The Breadwinner

by

Deborah Ellis

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Father Character Analysis

During the bombing in Kabul, Parvana’s father lost one of his legs and suffered internal damage that Parvana doesn’t entirely understand, so he is often tired. Because he sold his prosthesis, he relies on a walking stick to travel short distances and Parvana to help him travel longer distances. Though the novel never explains what Father did before Kabul fell to the Taliban, he now earns money writing and reading letters for the many illiterate people in the market. He’s highly educated and earned his degrees abroad, so the Taliban target and ultimately arrest him. His focus was on Afghan history, so he often tells the family stories from history in the evenings. One of his favorites is the story of Malali, a young Afghan girl who led Afghan troops to victory against the British. He tells his daughters her story to inspire them to be brave and to figure out ways to resist oppression. In this way, Father is very progressive. He doesn’t believe in taking away women’s agency, so he encourages Mother to work despite the Taliban’s ban on women working. He also thinks that it’s their responsibility as educated Afghans to remain in the country and rebuild it into something better, so he and Mother often fight about whether to leave Afghanistan or stay. The entire family is distraught after his arrest, but Parvana often thinks of Father and of Malali as she navigates the market undercover as a boy and takes over Father’s reading and writing business. He’s finally released from prison at the end of the novel and soon regains his sense of humor. Since he’s extremely loyal to his family, he and Parvana set out to find Mother, Nooria, and the little ones in refugee camps outside Mazar, even though Father fully admits that he’ll never be well enough to travel.

Father Quotes in The Breadwinner

The The Breadwinner quotes below are all either spoken by Father or refer to Father. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of The Breadwinner published in 2014.
Chapter 1 Quotes

History was her favorite subject, especially Afghan history. Everybody had come to Afghanistan. The Persians came four thousand years ago. Alexander the Great came too, followed by the Greeks, Arabs, Turks, British, and finally the Soviets. One of the conquerors, Tamerlane from Samarkand, cut off the heads of his enemies and stacked them in huge piles, like melons at a fruit stand. All these people had come to Parvana’s beautiful country to try to take it over, and the Afghans had kicked them all out again!

Related Characters: Parvana, Father
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

There were a lot of false legs for sale in the market now. Since the Taliban decreed that women must stay inside, many husbands took their wives’ false legs away. “You’re not going anywhere, so why do you need a leg?” they asked.

Related Characters: Parvana, Father
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

For most of Parvana’s life, the city had been in ruins, and it was hard for her to imagine it another way. It hurt her to hear stories of old Kabul before the bombing. She didn’t want to think about everything the bombs had taken away, including her father’s health and their beautiful home. It made her angry, and since she could do nothing with her anger, it made her sad.

Related Characters: Parvana, Father
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Other people lived in the part of the building that was still standing. Parvana saw them as she went to fetch water or went out with her father to the marketplace. “We must keep our distance,” Father told her. “The Taliban encourage neighbor to spy on neighbor. It is safer to keep to ourselves.”

Related Characters: Father (speaker), Parvana, Mother, Nooria, Maryam
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

“How can we be brave?” Nooria asked. “We can’t even go outside. How can we lead men into battle? I’ve seen enough war. I don’t want to see any more.”

“There are many types of battles,” Father said quietly.

Related Characters: Nooria (speaker), Father (speaker), Parvana
Related Symbols: Malali
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

“You are a writer. You must do your work.”

“If we had left Afghanistan when we had the chance, I could be doing my work!”

“We are Afghans. This is our home. If all the educated people leave, who will rebuild the country?”

Related Characters: Father (speaker), Mother (speaker), Parvana
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

She kept hauling water. Her arms were sore, and the blisters on her feet started to bleed again, but she didn’t think about that. She fetched water because her family needed it, because her father would have expected her to. Now that Mrs. Weera was there and her mother was up, things were going to get easier, and she would do her part.

Related Characters: Parvana, Mrs. Weera, Mother, Father
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

When she had gone into the market with her father, she had kept silent and covered up her face as much as possible. She had tried her best to be invisible. Now, with her face open to the sunshine, she was invisible in another way. She was just one more boy on the street. She was nothing worth paying attention to.

Related Characters: Parvana, Father
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Parvana took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Up until then, she had seen Talibs only as men who beat women and arrested her father. Could they have feelings of sorrow, like other human beings?

Parvana found it all very confusing. [...] All day long, though, her thoughts kept floating back to the Talib who missed his wife.

Related Characters: Parvana, Father
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Parvana remembered arguments between her father and mother—her mother insisting they leave Afghanistan, her father insisting they stay. For the first time, Parvana wondered why her mother didn’t just leave. In an instant, she answered her own question. She couldn’t sneak away with four children to take care of.

