The Breadwinner

by

Deborah Ellis

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Breadwinner can help.

Taliban / Talib Term Analysis

The Taliban is a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist military group and political movement that controls Afghanistan. The group is referred to as the Taliban; an individual member is a Talib. Their name means “religious scholar,” and part of their rule entails enforcing their version of Sharia law on Afghanistan. This means, in part, that Afghan women are required to stay inside and only venture out with a male escort, while wearing burqas. They deny women educational opportunities and violently maintain their power. They arrest and release Father for no reason, and Parvana has seen them beat people in the streets for minor infractions.

Taliban / Talib Quotes in The Breadwinner

The The Breadwinner quotes below are all either spoken by Taliban / Talib or refer to Taliban / Talib. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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

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:
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

“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:

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

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 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

“I need a break,” she told her mother. “I don’t want to see anything ugly for a little while.”

Mother and Mrs. Weera had heard about the events at the stadium from other women’s group mothers. Some had husbands or brothers who had been there. “This goes on every Friday,” Mother said. “What century are we living in?”

Related Characters: Parvana (speaker), Mother (speaker), Mrs. Weera, Shauzia
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

“Do you think we’ll still have to be boys in the spring? That’s a long time from now.”

“I want to still be a boy then,” Shauzia insisted. “If I turn back into a girl, I’ll be stuck at home. I couldn’t stand that.”

“Where will you go?”

“France. I’ll get on a boat and go to France.”

Related Characters: Parvana (speaker), Shauzia (speaker)
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

Parvana was tired. She wanted to sit in a classroom and be bored by a geography lesson. She wanted to be with her friends and talk about homework and games and what to do on school holidays. She didn’t want to know any more about death or blood or pain.

Related Characters: Parvana
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

The little gifts from the window kept landing on Parvana’s blanket every couple of weeks. Sometimes it was a piece of embroidery. Sometimes it was a piece of candy or a single bead.

It was as if the Window Woman was saying, “I’m still here,” in the only way she could.

Related Characters: Parvana, The Window Woman
Page Number: 117
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:
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Taliban / Talib Term Timeline in The Breadwinner

The timeline below shows where the term Taliban / Talib 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
...to help Father walk there and back. Really, she shouldn’t be outside at all. The Taliban order all girls and women to stay in their homes, and girls can’t even attend... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
...Great, the British, the Greeks, the Turks—and the Afghans expelled all of them. Now, the Taliban rules. They’re Afghans, but they have very specific ideas about how life should be lived. (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
When the Taliban first took Kabul, they shut down the schools. Parvana wasn’t sad then, because she didn’t... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...Parvana has spent her whole life listening to bombs and running from them. Now, the Taliban controls most of the country. Though the Taliban’s name means that they’re religious scholars, Father... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...when a customer made a lucrative offer that Father simply couldn’t turn down. Since the Taliban ordered women to stay inside, there are now lots of prosthetic legs for sale. Many... (full context)
Chapter 2
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...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 of this, Parvana is lonely. (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Parvana makes a face that 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... (full context)
Chapter 3
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
...and lie 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... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...window. It’s high on the wall, so Father refused to paint it black when the Taliban ordered everyone paint their windows to obscure the women inside. Finally, at dawn, she, Mother,... (full context)
Chapter 4
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...bloody and covered in blisters. Mother’s feet are worse; she hasn’t been out since the Taliban took over a year and a half ago. She could’ve gone out—Father would’ve taken her... (full context)
Chapter 5
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...for the produce stand. Suddenly, she hears a voice shouting and turns to see a Taliban soldier. He asks where Parvana’s father or husband is and hits her with a stick.... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...buy anything else, but Mrs. Weera throws off her burqa and tells Nooria that the Taliban chased Parvana out of the market. Nooria looks relieved to see Mrs. Weera, an adult... (full context)
Chapter 6
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...about Parvana, but Parvana knows it’s true—none of her friends have seen her since the Taliban closed the schools, and her relatives are scattered. Mother’s voice catches as she says that... (full context)
Chapter 7
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...will realize she’s a girl. When someone finally stops, Parvana trembles with fear. It’s a Taliban soldier. In Pashtu, he asks if she reads letters. Parvana says she reads and writes... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...shakes his head and pays Parvana. He walks away. Parvana is confused. To her, the Taliban are just men who beat women and arrest people like Father. She wonders if they... (full context)
Chapter 8
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...gym teacher, as though she’s going to gather up stray students. She comments that the Taliban don’t usually bother women alone with children, but she’s not concerned if the Taliban do... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
...and Maryam outside for an hour. Ali was only a few months old when the Taliban came, so he’s never been outside. Nooria suns her face when there’s no one around,... (full context)
Chapter 9
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...starting a secret school and invites Shauzia to come. She assures the girls that the Taliban aren’t invited. (full context)
Chapter 11
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...chew gum while they watch a soccer game. They run to the entrance, dodge the Taliban guards at the door, and slip inside. The girls are intimidated by the full stands,... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...gather the scattered gum and cigarettes, and the girls huddle on the floor as the Taliban cuts off six more arms. The soldiers call out that the prisoners are thieves. Finally,... (full context)
Chapter 12
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Agency, Maturity, and Childhood Theme Icon
...when Parvana makes a little extra, she purchases fruit from the fertile valleys that the Taliban hasn’t bombed. As tribal people flood Kabul with goods to sell, some stop to purchase... (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... (full context)
Chapter 13
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...marrying will allow her to go back to school. She’ll live in Mazar-e-Sharif, where the Taliban don’t have control, and the groom’s parents will even send her to university. The letter... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...Parvana that she’s going to tear up her burqa as soon as she’s out of Taliban territory. The next day, Parvana buys food for her family’s journey and buys a fancy... (full context)
Chapter 14
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
...part with her tray of cigarettes. Parvana almost tells the woman to walk more quietly—the Taliban made it a crime for women to make noise while they walk—but she remembers that... (full context)
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...She introduces herself as Homa and says that she escaped from Mazar-e-Sharif just after the Taliban took the city. Homa explains that the Taliban went into every house looking for enemies.... (full context)
Chapter 15
Afghanistan, History, and Pride Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...message to the men who helped him get home from prison. Parvana asks why the Taliban let Father go, but Father says he doesn’t know—he doesn’t even know why he was... (full context)