A major theme throughout the novel is sexism and the ideology that men possess complete control over their wives (helped further by the Taliban). A few days after living with Ransheed, Mariam is required to wear a burka as where he comes from “a women’s face is her husband’s business only.” This statement objectifies women, likening them to possessions without personality or any individuality. If not for the tone, it could be said that Ransheed wants to free his wife from unwanted glances and snide remarks of another men, that might make her feel uncomfortable.
However, no affection or protectiveness is expressed, the burka is simply for his benefit; a way to maintain his ‘pride’. The quotation links closely to The Handmaid’s Tale – the handmaid’s dress code consists of an “ankle-length, full, gathered to a flat yoke that extends over the breast” and “white wings” which keep them from “seeing but also from being seen” showing extreme of objectification.
The idea that women can be so indoctrinated indicates they are viewed as not having a mind of their own, free to make their choices, almost like animals (not possessing a higher order of thinking). Ransheed also expresses his distaste when he mentions “women come uncovered…look me in the eye without shame” claiming how it embarrasses him to see a “man who’s lost control of his wife” Women are seen as an extension of the husband and if they act ‘inappropriately’ husbands only care about what it reflects upon them.
Women are treated as sub-human, inferior to man, who should dominate; enabling them to mould women as they wish until they become a voiceless being (never expressing their true character), whose purpose is to serve them only. Leading on from this, Ransheed could be said to be struggling for his identity as he feels pressured by society to have a wife that shows utter respect and obedience. Without, he would be classed as weak, thus a nobody. Society norms alone have huge influence on the struggle for identity.
Not only does Ransheed dominate his wife, he also physical abuses them – “downstairs, the beating began” – it is almost like a ritual and the way it is said so obviously, highlights the horror of the act. Laila names it as “methodical, familiar proceeding…no cursing, no screaming…only the systematic business of beating and being beaten…thump thump” – the women have no option to accept the abuse (their ‘punishment’) as part of the daily routine. The fact women have no power to stop the atrocity, places them as forever vulnerable and powerless. Not being able to stand up for themselves, leads to a reduced version, thus the struggle for identity continues.
Ironically, both men behave in ways that are ethically shameful. To protect their names in order to meet their own ideas of social expectations, they neglect or even abuse their offspring and wives, sacrificing the welfare of those around them in order to save face.
Influence of War – When Mariam finds a flyer, expressing the new regulations the Taliban are implementing. There is one section devoted entirely to women “Attention women,” as though they need extra ruling. The rules are written as a list, which highlights the extent to which women are being controlled; there is literally no way for them to escape. Some of the include “You will not speak unless spoken to” and “You will not laugh in public” and have to be accompanied by a male relatives. The Taliban completely removes their independence, allowing them to be dominated and treated as sub-humans (their identity gone). The ‘nicest’ consequence for violation of the rules is being severely beaten. The fact this is written publically, shows society’s treatment attitude towards women; they are worthless, undeserving of equality.
This was all meant to safeguard their honour, but in fact it was a way to control society, inducing too much fear for there to be ever a chance of rebellion.
Language Techniques –
* Short clipped sentences convey a tone that it is very matter of fact. This illustrates how the treatment of women by men is the norm, completely unsurprising. This highlights the struggle for identity as both women and men alike have become so indoctrinated by society ideology, they no longer act as they would do normally.
* Use of questions, “Do you understand?” is almost like a parent would talk to a child, reflecting how men are placed as superior. Women are not given the courtesy of being thought of having a mind of their own.
Other Links –
* The Colour Purple – Ceclie is beaten by her husband as it is the norm. She is beaten for being ‘not good enough’ but in truth he uses her as a way to release his frustration and anger.