“But it is not an easy happiness. It is not a happiness without a cost.”
A Thousand Splendid Suns (page 380) Khaled Hosseini
This quotation is found towards the end of A Thousand Splendid Suns after Laila has left Afghanistan with her children and Tariq. She is reflecting on how her life has changed with her relocation, especially without Mariam. In my interpretation of the quotation, the happiness that she has gained from her move is one of safety and security. This life that she now lives is a result of the sacrifice that Mariam made for her. Having confessed to killing their husband Rasheed, she gave Laila and her children the opportunity to leave Kabul in the pursuit of a better life. This can also be seen as the way Mariam went after her own happiness even if it came at the “cost” of her own life. She wished for nothing more than to protect the people that brought her happiness – however long it had been for.
Happiness is an abstract concept that can be described as a feeling of pleasure or contentment. Though it differs for every individual, it is an internal feeling that can be identified by each person. Easy refers to something attained without any great effort. When considering Laila’s life, one can attribute an “easy happiness” to her past – specifically her childhood with Tariq. It seemed that it came to them without any complications or requirements when in comparison to later in her life. With all the new developments in her young adult life, the way that she felt content has changed and the way she achieved this feeling now reflects this. The word cost and its usage in this quotation really set the tone. The cacophony of “cost” comes rather abruptly at the end of this line and really draws attention to it. It means an effort or sacrifice that is necessary in order to obtain something. Even using a synonym of the word, like price, fails to encapture the intense emotions that surround this event and time in her life. And with reference to the novel, it is Mariam’s sacrifice of her life that has allowed Laila and her family to live this new life.
This quote, rather than inspire thought directly to my experiences, drew my attention to my own personal values and beliefs. All in all, I would consider happiness one of the greatest factors I consider when I am making any sort of decision. Whether that be in regards to academics or personal life, the choice I end up making has some roots in how it will make me feel. This quotation brought up the ideas of different types of happiness which I didn’t really consider before this. A happiness with “cost” that is implied in regards to Laila’s situation, rather than holding negative feelings because of the negative connotation of the word “cost,” seemed to me normal and more special than an “easy happiness.” I, with my past experiences, would instead use the word trade because I haven’t had someone make a sacrifice as great as Mariam’s. Most things that I value in my life – like happiness – I have always put some form of effort into it; this doesn’t mean putting myself in danger’s way, but in smaller ways like spending time doing something I enjoy. Ultimately, I know choosing to pursue a contentment is important for me because it doesn’t feel like something that just happens without work. For me, it is important to put in effort because that is how I know that what I am doing is worth something and happiness is worth something to me.
With context, this came up (and comes up) recently because of this class, AP English. I never really considered pursuing a career that includes English because I have always felt that math and science came more easily for me, but this class gives me a happiness that I am willing to work for. The “cost” may be my social life or all my energy, but it is something that gives me so much joy because I get to sit and learn from people who wish to develop themselves and those around them. Even if the entirety of the semester is consumed with stress about having to come to this advanced course, they all fade away when I find my place in this group of truly amazing students. The happiness I get from this class comes as a sense of belonging that far outweighs the effort I must put in.
the first time I saw you
I was drawn to your dark hair and sharp eyes,
your laugh traveled across the room
and I followed it with my own.
it was the definition of happiness.
you put me in a trance and brought me out,
you said hello and it began;
a simple interaction that made my heart wake
and my mouth form the smile that didn’t leave for months.
we talked for a moment.
it was cut short by the devil by the name of time,
but with it came a promise of another meeting.
happy, that’s what it was,
inexplicable and incredible.
it was casual and calm initially.
we were learning
about ourselves and one another,
but with each moment that we spent together,
our hearts grew connected with each line we spoke.
we spun a web of emotion that grew intricate with each meeting
and it slowly took over my being.
it was the most lovely thing:
being together and knowing we were together,
no longer a grey area of intention without action;
we fell into each other
much like how the sun falls to the earth every night.
happy, that’s what it was,
blissful and beautiful.
months went and that’s how it remained,
we lived in a world that resembled a world of dreams.
peace and calm, that to us seemed so easy,
the world should follow our example
because good came to us without difficulty.
but the devil came again it seemed.
he told us our time was up,
and the strings between our hearts began to tangle.
you started coming home late at night
and never met my eye or answered my questions.
nothing, not even a word.
I became restless and would wait for you to come back
and when you would spend the entire night out,
my heart would beat far differently than it did before.
but the days you did come,
I would breathe a sigh of relief,
and my eyes and my mind would finally close.
happy, that’s what it was,
enigmatic and erratic.
and even those days began to fade,
and I chose to lie on the bed alone;
sleep came some nights but evaded most.
slowly your life outside of me
became your only life,
I wasn’t in your mind;
maybe I existed as an afterthought that didn’t come
and with that, you left
your throne in this home,
and you took some of my strings along
and the only regret I have:
I wish I had listened to the devil
his warning would have served me well.
happy, that is what it was,
I am really fascinated with how people fall out of love and how this emotion that seems to be at the core of their being can be lost. I decided to play with the role of happiness in this piece by showing how the narrator’s definition of happiness began changing because of her experiences with this person. It shows this transition from when they first met to when “you” left which changes the narrator’s attitude and mindset on what their time together meant.