Orientalist Perspectives in Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy: A Postcolonial Critique

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Bibliographic Information
Journal Negotiations
Title Orientalist Perspectives in Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy: A Postcolonial Critique
Author(s) Jabeen, Suria, Saleem Akhtar Khan
Volume 1
Issue 1
Year 2021
Pages 52-67
Full Text Crystal Clear mimetype pdf.png
URL Link
Keywords Orientalism, Deborah Ellis, Breadwinner Trilogy, Postcolonialism
Chicago 16th Jabeen, Suria, Saleem Akhtar Khan. "Orientalist Perspectives in Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy: A Postcolonial Critique." Negotiations 1, no. 1 (2021).
APA 6th Jabeen, S., Khan, S. A. (2021). Orientalist Perspectives in Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy: A Postcolonial Critique. Negotiations, 1(1).
MHRA Jabeen, Suria, Saleem Akhtar Khan. 2021. 'Orientalist Perspectives in Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy: A Postcolonial Critique', Negotiations, 1.
MLA Jabeen, Suria, Saleem Akhtar Khan. "Orientalist Perspectives in Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy: A Postcolonial Critique." Negotiations 1.1 (2021). Print.
Harvard JABEEN, S., KHAN, S. A. 2021. Orientalist Perspectives in Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy: A Postcolonial Critique. Negotiations, 1.


The study critically engages with the issue of continuity of the orientalist rhetoric in the contemporary literary yields. To establish and substantiate the argument, the researchers have analyzed Deborah Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy (2009) that comprises Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey, and Mud City. All the three fictional narratives claims to have represented the life of the Pakistani and Afghani characters who have been shown to face the existential threats in the wake of the insecurities that have engulfed the region. However, the study contends, the Canadian writer has also given way to the parochial psychological and sociological schema that has been held as the prime representational trope regarding the East, that is, Orientalism. The qualitative and textual approach has facilitated the researchers to negotiate the identified thematic patterns with the interpretive freedom. In this regard, framing the fictional representation into the Saidian critique of the orientalist discourse, the study explicates the reductive approach of the writer and exposes the latent ideological triggers working under the manifest humanist projections. Thus, the study strengthens the postcolonial stance and, therefore, will sharpen the Pakistani students’ understanding of the current socio-literary debates.


Textual exploitation of the East, literary misrepresentation, remains the recurrent theme of the orientalist works. The practice is pervasive and even the ostensibly apolitical novelists of the contemporary times, who assert to be the apostles of universality on the humanist grounds without being prejudiced, track the pattern of parochialism. They outline the Orient as a habitat of uncanny mysteries and eerie phantoms. Therefore, the factor of misrepresentation has become an integral part of the kind of fictional narratives, and, in turn, marks of the colonial discourse define the attitude of the western writers about the eastern people and experiences. Ranging from the personal to the collective representations, everything has been imbued with this reductive approach.

The study also offers a postcolonial reading of the selected text, Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy (2009), to expose its latent assumptions and manifest projections. This is an effort to unmask the brute mechanism of the dishonest Western representational discourse, following equally illegitimate colonial domination. The present study has attempted an analysis of the selected primary source from the Saidian Orientalist perspective. The narrative is the story of young girl Parvana, who is struggling in patriarchal structure of Afghan society for her survival. Her father has lost his property as well as legs in a bomb blast. All family of Parvana is in disastrous condition due to war. Setting of the novel is Afghan capital Kabul which is controlled by religious radical group “Taliban”. Local Afghan society is shown in detail with all its curses like poverty, illiteracy and ethnicity. There is Lawlessness and ancient tribal customs in the name of religion are marginalizing female. Main character Parvana is compelled to disguise as boy to earn her living because women are not allowed to go outside home without “mehram”. Further her father is arrested by Taliban leaving all the responsibilities on Parvana to earn money for the family. She has to do ordinary jobs in the disguise of boy. She worked as tea boy and also read the letters for illiterate Talibans. Parvana is shown as courageous and revolutionary type character that hates everything wrong and want to change it into right. She wants to teach afghan girls and run school for girls. Circumstances lead her toward horrible and terrifying act of grave digging and getting bones out of them for extra money. She has to suffer a lot during course of the novel. She has to leave her family and also migrate to Pakistan. Second part of the storey, Parvaan’s journey, is about her search for the lost family. Her father is died and she is shown miserable, alone and hopeless. She meets other characters, makes relations with them but her search is continued. This portion gives account of gloomy and disastrous condition of country. Last portion of the series, Mud City, is about the condition of Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Parvana has to spend some time here. In this portion, writer has given full description of poverty, hunger, crimes, moral decay and ugliness of the Pakistan

