The Breadwinner

by

Deborah Ellis

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Nooria Character Analysis

Nooria is Parvana’s 17-year-old sister. Nooria and Parvana’s relationship is strained because of their age difference and because Nooria seems, to Parvana, to be a fully-fledged adult—and a beautiful one at that. The girls often insult each other’s intelligence or appearance. Seemingly unbeknownst to Parvana, however, Nooria is under a great deal of pressure to care for the family, long before Parvana masquerades as a boy and takes on a bigger role within the family herself. Even though she’s a teenager, Nooria functions as an adult, caring for little Maryam and Ali and helping to maintain the house. This is understandably frustrating for Nooria, as she was a high school student before the Taliban took Kabul, and she wanted to become a teacher. Under the Taliban, her dream no longer seems possible, so Nooria is bitter and even snappier than she used to be. However, as Parvana makes the shift to dressing like a boy and earning money, Nooria surprisingly comes to Parvana’s rescue and backs her up on several occasions. She recognizes, as Parvana does, that the family needs to find a way to make more money, so she wholeheartedly supports Parvana’s plan to dig up bones and come up with the cash to start selling small items off of a tray in the market. Nooria teaches in Mother and Mrs. Weera’s secret school, but her big opportunity to resist the Taliban comes with a marriage proposal from an old neighbor. By marrying this man, Nooria will marry into a family that will pay for her education and allow her to work after she finishes university, all in a city that the Taliban doesn’t occupy. She understands that this is her only way out. However when she, Mother, and the little ones head for Mazar for the wedding, the Taliban take the city. Nooria’s fate is unknown at the end of the novel, but Parvana and Father set out to try to find them.

Nooria Quotes in The Breadwinner

The The Breadwinner quotes below are all either spoken by Nooria or refer to Nooria. 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 2 Quotes

Parvana knew she had to fetch the water because there was nobody else in the family who could do it. Sometimes this made her resentful. Sometimes it made her proud. One thing she knew—it didn’t matter how she felt. Good mood or bad, the water had to be fetched, and she had to fetch it.

Related Characters: Parvana, Mother, Nooria, Maryam
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

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

Nooria looked terrified. If Parvana didn’t obey her, she would have to go for food herself.

Now I’ve got her, Parvana thought. I can make her as miserable as she makes me. But she was surprised to find that this thought gave her no pleasure. Maybe she was too tired and too hungry. Instead of turning her back, she took the money from her sister’s hand.

Related Characters: Parvana, Nooria, Mother
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“Mrs. Weera!” Nooria exclaimed. Relief washed over her face. Here was someone who could take charge, who could take some of the responsibility off of her shoulders.

Related Characters: Nooria (speaker), Mrs. Weera, Parvana, Mother
Page Number: 56-57
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“You’re not cutting my hair!” Parvana’s hands flew up to her head.

“How else will you look like a boy?” Mother asked.

“Cut Nooria’s hair! She’s the oldest! It’s her responsibility to look after me, not my responsibility to look after her!”

“No one would believe me to be a boy,” Nooria said calmly, looking down at her body.

Related Characters: Parvana (speaker), Mother (speaker), Nooria (speaker), Mrs. Weera
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

“It has to be your decision,” Mrs. Weera said. “We can force you to cut off your hair, but you’re still the one who has to go outside and act the part. We know this is a big thing we’re asking, but I think you can do it. How about it?”

Parvana realized Mrs. Weera was right. They could hold her down and cut off her hair, but for anything more, they needed her cooperation. In the end, it really was her decision.

Somehow, knowing that made it easier to agree.

Related Characters: Mrs. Weera (speaker), Parvana, Mother, Nooria
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

“No,” Parvana told her mother.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I don’t want to quit yet. Shauzia and I want to buy trays, and things to sell from the trays. I can follow the crowd that way, instead of waiting for the crowd to come to me. I can make more money.”

“We are managing fine on what you earn reading letters.”

“No, Mother, we’re not,” Nooria said.

Mother spun around to scold Nooria for talking back, but Nooria kept talking.

Related Characters: Parvana (speaker), Mother (speaker), Nooria (speaker), Shauzia
Page Number: 103-104
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“Do you really want to do this?”

Nooria nodded. “Look at my life here, Parvana. I hate living under the Taliban. I’m tired of looking after the little ones. My school classes happen so seldom, they’re of almost no value. There’s no future for me here. At least in Mazar I can go to school, walk the streets without having to wear a burqa, and get a job when I’ve completed school. Maybe in Mazar I can have some kind of life. Yes, I want to do this.”

Related Characters: Parvana (speaker), Nooria (speaker), Shauzia
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

“I don’t like working alone. The marketplace isn’t the same when you’re not there. Won’t you come back?”

Put to her like that, Parvana knew she could not refuse. [...] Part of her wanted to slip away from everything, but another part wanted to get up and stay alive and continue to be Shauzia’s friend. With a little prodding from Shauzia, that was the part that won.

