In both ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini and ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, the authors use different voices to evoke the readers’ understanding of the plight of females in the contexts the texts are written in. Both 20th century Afghanistan, and puritanical Victorian England are societies that rely on patriarchal structure, and are fuelled by hegemonic masculinity. It seems that in both texts, the authors’ main aim is to evoke sympathy in the reader for their female protagonists, which, in turn, makes the reader condemn the patriarchal societies they live in. When comparing the two books, many would argue that ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ is worth more literary merit – however, in my opinion, Hosseini uses different voices throughout the novel in a more effective way than Hardy.
Both texts are written with a limited omniscient narrator. This means that the reader is never provided with a first-person perspective from the protagonists – the females in the texts don’t have as much of a voice as they should, which is representative of the struggle they face in being silenced in society. The barrier created between the reader and the female protagonists almost traps them – again representative of their oppression. However, in limiting the nature of their narration, both Hosseini and Hardy allow the audience to build a relationship with their female protagonists – the thoughts and feelings of Tess, Mariam and Laila are made explicit throughout the texts, showing how the authors use narrative voice to evoke sympathy. Hosseini and Hardy both evoke sympathy through voice in other, different ways. When Mariam has her first miscarriage in ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, Hosseini describes it has ‘Faces peering at her through the steam, tongues clicking’. The word ‘clicking’ dehumanises Mariam’s onlookers, allowing the reader to appreciate Mariam’s feelings of fear and alienation. The fragmented, elliptical syntax evokes sympathy in the reader, as Mariam’s experience is given an immediate, and almost cinematic feel. Hardy, however, employs language and the natural world to evoke sympathy. After the events of the Chase, Hardy describes Tess’ body as ‘beautiful feminine tissue, sensitive as gossamer and practically blank as snow. The use of sibilance in the words ‘tissue’, ‘sensitive’ ‘gossamer’ and ‘snow’ implies a softness that contrasts to the ‘coarse pattern’ Tess receives. The words ‘gossamer’ and ‘sensitive’ imply female fragility, which makes Tess seem vulnerable. The use of the smile, ‘blank as snow’ implies Tess’ purity from its use of the word ‘white’ (a colour often associated with virginity). Connotations of coldness are evoked by the word ‘snow’ – coldness that contrasts to the heated, passionate emotion behind sex, proving the disparity between Tess’ pure nature and the situation she’s found herself in; a situation that’s been exacerbated by the puritanical views of the world she lives in.
Hardy and Hosseini’s own authorial voices are used, however, in very different ways. Hosseini presents two female protagonists in his text – Laila and Mariam. By having two female protagonists, Hosseini gives a universality to the experience of women in Afghanistan society. He also inextricably links the two women, and expands the narrative.