Deborah Ellis has adopted traditional way of seeing the miserable country and portrayed death, destruction, poverty and hunger by increasing their intensity. She has left the impression that main cause of all the destruction is that Afghans are resisting Western liberalization. Same argument is given by Max Boot, who says that World is in need of new “liberal imperialism” so that a solution could be found for settlement of “most troubled regions” of our world (Boot, 2005, p: 95). Afghanistan is depicted as “a space of distance, difference, lack, and invisibility” (Ball, 2008, p: 303). The Orientalist portrayal of the ‘other’ in Afghanistan is reconstructing the binaries of civilized, uncivilized and cultured, uncultured. Afghans are shown as in need of outsider savior in order to stabilize and change their society. Main characters of the novel, Parvana and Shauzia have fascination for France. They are fed up of their miserable lives and want to go to France where everything is pleasing and exciting.

Statement of the Problem

Deborah Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy is marked by the impressionistically carved images of the “third world”, as they prefer to put it, with focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite being a part of Children literature, the narratives contain the ideological load and political premises cherished by the Western imagination about the Eastern Other. She has shown how the countries are deemed inhabitable and the Afghan youth is inclined to escape degenerated region having fascination for the European countries. By and large, she has painted both the countries in black colures and delineated them to be eerie, illiterate, patriarchal and savage societies.

Research Questions

  1. How have Afghanistan and Pakistan been portrayed as dystopias by Ellis in the selected trilogy?
  2. In what ways do the representational structure conforms to the established orientalist discourse theorized by Edward Said?

Delimitation of Study

Deborah Ellis is a prolific Canadian writer having numerous fictional and non-fictional narratives on her credit. In this regard, the researchers are compelled to delimit the focus of the study being accomplished. Therefore, the research is delimited to her trilogy Breadwinner that includes Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey, and Mud City.

Rationale and Significance of the Study

Afghanistan and Pakistan have gained attention of the world consciousness in the wake of the War on Terror and issue of militancy thereof. The study has brought to the light the politics of the fictional discourse especially when it is used by the Western writers for “Orientalizing the East”. The study is going to be a significant one as Pakistan is a country with colonial history and Afghanistan continues to be in the clutch of international forces. Consequently, the postcolonial consciousness in a defining factor for the broader attitude in the sociopolitical terms. From these perspectives, the research is relevant to the students of postcolonial studies, international relations, and discourse studies.

Methodological Design and Theoretical Framework

This research is qualitative and descriptive in nature. The approach is appropriate for “interpretation of the content of text data” (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005, p. 1278). Whereas, the specific method used for the study is Textual analysis: “textual analysis is indispensable to research” (Belsey in Griffin, 2013, p. 160). Theoretically, the research is a study of Ellis’s trilogy, Breadwinner from postcolonial perspective. There are many frameworks in the domain of postcolonial studies to analyze the texts. The researchers have used the Saidian Orientalist perspective, outlined by him in his canonical work Orientalism (1978), to approach the text. Basically Orientalism is a style of thought designed by the West to dominate and control the World. Said (1995) showed how the Orient was discursively constructed as a culture of conservativeness, irrationality and violence and how these truths were constructed in such a way that only westerners are “objectively” able to really know the Orient. Young has also discerned representation of the “periphery that is often deemed inferior, uncivilized or barbaric” (2001, p. 176). The following are the focal points taken from “Orientalism” to be explored and explained:

