Nana was wrong about Herat too. No one pointed. No one laughed. Mariam walked along noisy, crowded, cypress-lined boulevards, amid a steady stream of pedestrians, bicycle riders, and mule-drawn garis, and no one threw a rock at her. No one called her a harami. Hardly anyone even looked at her. She was, unexpectedly, marvelously, an ordinary person here.

Mariam experiences her first outing outside her mother’s kolba in Chapter 5. For her entire childhood, Nana has used Mariam’s status as a harami as a means to control her. When Mariam finally slips from under her mother’s gaze and goes to Herat, it is her first experience of shedding this false reputation that has been made to define her. No one treats her with the same agitation with which her own mother treats her. Although she will continue to feel shackled to the label of harami throughout the novel, this taste of normalcy, of no one constantly pointing out her shame, deeply affects the young Mariam.

‘Anyway, this isn’t about me or the bra. It’s about you and Tariq. He’s a boy, you see, and, as such, what does he care about your reputation? But you? The reputation of a girl, especially one as pretty as you, is a delicate thing, Laila. Like a mynah bird in your hands. Slacken your grip and away it flies.’

This discussion occurs in Chapter 23 as Mammy discusses Laila’s relationship with Tariq. Finally, Laila is old enough to be considered a young woman. As it was custom in Afghanistan’s culture, Laila would need to be primed for a marriage suitor. In this quote, Mammy seems to have the best intentions for her daughter, but Laila has shown that this isn’t the future she desires for herself. In Mammy’s eyes, it’s better for Laila to maintain her reputation so she can marry well and be respected instead of tarnishing it by continuing a romance with Tariq. Mammy uses the metaphor of a mynah bird to illustrate how delicate one’s reputation truly is.

‘The point is, I am your husband now, and it falls on me to guard not only your honor but ours, yes, our nang and namoos. That is the husband’s burden. You let me worry about that.’

This quote, from Chapter 31, involves Rasheed telling Laila the new expectations he has now that they are married. This conversation is Rasheed’s attempt at chivalry. The word “honor” is a stand-in for the word “reputation.” When Rasheed says, “not only your honor, but ours,” he is tying the reputation of his wife to his own. To Rasheed, the only way to guard Laila’s honor is through controlling her, assuring she does nothing that would damage how society and their community view him. Furthermore, the very words he uses aim to soften his real declaration: Laila is now his wife, and she must obey him.