Related Characters: Parvana, Shauzia, Mother, Father
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Breadwinner LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Breadwinner PDF

Father Character Timeline in The Breadwinner

The timeline below shows where the character Father appears in The Breadwinner. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Under her breath, Parvana whispers that she can read the letter almost as well as Father can. She says it quietly because no one in the Kabul market wants to hear... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
The customer asks Father to read his letter one more time. Parvana muses that she’d love to receive a... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
...that she could perform that job, and she’d love to get to know the market. Father hears her and grouses that he’d rather Parvana run around at school, which makes Parvana... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...Taliban controls most of the country. Though the Taliban’s name means that they’re religious scholars, Father insists that religion is about teaching kindness and how to be a better person—and the... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
When Father suggests they end their day, Parvana gathers up the small household items and ornaments they’re... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Parvana and Father wander through Kabul. Many buildings have been bombed, though the city was once beautiful. Nooria... (full context)
Chapter 2
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...a vent. Though they have neighbors in the part of the building that’s still standing, Father insists they keep their distance. The Taliban encourages neighbors to spy on each other. Because... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...the oldest child, but a land mine killed him when he was 14. Mother and Father refuse to talk about Hossain, but according to Nooria, he was a happy, laughing person... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Father, dressed in his good white shalwar kameez and with a freshly combed beard, looks rested... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...her chador—the Taliban sometimes steal young women. Frozen from fear, Parvana watches the soldiers grab Father. Mother screams at them as they tell Father that Afghanistan “doesn’t need [his] foreign ideas.”... (full context)
Chapter 3
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
...down to sleep. Parvana can’t sleep. To her, every noise is either the Taliban or Father returning, and she wonders what prison is like. She remembers Mother saying that a person... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...awake all night, staring at the one small window. It’s high on the wall, so Father refused to paint it black when the Taliban ordered everyone paint their windows to obscure... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
...she doesn’t want to lose Mother. Occasionally, Mother stops and shows people a photo of Father. Photographs are illegal, but people just shake their heads. Lots have people have been arrested;... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...husband. She brandishes her photograph and though the guards say nothing, more gather. Parvana hears Father’s voice in her head calling her Malali, and she begins to shout for Father as... (full context)
Chapter 4
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...out since the Taliban took over a year and a half ago. She could’ve gone out—Father would’ve taken her any time—but Mother refused. She insisted that the Afghan people would kick... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...feet. Nooria prepares supper and Parvana shares that the guards wouldn’t tell them anything about Father. Before Parvana has a chance to eat, she falls asleep. She wakes in the morning... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...distract the younger kids as best they can. Parvana and Maryam reconstruct the photo of Father and decide to tape it back together once they have tape. (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...discuss that Mother has to get up soon, but nothing changes. Parvana wants to read Father’s secret books but is afraid that the Taliban will return. She also notices Ali growing... (full context)
Chapter 5
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
It’s odd to be in the market without Father. Men are supposed to do all the shopping, but if women shop, they’re supposed to... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...to where Mother is and Nooria explains that she’s been there for four days, since Father was arrested. (full context)
Chapter 7
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
After breakfast the next morning, Mother sends Parvana back to the market with Father’s writing things. Parvana is excited; if she can make money, she might not have to... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...found the letter in her things and wanted to know what it said. Remembering what Father did, Parvana asks if she should write a reply. The soldier shakes his head and... (full context)
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...go in the market, she packs up her things. She whispers to the sky for Father to come back and movement from the window above catches her eye. She heads home,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...are going to start a magazine and praises Parvana for her earnings. Nooria quips that Father would’ve made more but seems to immediately regret saying this. Parvana is too happy to... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Parvana makes less money than Father did, but she’s able to feed the family. The younger children seem happier and livelier,... (full context)
Chapter 9
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 10
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...for the doorway, Shauzia jokingly tells Parvana to watch out for land mines. Parvana remembers Father saying that “Kabul has more land mines than flowers,” and she remembers a presentation in... (full context)
Chapter 11
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...they can’t pay rent or buy fuel for the lamps. Mother snaps that she’s glad Father isn’t here to witness this disrespect, but Mrs. Weera points out that Father isn’t here—and... (full context)
Chapter 13
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...October, leaving Nooria with her husband. Parvana insists that they have to be home for Father, but Mrs. Weera assures Parvana that she’ll stay and look after Father if he comes... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...of the family gone, there are fewer chores and more free time. Parvana begins taking Father’s secret books out so she can read. Mrs. Weera believes it’s important to trust Parvana... (full context)
Chapter 14
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...a nightmare. Things start to look up when one afternoon, Parvana discovers two men helping Father to the apartment. (full context)
Chapter 15
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Father is barely recognizable, but he’s still Father. Parvana clings to him tightly. Mrs. Weera helps... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Parvana is elated to have Father back. Homa has had some education, so one day, Parvana returns home to find Father... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...Weera with news that many people have fled Mazar and are living in refugee camps. Father says he’ll never be truly well enough to go, but they should go look for... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Several days before she and Father leave, Parvana feels something hit her head. It’s a tiny camel made of beads. Parvana... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Two days later, Parvana and Father are ready to leave. Father tells Parvana that whether she chooses to travel as a... (full context)