  1. The Orient is considered timeless.
  2. Orient is assumed to be strange and fantastic. It is Western assumption that “The Orient is not just different; it is oddly different- unusual, bizarre and fantastic” (McLeod, 1966, p: 44).
  3. Orientalism makes assumptions about race.
  4. Orientalism makes assumptions about gender. Similarly, popular gendered stereotypes circulated, such as the effeminate oriental male or sexually promiscuous exotic Oriental female. The exoticised oriental female, often depicted nude or partially clothed in hundreds of Western works of art during the colonial period.
  5. The Orient is taken as “feminine” by the Westerns that is “ultimately domesticated by the muscular colonizer” (McLeod, 1966, p: 44).
  6. The Orient is degenerated.

So, the researchers have approached the selected text from Saidian Orientalist perspective and the six features, mentioned above, are explored and exposed. It is shown how apparently innocent and apolitical literature is contributing to myth making and creating new identities.

Context/ Location of the Issues:

The argument of the study revolves around two areas: Orientalism and Deborah Ellis’s Fiction. These two issues, relevant to the crux of the study, have received apt amount of critical attention due to their importance. One is the theoretically relevant issue, Orientalism, whereas the other is relevant to the primary text chosen for the study.

Said’s Orientalism (1978) remains central to the critical debates on the issue of misrepresentation of the East in the Western discourse. He calls all these narratives, archives, and records to be the “ideological fictions” (1978, p. 321). He identifies that the purported records are “not ‘truth’ but representations” (1978, p. 21). Having studied and streamlined various varieties of the orientalist and colonial discourse, Said provide an authentic source that happened to be the pivot of the postcolonial studies since its inception.

Sarder (1999) in his famous article “Portraying the political: National Geographic's 1985 Afghan Girl” criticized the discourse of Orientalism. He said that the book is limited in scope because it only deals with Middle East. It has given sweeping statement about whole West and over a very long period of history. He ignored that all the Westerns are not extremist or enemy of East but there are exceptions. John Mackenzie gives statement about Orientalism that it is “in itself essentially ahistorical” (1984). As far as Deborah Ellis is concerned, she is an award winning writer, feminist and peace activist.

Kailash (2018) has identified and outlined the feminist dimensions present in Ellis’s fictional works. He also draws comparison of her depictions with those from other famous writer: Mehmoodi and Durrani. The crux of the analysis and the comparison is encapsulated in the framing as “male domination, unbearable sorrows of women” (2018, p. 4). Victimization and suppression of females, as represented by Ellis, remain at the focus of discussion. Thus, the study is illumination of the feminist themes running through Ellis’s novels by comparing them with other famous works.

Lone (2020) take on Ellis’s works is Marxist in its flavour and he discusses representation of the “exacerbated lives” (2020, p. 2276) in her novels. He makes use of Althusser’s notion of interpellation through Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) and Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) for interpreting her selected works. In this way, the socially significant issues like “the violent or non-violent coercive means” (2020, p. 2276)” have been brought to the discussion. So, from the Marxist perspective of the social critique, Lone has explained the ideological content found in Ellis’s novels.

Afghanistan in Ellis’s Fiction:

Western writers have been portraying these areas as strange and mysterious since ages. Their fictional and non-fictional writings are replete with such misrepresentations. This misrepresentation is crushing the positive image of these Islamic countries and imposing another false identity on them. By the analysis of selected works researchers have proved that binaries of East, West, superior, and inferior still exist in the modern World.

Representation of Afghans as barbarian and threatening to security of the US and world peace is part of western policy. Afghan patriarchal system is also shown as dangerous for Afghan Women as crushing their freedom. Afghans are repeatedly portrayed as ruthless and evil enemies, capable of overthrowing any government. Simultaneously these evil people are coward who only “preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, runs for cover (George bush, 2001). Here the ‘Other’ is feminized (‘weak’ and cowardly) at the same time constructed as disgusting and dangerous. This highlights what Meghana Nayak (2006, p: 49-50) describes as the Westerns ‘masculinist anxiety” which is increasing the need to ‘save’ the world peace from violent and uncontrolled religious extremists.

