had travelled extensively, keeping various mistresses with the aim of forgetting Bertha (Washington 1998). Adele was one of the mistresses’ daughter, although not his. She confesses to loving Jane but she declines to go on with the wedding plans, avoiding to be ‘the next mistress’. She travels away from Thornfield, Having no money, she almost starves but is taken in by the Rivers in Morton. She adopts a pseudo name, ‘Jane Elliot’ in order to remain untraceable. She takes up a job as a teacher in a girls’ school in the village. It later turns out that the Rivers were her cousins, which is discovered after her Uncle Mr. Eyre’s death. They share his inheritance. St. John, a clergyman and Jane’s cousin proposes to her, thinking she would make a good wife considering her work ethic. She declines despite the temptations to agree, because she didn’t love him. He wanted her to travel with him to India for missionary work, to which Jane agrees and they take off. He keeps proposing relentlessly, but she is incessant in her decline. When she was about to give in, she hears Mr. Rochester’s voice and plans to travel back to Thornfield. On her arrival, she discovers that Rochester had search everywhere for her, and when she could not be found, he chased everyone out of the house and broke down. Bertha burned down the house to the ground. In his attempt to rescue her and the servants, Rochester loses his hand and an eye and remains blind in the other. Jane cares for him and when he asks for her hand in marriage, she finally accepts and they have a wedding. Two years later, he gets his sight back.

Reasons for this Project

The two books are similar in the sense that the main characters are orphaned girls who, in their young age, are forced to look for homes in which they will be loved and appreciated. However, those who are close relatives mistreat them and send them away either for marriage to unfamiliar people, or orphanages. In both circumstances, the girls are forced to device ways of survival in the somewhat patriarchal society that upholds social status and disregards the poor. The struggles by the women are caused by men in their lives, and in some cases, women who despise them. Eventually, the women conquer their battles and end up happy with the difficult situations having been eliminated, out of their own strengths or with the help of other people who are close to them and care enough. In the wake of fights for gender equity that have defined the last two decades, the selection of this project is vital to the encouragement of an equalized society in which class, race, or one’s state should not be a determining factor in the formation of relations.  Everyone should be left to be who they want to be, with the help of the society, regardless of gender.

Objectives of the paper

The main aim of this paper is to show that patriarchal societies end up in failure. The two books tell stories that depict a form of defiance of a patriarchal society, which comes as a result of the oppression of women. As a result, the female members of the society are forced to craft their ways to survive without leaning on any men, which is contrary to the trends of a patriarchal society. The objective of this paper is, thus:

•    To discover the different perceptions and perspectives towards the topic of patriarchy. 
•    To understand how class and culture differ 
•    To broaden my view of patriarchal societies and feminism

Literature Review

The main themes in A Thousand Splendid Suns, which the author seeks to express include love, warfare, poverty, power, family, education and femininity (Zonana 1993, p. 598). The author shares with the reader of the plight of women in Afghanistan, a patriarchal society in which men have a greater say in the determination of their fates. Mariam’s life is ruined by her father right from its beginning. She is born out of wedlock, meaning that she did not have enough attention from him (Guilbert & Marazyan 2013, p. 8). After her mother’s death, he decides to marry her off to someone who hardly knows her, and after her miscarriage, she is rejected for the rest of her life (Thompson 2009). The men in her life only bring misery to her. Laila is another victim of greed. When Tariq moves out of her town, Rasheed lies to her about his death so that she could marry him (Amad 2007). After he finds out that Laila and Mariam planned to escape, he beats them up almost to death point. They were arrested and returned because they could not travel without his permission or accompaniment (Salem 2014). When Tariq visits Laila later, Rasheed is angered and attacks her again. Mariam intervenes before she is adversely injured by killing him. She is later executed. Khaled Hosseini, the author of the book, in telling this story, shows how women in Afghanistan are oppressed and controlled by the men in their lives (Vijayann 2016). They are blamed for everything, including faults in childbearing, and are mistreated without much consequence to the oppressor. It is unfair when the women have to pay a higher price for actions that are ignored if men perform them. Moreover, the war between the two countries is instigated by men who form part of the country’s leadership (Christ 2013). In all these, the women are victims, who end up dead as a result of the actions which they can hardly control.

Jane Eyre is a voice for the author to express the importance of education and the regard for proper ethics. Other themes that arise from the two include marriage, forgiveness, society and class, and family/ home. However, the use of Jane Eyre’s character along with the Victorian setting sends the message that women who are educated are able to transcend the societal expectations and boundaries.


Hosseini and Bronte present to the reader two stories that show the strength, resolve, and resilience of women whenever they are placed under pressure. The main characters in their books are orphaned girls. Mariam and Laila in A thousand Splendid Suns live in a society where women do not have free will over whom they marry, and in marriages, they are blamed for things they can hardly control (Agustini 2014, p. 6). For instance, when Mariam experiences a miscarriage, it is an unfortunate incident for the couple (Simile 2014). However, Rasheed does try to understand his wife. Instead, he becomes hostile and compulsively masculine. He proposes to their host, Laila, by lying to her that her lover, Tariq, had died. All these are signs of the characteristics of a patriarchal society (Haj-Yahia 2005, p. 3). In a similar fasion, the Jane Eyre is taken up by a foster family of relatives and mistreated by John Reed, her cousin, to humiliate her. She is forced to fight for herself, and when she does, she is thrown out of the house into the orphanage without much regardto her safety or satisfaction. She always found a way out by working hard in her education. She eventually transcends the societal barriers to meet the wealthy people like Mr. Rochester (Quinn 2014, p. 21).

In typical patriarchal societies, the memebers are trained in a way to always uphold the authority of men regardless of their gender or age. Women are thus forced to subdue and subordinate in the background of decisions made for them, even in matters that directly affect them (Sultana 2011, p. 6). In the book A thousand Splendid Suns, Laila, who loves Tariq but is committed to Rasheed plans to escape. When she shares her plans with Mariam and they agree to escape, it is their decision as adults whetherto choose to leave or stay. However, when they reach the border, they are arrested and returned to him, it is a clear indication that this society holds men in higher regards in personal decision-making. Even before this occurrence, the fact that Jalil, Maraim’s father gives her away to an individual who is unknown to her shows that her feelings are inconsequential in as far as decision-making is concerned. Women should have a voice in their affairs and relationships (Rashid 2016). However, the two women areable to break the bounds of patriarchy when Mariam takes matters into her own hands and kills Rasheed, thus liberalizing Laila and her children. This is the first successful escape from patriarchy for Laila, who is then able to determine her fate. In Jane Eyre, there is an outright rejection of patriarchy from the start when Jane develops the courage to tell off her cousins and family who mistreated her. The author shares Eyre’s struggles. She relies on two women, Ms. Burns amd Ms. Temple, who become her stepping stone through her shift in the social class to become a Victorian lady. She is proposed to by Rochester but then rejects at first, and the same does happen for St. John too (Fyfe 2013). This message is powerful in showing that women can rely on their own strengths and support for success.

Reflection and Conclusion

The above analysis of the book explores various themes and how they are related to the topic of feminism. The two authors set their pace from the start of the book to discredit the influence of the male members of the society in a positive manner. The tone set for the two books only indicate the cruelty and lack of understand for the female members of the society. However, the women take control of their lives, which is a show of the female power of resolve. The authors successfully prove that contribution of women is essential for a structured society with the vision for development.

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July 18, 2022



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