Becca Longabucco- Staff Writer
When asked who their hero is most people probably select a relative, a close friend or perhaps an educator; someone who has made a positive, lasting impression on their lives. While the aforementioned individuals are all perfectly valid choices, people don’t realize that there’s a whole other realm of possibility: heroes, you see, don’t have to be real.
Despite being fabricated by an author’s imagination, literary characters can serve as some of the most powerful inspirational figures, since they often embody humankind’s most sought-after traits and qualities. For years I have looked up to one such character whose strength and unwavering persistence have modeled the kind of person I hope to be.
Mariam, an Afghan woman from Khaled Hosseini’s groundbreaking novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” endures tumultuous tribulation as she suffers from a brutally abusive marriage, the enormous disparity between male and female rights in Afghanistan, and the impoverishing, violent effects of political turmoil within the country. As these burdens grow increasingly unrelenting throughout the course of her lifetime, Mariam herself grows increasingly unrelenting; instead of succumbing to her hardships or doing the bare minimum to live on, she steadily goes above and beyond, letting her inner strength flourish into her everyday actions.
One instance of the book always remains poignantly etched into my mind as a stark example of the abuse to which Mariam is subjected. Unsatisfied with the rice she has prepared for him, her sadistic husband, Rasheed, forces her to chew on a rock, asserting that this is comparable to her cooking. Mariam ends up spitting out two of her teeth; this vivid image has never left me, and has posed the question of how I would cope with this kind of daily degradation. How would I deal with such inhumane treatment – not only from a husband, but from an entire nation as well? Despite my most polished aspirations, I can’t help but predict that I’d be rendered a bitter misanthrope.
But such is not the case with Mariam. Rather than absorbing all the evil that’s thrown at her, she puts forth goodness by acting as a motherly figure to her young and emotionally scarred co-wife Laila. The latter is made whole by Mariam’s wing of guidance and affection. Before helping Laila through the non-anaesthetized C-section of her second childbirth, Mariam even refers to her as her daughter. Instead of letting her heart be hardened by her own barely tolerable strife, Mariam finds the strength to be a support beam for her co-wife, and even cares for Laila’s children as if they were her own.
Mariam inspires me to be my best in all endeavors. Survival is one thing, but success is another. I look at it this way: if she’s able to persevere through incessant conflict while being a mother, I could certainly find it in me to ace a research paper.
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