When she talks about the food, dress, culture, living style and their miseries, poverty, hunger, patriarchal cruelty, every statement gives clear picture of strangeness. Mostly after giving gloomy picture of these areas she gives pleasant and glittering picture of west which creates contrast and a sense of Othering:

Is there a toilet?” she asked awhile later. “Can’t you smell it?” A boy jerked his thumb to a partitioned-off area at the back of the cell. Shauzia stepped through boys as if she were stepping through a flower garden. The partition gave her a small amount of privacy, but the toilet was just a stinking hole in the floor. Sheep are cleaner, she thought, and she did not linger there. A guard came by with a tray of metal cups of tea and a stack of nan. “Here is your supper,” he said. The boys dove at the food like the wild dogs Shauzia had seen in Kabul, pushing each other to get to the bread. The guard laughed (Ellis, 2003, p: 51).

Shauzia is close friend of Parvana, heroin of the novel. She has to spend some time in Pakistani jail where children were in miserable condition. There was no separate toilet but they use living place as toilet. When the guard brought bread the boys ran after the food as hungry dogs.

After this picture where human beings are not better than the animals she gives description of luxurious and pleasant life of Tom, a European man, living and working on a project in Pakistan. His family is the only noble and kind family in Peshawar whose behavior is civilized. His house is full of luxuries which pleases Shauzia. After reading about the condition of toilet in Pakistani jail shiny picture of western bath room is perhaps satisfying for the Western readers “there was a Western toilet gleaming taps and a shower stall with a blue curtain” (Ellis, p: 52). She has used the word “Western” repeatedly to build a clear contrast between civilized West and poor, stinking East. She discriminates between Eastern and Western people by pointing to their different dressing style. “A man and a woman in Western clothes” (Ellis, p: 38). Again Ellis created clear contrast between East and West. “It was a very small room with a platform toilet—not the modern Western toilet they used to have! (Ellis, p:14). These contrasts are strengthening the fact that western writers are building a sense of othering for the 3rd World developing countries.

Representation of Afghanistan in positive terms is very rare in Western literature. Nothing is shown promising or hopeful. Instead, Afghanistan is repeatedly portrayed in terms of weak, exhausted and economically and morally barren land. Frantz Fanon (1963) argued that it is the policy of colonial powers to show that colonized countries as lacking positive values. It is, as Achille Mbembe (2001) describes, a deliberate Western strategy to mark out the ‘absolute othernesses of foreign lands, confirming that these societies remain incomplete and unfinished in comparison to the western world and that they exist with an “absence of a center” (p: 8). US Organizations are extracting resources from Afghanistan and using them for their own wellbeing. Europeans have proved that Afghanistan is a failed state. Although the country is rich in natural resources but these resources are shown to be untapped and unutilized by local government and community, in this way they are justifying their domination and control over the natural resources of unfortunate country. Here the researchers want to prove the continuity of colonialism by showing that at first the colonizers show the targeted country as indigenous, uncivilized and unconscious of their resources to get hold and domination over these resources.

Ellis has given a dismal and miserable description of Afghanistan sometimes in sympathy and sometimes ironically. ‘There were bombed-out buildings all over Kabul. Neighborhoods had turned, from homes and businesses into bricks and dust”. Thirty years of continuous conflict and turmoil has changed landscape of the country. Everywhere there are broken buildings, roads schools and bridges. Many people are died, injured, lost their limbs or leave the country. Protagonist of novel expresses her wonder about weariness of her country thus:

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 (Ellis, p: 10).

Here Pervana expresses her thoughts about misfortunate country. She has seen this country always in ruin. Bombs have taken away all the things from them including the legs and health of her father.

