Birds have always had a significant meaning in many cultures and in many ways. They are used to symbolize purity, evil, immortality, and beauty. Kahled Hosseini uses many birds to symbolize the life of Miriam, in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Miriams actions and desires reflect themselves in the birds that Hosseini strategically places throughout the book. He uses a mockingbirds freedom, the banning of parakeets, and a simple crow to show that something seemingly so innocent and basic, can have a deeper, more complex meaning behind it.
The mockingbird does precisely what its name says, it mocks other birds. In one particular scene, Mariam observes the bird as it copies other sounds and flies into the clouds, where it is free from the horrible land that Mariam is living. Hosseini writes, Outside, mockingbirds were singing blithely, and, once in a while, when the songsters took flight, Mariam could see their wings catching the phosphorescent blue moonlight beaming through the clouds (244). This mockingbird symbolizes the one thing that Mariam wants more than anything; freedom.
Another bird that constantly shows up in the book is the parakeet. The parakeet is a beautiful, colorful, and exotic bird, who loves to imitate what it hears. When the Taliban took over Kabul in A Thousand Splendid Suns, they set a list of rules that the people living there must follow. One of these specific laws stated that, If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed (276). The Taliban prohibited any form of entertainment from flying kites, parakeets and even laughter for the people living in Kabul. As Miriam continues to fail to bear a boy child for Rasheed, he becomes more and more angry with her. Miriam must deal simultaneously with her husbands anger towards her and with the war that is going on. This banning of parakeets, along with the banishment of laughter and entertainment, represents the loss of joy and hope in Miriams life.
In A Thousand Splendid Suns, there are a lot of unexpected and accidental deaths. Innocent people were being killed in the streets and there was nothing that could be done to prevent it. Crows are often used to symbolize death and they are another example of Hosseinis clever use of birds as a motif. Towards the end of the book, Laila returns to the kolba where Mariam lived during her childhood, and she sees a crow. Before she leaves the clearing, Laila takes one last look at the kolba where Mariam had slept, eaten, dreamed, and held her breath for Jalil A crow has landed on the flat roof. It pecks at something, squawks, flies off, (356). Once Laila saw the crow fly off, she said her final goodbye to Mariam and began to weep. Hosseini used this crow to represent Mariam, and her death.
Throughout the book, all that the people of Afghanistan wanted was to get their country back to the way it was, before the Taliban took over. During hard times, people would get through these hard times differently than others. A simple symbol such as a bird can mean so much in one book, making the story worth more than a thousand splendid suns.