The Breadwinner

by

Deborah Ellis

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The Breadwinner: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Parvana whispers and confirms that the girl is Shauzia. Shauzia says her name now is Shafiq and Parvana says that she’s Kaseem. Shauzia says that she’s working, the same as Parvana, and promises to come back later. Stunned, Parvana watches Shauzia for a while and then decides she could put Shauzia in danger by staring. Parvana and Shauzia were just acquaintances at school, but Parvana is thrilled to learn that there are other girls like her. At the end of the day, Shauzia offers Parvana some dried apricots and walks home with her. Shauzia has been working in the market for six months, since her brother went to Iran and her father died. Shauzia isn’t convinced that Father is ever getting out of prison, but the girls change the subject and discuss work.
The recognition that staring at Shauzia could put her in danger speaks to how finely tuned Parvana’s social skills are after spending several weeks working on her own in the market. She knows that given the tense climate, the Taliban will be on the lookout for anything suspicious—and she and Shauzia are clearly at risk. Shauzia’s story is surprisingly similar to Parvana’s, which suggests that their situations aren’t so different from others in Kabul. There could be many little girls dressed as boys working to feed their families.
Themes
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Shauzia says she’d like to sell things off a tray instead of carry tea; it’s more lucrative. Parvana is intrigued, since her family seldom has money for kerosene and thus spends evenings in the dark. When they get to Parvana’s apartment, Shauzia accompanies Parvana inside and Mother greets her warmly, though they’ve never met before. Mother assures Shauzia that she can visit any time, and Mrs. Weera wants to know if Shauzia has been keeping up with her studies. Unfortunately, the relatives Shauzia lives with don’t believe girls should be educated, but they don’t mind that Shauzia dresses like a boy to work—it’s what allows them to eat. Mrs. Weera announces that she’s thinking of starting a secret school and invites Shauzia to come. She assures the girls that the Taliban aren’t invited.
Mrs. Weera is able to pick out some hypocrisy on the part of Shauzia’s relatives: they don’t want girls to gain power through education, but they’re fine giving Shauzia the power of being a boy if it means they can eat. In essence, they’re fine with what Shauzia does as long as it benefits them—and in their mind, there’s no way that education could do more than benefit Shauzia alone. This begins to suggest that sometimes, family isn’t worth one’s whole support or loyalty. To her family, Shauzia seems like little more than a bargaining chip, not a real person with thoughts and feelings of her own.
Themes
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
After Shauzia leaves, Mother says she’d like to visit Shauzia’s mother to get her story for her magazine. When Parvana asks, Mrs. Weera says that they’re going to smuggle their stories to Pakistan, print the magazine there, and then smuggle the magazines back into Afghanistan. Suspicious that the women are going to turn her into a magazine smuggler, Parvana asks who’s going to smuggle things. Mother says that they’ve connected with other women, some with sympathetic husbands. Nooria is very excited about the school. Parvana isn’t excited about the prospect of having Nooria as a teacher, but she stays quiet. It’s nice to see Nooria so excited.
Both Mother and Nooria’s excitement about the magazine and the school speak to how fulfilling it can be to come up with these ways to resist. It gives them purpose and something to work for, just as being a boy in the market gives Parvana something to work for. As they discover these different ways of resisting, they’re also able to take more pride in who they are as individuals and as resilient Afghans.
Themes
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Parvana and Shauzia see each other nearly every day in the market. Parvana always waits for Shauzia to come find her, since she’s too afraid to venture into the crowded market. One afternoon during a lull, something lands on Parvana’s head; it clearly came from the Window Woman. It’s a beautiful embroidered handkerchief. Shauzia runs up before Parvana can look up at the Window Woman in thanks and says she found a way they can make money. She doesn’t like it, and Parvana won’t either—but it pays.
Parvana’s unwillingness to venture into the market speaks to the fact that while she does have a lot of freedom right now, she’s not comfortable exercising those freedoms fully yet. Part of this is likely simply because her job doesn’t require her to interact with too many people, and some of it likely has to do with having been socialized as a girl.
Themes
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
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