Related Characters: Shauzia (speaker), Parvana, Mother, Nooria, Homa / The Woman
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Breadwinner LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Breadwinner PDF

Nooria Character Timeline in The Breadwinner

The timeline below shows where the character Nooria 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
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...and she didn’t want her teacher to send a note home scolding her for talking. Nooria, however, sobbed and called Parvana stupid when Parvana suggested that the Taliban would let them... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...first to drop bombs. Parvana was born a month before the Soviets withdrew; according to Nooria, they couldn’t stand to be in the same country as such an ugly baby. Following... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...Parvana gathers up the small household items and ornaments they’re trying to sell. Mother and Nooria regularly go through the family’s belongings to come up with more things to send with... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...Father wander through Kabul. Many buildings have been bombed, though the city was once beautiful. Nooria is old enough to remember restaurants, cinemas, and traffic lights. Parvana remembers none of this,... (full context)
Chapter 2
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Mother and Nooria are immersed in cleaning projects. Parvana begins to take off her chador, but Nooria and... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...Parvana is done, she joins Maryam on the floor and compliments Maryam’s drawing. Mother and Nooria call Parvana to help them clean out the cupboard. They just did it three days... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Mother and Nooria begin to put things back in the cupboard, and Mother hands Parvana new items to... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...when he was 14. Mother and Father refuse to talk about Hossain, but according to Nooria, he was a happy, laughing person and often played with Nooria and baby Parvana. Parvana... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...the bravest in the world, as they’ve inherited Malali’s courage. Maryam waves her arm, but Nooria insists they can’t be brave if they can’t go out and lead men into war.... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...causes the whole family to laugh. Suddenly, four Taliban soldiers burst in. Ali screams and Nooria covers herself with her chador—the Taliban sometimes steal young women. Frozen from fear, Parvana watches... (full context)
Chapter 3
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Once Ali and Maryam fall asleep, Mother settles them on the floor. Quietly, Mother, Nooria, and Parvana clean up and lie down to sleep. Parvana can’t sleep. To her, every... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...everyone paint their windows to obscure the women inside. Finally, at dawn, she, Mother, and Nooria get up quietly. Nooria begins to heat water for tea, but Mother stops her—she and... (full context)
Chapter 4
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Mother refuses Nooria’s help as she tears off her burqa and collapses onto a toshak. She sobs and... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Nooria offers to help Parvana to the washroom. Parvana accepts when she discovers how much her... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...third day, Parvana considers doing housework, but she doesn’t want to disturb Mother. She and Nooria discuss that Mother has to get up soon, but nothing changes. Parvana wants to read... (full context)
Chapter 5
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Nooria takes the nan and asks why Parvana didn’t buy anything else, but Mrs. Weera throws... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...seventh bucket. Thirsty and exhausted, Parvana lifts a cup of unboiled water to her lips. Nooria snaps that Parvana is stupid and snatches the cup away—unboiled water is dangerous. Mrs. Weera... (full context)
Chapter 6
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
The next day, Mrs. Weera, Mother, and Nooria tell Parvana their plan: they’ll turn Parvana into a boy. Posing as their male cousin... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...confused until she realizes it’s Parvana. Mother says “Hossain” and looks ready to cry, so Nooria insults Parvana as a distraction. (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...money and a scarf, and then sends her out. Parvana reaches for her chador, but Nooria reminds her she won’t need it. Suddenly terrified that someone will recognize her, Parvana pleads... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...back on the toshak and Ali sits next to her, trying to get her attention. Nooria hands Parvana the bucket; she has laundry to catch up on. She explains that Mother... (full context)
Chapter 8
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...and Mrs. Weera 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... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
A week after she begins working, Parvana suggests that she could escort Mother and Nooria so they can get fresh air, too. Mrs. Weera insists this is a grand idea,... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...but she’s able to feed the family. The younger children seem happier and livelier, but Nooria complains that they’re harder to look after now that they’ve experienced the outdoors. Parvana hands... (full context)
Chapter 9
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 11
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...that she’s heard of people using bones for chicken feed, soap, buttons, and cooking oil. Nooria asks if it was worth it and Parvana lays out all her money. Mrs. Weera... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Surprisingly, Nooria backs Parvana up. She points out that they can afford nan, rice, and tea, but... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...drops a red wooden bead. As Parvana rolls it between her fingers, she thinks of Nooria. Nooria hasn’t been nasty to Parvana in a while. Parvana wonders if she’s changed or... (full context)
Chapter 12
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
For the next few days, Parvana stays home from the market. She takes Nooria and the little ones outside, but she tells Mother that she doesn’t want to see... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...a girl before she leaves, she’ll be stuck here forever. Thinking hard, Parvana remembers how Nooria’s body changed and says that she thinks Shauzia has time. She asks how Shauzia’s family... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Mother and Mrs. Weera start their school and are very careful to avoid the Taliban. Nooria teaches five girls about Maryam’s age, never in the same place or at the same... (full context)
Chapter 13
Gender Relations Theme Icon
The next afternoon, while Parvana and Nooria are out on a walk, Parvana points out that Nooria has never met the groom.... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...go to Mazar for the wedding and then will return to Kabul in October, leaving Nooria with her husband. Parvana insists that they have to be home for Father, but Mrs.... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
A woman and her husband from Mother’s women’s group will escort Mother, Nooria, and the younger children to Mazar. Nooria is nervous, but she happily tells Parvana that... (full context)
Chapter 14
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...Weera takes the woman to clean up. Parvana notices that the woman looks younger than Nooria. She sets out supper and finds clothes for the woman while Mrs. Weera and the... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
Mrs. Weera assures Parvana that Mother and Nooria are safe, but Parvana feels hopeless. She crawls onto the toshak and stays there for... (full context)