The Breadwinner trilogy is also a combination of information, exaggeration, fantasy and imagination connected with stereotypes and prejudices of Western writer. Ellis has portrayed Afghanistan as dominion of despots and spiritually mystics. All these things are creating an impression of “European modernity and cultural, racial and moral superiority” (Jouhki, 2006, p: 11). In a comedic manner Ellis comments on the miserable situation of Afghanistan thus:

After the Soviets left, the people who had been shooting at the Soviets decided they wanted to keep shooting at something, so they shot at each other. Many bombs fell on Kabul during that time. Many people died Bombs had been part of Parvana’s whole life. Every day, every night, rockets would fall out of the sky, and someone’s house would explode (Ellis, P: 10).

Ellis has spoken about a bitter reality of Afghanistan in a funny manner. First of all Afghans gathered against Soviet and USA invasion and drove them out of the country. After that they started fighting against one another. Bomb and destruction became integral part of their lives.

Knowledge about such targeted states is produced, verified and then legitimized to reinforce the role of West as reformer and facilitator. It is, as Said (1995) reveals, a strategy that relies on layers upon layers of information, ideas and ‘knowledge’ that are consistently exchanged and reaffirmed as objective truths or facts” In the same way failure of Afghanistan as stable land is what Gayatri Spivak (in Kanpoor, 2008) refers to as a structure of “information retrieval” produced by western institutions. Western thinkers suggested that poverty, tyranny and failure of the country is due to the fact that Afghans are not ready to accept Western liberalization and modernization and are stuck to their conservative traditions and culture.

In the Breadwinner series, brutality of Taliban is portrayed in a horrible way. This is strengthening the fact that western has the agenda to misrepresent Islamic countries by associating and connecting them with terrorism, and against enlightenment. Each and every thing which is considered sacred in Islam is presented in an odd manner. Wearing beard for men is considered desirable in Islam as it is sunnah of prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) but Ellis has presented it ironically. Parvana commenting on the beard of her father says “When the Taliban first came and ordered all men to grow beards, Parvana had a hard time getting used to her father’s face. He had never worn a beard before. Father had a hard time getting used to it, too. It itched a lot at first” (Ellis, 2001, p: 17). When parvana asks her father about Taliban, her father replies that they are religious scholars but not acting as good Muslims and spoiling meaning of Islam.

Massacring and killing of innocent people by Taliban is given in detail. Humma, an Afghan girl reports about the brutality of Taliban when they kill innocent people without any mistake, “There were bodies everywhere. The wild dogs had started eating some of the bodies, so there were pieces of people on the sidewalks and in the streets. I even saw a dog carrying a person’s arm in its mouth” (Ellis, 2001, p: 79). Each and every detail of Afghan society is shown in negative terms and wrong intentions without thinking about its psychological impacts on readers. Following is given incident of “hand cutting ceremony” showing that how Taliban inhumanely punish the criminal. Ellis describes that Taliban gathered people and before the entire crowd brought the criminals. The entire crowd was horrified. They started cutting hands of the people with a sword. This was a horrible scene and has negative effects on the mind of readers especially when the readers are children:

One of the men was untied, then bent over the table. Several soldiers held him down, his arms stretched out across the table-top. Parvana didn’t have a clue what was going on. Where were the soccer players? All of a sudden one of the soldiers took out a sword, raised it above his head and brought it down on the man’s arm. Blood flew in every direction. The man cried out in pain… (Ellis, 2001, p: 78).

The scene mentioned above is proof of brutality of Taliban. Penalty of cutting hand of thieves is in practice in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and many others. But this practice is taken as brutality and inhuman by the foreigners. Portrayal of this incident in the literature of children is evidence of colonial mentality of the author. Without thinking about the psychological impacts of such literature on Children, she has given each and every negative detail about them.

