In The Breadwinner, Parvana's parents value education above all else—they're both university-educated themselves—and instill this value in their children. So when the Taliban forbids all girls to go to school, it's devastating to them not only because it denies their children opportunities, but also because they know that education is the only way Afghans will rise above the poverty and oppression that surrounds them. Without education, how can they triumph?
The Taliban keeps women uneducated so they remain submissive.
Education equals power, so by controlling the school, the Taliban controls society.
The Taliban restricts people's freedom in order to control them, and they use prison and violent oppression to assert their power and enforce obedience to their regime. In The Breadwinner, Parvana's family has been confined to their tiny apartment for almost a year and half with little hope in sight—and when we say confined, we mean it. Parvana and Father are the only two family members who have gone outside since they moved in. Ironically, Father's kidnapping is the turning point for the women in the family—his imprisonment forces them to break out of the apartment in order to survive.
This book argues that every person in the world is born free.
This book argues that freedom comes with consequences.
Girls rule and the Taliban drools. It's kind of ironic actually—the Taliban spends so much time and energy thinking of ways to hold women down in The Breadwinner, but Parvana and the women in her family just seem to get stronger and stronger in the face of their oppression. Oops, Taliban. This book shows in no uncertain terms that ladies can do anything gents can, even outwit a whole violent regime of men if they need to. And as for men in this book, well, Father's the only decent one (although he's pretty great).
The death of Hossain and imprisonment of Father shows that women don't need men to survive, no matter what.
While the burqa is humiliating, it also is a way for women to protect themselves.
For Parvana and her family in The Breadwinner, suffering is a part of life. The thing is, though, that even though their circumstances are pretty awful, we see that other Afghans have it much worse. Shauzia, for instance, pretty much can't stand her family and they deny her access to learning after the schools are closed. The only upside to so much suffering in a book is that for us, as readers, the way characters respond to it gives us meaningful insights into their personalities. That's what we'd call a very thin silver lining, though, Shmoopsters.
The mental and emotional anguish Parvana's family suffers is much worse than any physical pain they could endure.
While Father appears to be the bravest, he is the member of Parvana's family who has suffered the most.
Violence comes in all forms in Kabul—bombs, beatings, apartment raids, amputations—no one is safe, and there seems to be no end in sight. In The Breadwinner, the landscape has been shaped by warfare—Parvana's family lives in a bombed-out apartment after losing their home to, yup, a bomb—and so have people's bodies. Father lost his leg to a bomb, and Hossain lost his life to a land mine. Nothing—and nobody—is safe when it comes to warfare in this book.
The only way for the Afghans to fight the Taliban is with violence.
When the Taliban first arrived, Parvana's family should have left—what's happened after was their own fault.
What exactly is courage anyway? Is it fighting through fear, or is it not having fear at all? In The Breadwinner, Parvana doesn't want to be courageous, but she is anyway. And though courage is forced upon her, she wears it well, and makes good on her duty to support her family no matter how frightened she might be at times. But the thing is, though, that we think pretty much everyone shows courage at some point in this book, since just being alive under Taliban rule requires courage on a daily basis.
Shauzia is a selfish coward when she leaves her family to escape the Taliban's control.
Mother appears to act courageously when she goes to find her husband, but actually she is being quite stupid.
Family is always pretty complicated, and when you're confined to one cramped room with yours for a year and half like Parvana and her family members are in The Breadwinner, you're pretty much stuck with each other. But Parvana's family doesn't stop at blood relatives, and we'd be willing to argue that Mrs. Weera becomes a pretty important member of their clan too. Is Shauzia like another sister to Parvana? Does Homa become like family? With the Taliban doing everything it can to isolate people, coming together is pretty powerful in this book.
Parvana's family illustrates that the father is the most important figure.
Mrs. Weera and Shauzia are a part of Parvana's family.
Emily Dickinson said, "Hope is a thing with feathers," but what does that even mean? For Parvana and her people in The Breadwinner, hope is how they get through the day. It could come in the form of a mountain, a friend, or a marriage proposal, but whatever it is, hope gives them reason to believe that tomorrow will be better than today. And in this way, hope transports them through their days—kind of like wings… which have feathers. Boo ya.
If Father didn't have hope he would have died in prison.
Mother would have lost all hope without Mrs. Weera, which would have been extremely dangerous for her children.