Under normal conditions, the more traditional and older Mariam would be an unlikely confidant and friend of the more educated Laila. Both come from different social classes but in spite of the efforts of the country to oppress its women, these two create strong bonds as a consequence of that very oppression.
Mariam was raised in a small, run down shack outside of the main city of Herat. Though she was considered a strong girl, she was also taught to understand her place as a harami, or bastard child. She understood this to be an unattractive role, “that a harami was an unwanted thing; that she, Mariam, was an illegitimate person who would never have legitimate claim to the things other people had, things such as love, family, home and acceptance.” (Hosseini 4). While she understood this role, she questioned those in authority and the rules she was forced to follow and often dreamed of a better way of life. In fact, she was very close to her father, Jalil, who always spoke to her in kind words fueling her aspirations for something better as she knew being a harami was not her own fault. As she got older, she was tired of feeling guilty about the circumstances of her birth as “it did not occur to young Mariam to ponder the unfairness of apologizing for the manner of her own birth.” (Hosseini 11). A younger Mariam accepted her role, but the older one desired more in life. She was raised by her mother (Nana) and fell into a deep despair upon her death, especially as she is married off against her will to Rasheed. He forced her into submission taking away all of her hope of a better life until she finally had the courage to rise up in revenge and kill him. Unfortunately for her, the Taliban executed her for this murder.
In contrast, Laila had a happier childhood, or at least as happy as it could be for a woman in Afghanistan in the midst of war. She was given an opportunity for education and to realize her full potential. Her father had