Study Guide

Mrs. Weera in The Breadwinner

By Deborah Ellis

Mrs. Weera


What do you get when you cross a linebacker with the team's mascot? Why Mrs. Weera, of course.

A former track star, hockey coach, and physical education teacher, Mrs. Weera lives her life through the metaphor of a team. She believes that no matter what the score, if the players work together and have a positive attitude, they can win the game—even if the opponent is the Taliban. And so she's often telling Parvana's family to keep up the "team spirit" (5.59) and to "do your bit for the team" (5.40). Not for nothing, but it gets annoying in the face of violence and death.

Mrs. Weera is truly unique. She's a large woman, and with her "distinctive way walking" (8.9), she really knows how to work a burqa. And unlike most other women in Afghanistan, she isn't intimidated by the Taliban, and even tells Parvana at one point that thanks to years of experience dealing with teenage boys in gym class, she could "outrun" or "outfight" (8.10) any solider. And if that fails, Mrs. Weera is also confident that any man can be reduced "to tears with a good lecture!" (8.10). Based on how quickly she gets Parvana's family in order, we're inclined to believe her.

Once the fastest runner in Afghanistan (she has the medal to prove it), this white-haired woman is strong as an ox, both emotionally and physically. So when Parvana runs into her in the marketplace while she is running from the Taliban one day, Mrs. Weera instantly assesses the situation and knows the family needs help. After she yells at Parvana for mangling the bread (she's pretty funny), she goes to the apartment and whips everyone—especially Mother who has fallen into a depression—into shape.

Mother and Mrs. Weera go way back, and were both part of a women's group and are advocates of women's rights. And while Mrs. Weera lost her teaching job, she lost something much bigger too: her family. In reference to herself and her granddaughter, she tells Parvana:

We are the last of the Weeras. (8.13)

Every other member of her family has died thanks to war or illness. So while we're intimately aware of how badly Taliban rule has made things for Parvana and her family, Mrs. Weera lets us know that things could be even worse. But the thing is, that Mrs. Weera is also the embodiment of resilience. Not only does she rally Parvana's family after Father disappears, but she's one of the only people who ever jokes in this book. When Parvana helps her move, Mrs. Weera jokes about not having very much stuff thanks to the war and bandits. She quips:

[…] makes it easier to move, though, doesn't it? (8.16)

Way to look at the bright side, Mrs. Weera.

Like everyone else, Mrs. Weera leaves Afghanistan at the end of the book. She, Homa, and her granddaughter head to Pakistan to work with women in exile, and with Mother's magazine hidden under her burqa, she can't wait to show the world what is happening in Afghanistan. Knowing how much education is important to her, Parvana asks if there are schools in Pakistan, and Mrs. Weera remarks, "if there isn't, we'll start one" (15.41). And, as usual, we don't doubt her.