In the breadwinner series, Ellis has also shown that under the Taliban control, women are in miserable condition. They are not allowed to go out without “Mehram” or covering their bodies with burqa. The scenes of brutality of Taliban are depicted repeatedly by the author. She has shown that in the Taliban rule women are not allowed to study or even go outside without mehram. Women cannot go outside without covering themselves with burqa. Main character of the story, Parvana, is shown helping her crippled father in disguise of boy because as a girl she cannot go out for work. There are many other girls who have to leave their identity as girl and disguise as boy to work in the market as tea boy or any other work. “Women were not allowed to go into the shops. Men were supposed to do all the shopping, but if women did it, they had to stand outside and call in for what they needed. Parvana had seen shopkeepers beaten for serving women inside their shops” (Ellis, 2001, p: 11

Women are shown victim of brutality and cruelty of Taliban. It is shown that in Afghanistan Patriarchal system is at work where man are shown happy at the confinement of ladies at home by the Taliban. Ellis in an ironical statement said parvana sells fake leg of father and “ here 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? During Taliban rule women are shown to be treated as badly as animals.

Her mother was also on the ground, the soldiers’ sticks hitting her across her back Parvana leapt to her feet. “Stop! Stop it! We’ll go now! We’ll go!” She grabbed the arm of one of her mother’s attackers. He shook her off as if she were a fly “Who are you to tell me what to do?” But he did lower his stick. “Get out of here!” he spat at Parvana and her mother (Ellis, 2001, p: 23).

Scenes of brutality of Taliban are mentioned repeatedly by the writer. Above is given description of violence of Taliban on Parvana’s mother. They treat women and children as they are animals or flies not human beings.

In Afghanistan, as in all Muslim majority societies, the interaction of Islamic culture and religion with secularism, nationalism, ethnicity and other important historical, social and economic mechanisms structures the lives of women and men. Islamic culture and religion are considered basic elements in determining the identities of women in Muslim majority societies. Of course, patriarchal attitudes and structures have basic importance in Afghanistan. But this representation of women as voiceless victims of patriarchal system in Afghanistan – and, indeed, in other Muslim majority societies is totally wrong. This kind of representations has negative impact on the readers especially when the fiction is designed for the children and youth.

They are shown hungry and starving and even eating grass and leaves of the trees. In the “mud city” Afghan children are hungry and finding eatables from the garbage. It is a big slap on the face of human right organizations, donor agencies, human right commission and NGOs that in spite of their so called donations, afghan children are deprived of basic needs. It is not question that the portrayal of poverty, illiteracy and dismal condition of Pakistan and Afghanistan is reality, but problem here is that these negative presentations are damaging impression of these Oriental countries in international community. Following passage from “mud city” shows devastating condition of children in Pakistan:

The trash smelled bad, but the smell didn’t bother Shauzia. After all, she had lived with sheep for months. The flies were familiar, too. She dug right into the trash, opening plastic bags and dumping the contents onto the ground. She put the paper and rags she found into the little girl’s bag (Ellis, 2003, p: 35).

They search for food articles from the trash and eat it, and sleep on the roads. Flies, smell, poverty, trash, beggars are very common in Pakistan so Parvana is familiar to them. During her stay in Pakistan she uses to find food articles from trash and eat happily.

Impression is given by the writer that food is the only problem of these hungry children. They find food even from garbage and eat it thankfully. This literature is written for the children of civilized 1st World where they are facilitated with all kind of luxuries. This is a dark picture of Dystopia, where human beings are no more important than animals. They have no standard of living and their only problem is food and shelter. They are on the first step of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where nothing is more important than food and shelter:

She could not stuff food in her mouth fast enough. Chunks of mutton gristle, bits of ground-meat patties, potatoes slick with spiced oil – she shoveled it all into her mouth, eating with one hand while the other spread out the trash, searching for more food. When a cigarette butt got mixed up with a handful of rice and spinach, she separated it from the food with her teeth, spat it out and kept on eating. All around her was the sound of hungry boys chewing (Ellis, 2002, p: 38).

Afghanistan is shown disastrous, barren and waste land where children deprived of basic needs. Their only problem is food. What kind of food, it is not important. In the paragraph given above Ellis has given detailed account of the children who are finding food articles from garbage. They eat this dirty food as they are eating something delicious and rare.

It is misfortune of Afghanistan that an alien culture is imposed on them and all the chances of flourishing local culture are stopped. Basically Afghans want their own sovereign government without interruption of foreigners. Foreign invaders are like “cows who are drinking their own milk”( Suhrke, 2008). Rostami-Povey (2007) reported that a lot of foreigners come to Afghanistan and find jobs and reasonable salaries but local Afghans are unemployed. They are worried and surprised “why don’t they employ and train us”. Foreigners are getting their own benefits on the cost of innocent Afghans who are being used and spoiled by brute politics. Parvana as the representative of afghan youth is disappointed and has lost all hopes and expectations. 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. Her life was not ordinary usual life Parvana expresses her incomplete wishes thus:

I just want to be an ordinary kid again,” Parvana said. “I want to sit in a classroom and go home and eat food that someone else has worked for. I want my father to be around. I just want a normal, boring life… She no longer laughed when a man got into an argument with a stubborn donkey. She was no longer interested in the snippets of conversation she heard from people strolling by (Ellis, 2003).

Parvana wishes that she could be an ordinary girl who can study at school and live an ordinary life. She is not living a normal life because she is subject of unfortunate war stricken country.

In the second part of novel parvana’s journey (2002) the country is painted in dark and dump colors. Protagonist has lost her father, the only civilized person mentioned in the novel. She is shown as wandering in the deserted villages, finding her family. Poverty, hunger, thrust, misery and distress are prevailing everywhere. Parvana expresses her condition to her best friend in the letter thus: “another day of being hungry, with nothing around that looks like food. I don’t even know if I am hungry anymore. I am just tired, and feel like crying all the time. We are almost out of water, and I do not know what to do” (Ellis, 2002, p: 45).

Children are compelled to eat grass. This land is portrayed as more “waste and barren” than that of Eliot’s “waste land”. Here everywhere people are crying of hunger, thirst and injuries. They have lost their dear ones and lost the meaning of happiness. Afghanistan is seemed to be a sea of cries and grief. For Afghans there is no hope of recovery:

The grass we ate yesterday upset our stomachs. We all have nasty stuff pouring out the bottom of us. It is bad enough for Asif and me, but worse for Hassan, who has no clean clothes left. It’s a good thing that sun is warm today, because he is necked until his laundry dries. One of us has to keep fanning him to keep the flies away (Ellis. 2003, p: 51).

Here is an awful statement about the condition of children who are eating grass to live and survive. Parvana and Asif are compelled to eat grass for their survival. It has disturbed their stomach.

Mostly the authors have their own culture and consciously or unconsciously they represent their culture. Same is the case with Ellis who has negatively portrayed Exotic culture. She has chosen limited and painful aspects of society. Irony of fate is that she hasn’t found a single positive thing in this war shattered country. “Everywhere, there were people who were hungry and sick. Women in burqas sat on the pavement and begged their babies stretched across their laps” (Ellis, 2001, p: 71). All the negative aspects of society are presented repeatedly.


By engaging with the selected text from the Saidian perspective, the researchers have critically explored the underlying assumptions, ideas, values and relations and brought to light unequal relations of Western powers with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The questions guiding this research are: 1) how have Afghanistan and Pakistan been portrayed as dystopias by Ellis in the selected trilogy? 2) in what ways do the representational structure conforms to the established orientalist discourse theorized by Edward Said? By resolving the set of questions guided by postcolonial theory, the researchers have tried to unmask some of the undeclared, obscure and implicit attitudes, assumptions and interactions that characterize the international community’s relationship with Afghanistan. It has been identified that Afghanistan and Pakistan are shown as distant, mysterious, and eerie land resides by warriors who are destroying peace of the region. Typical colonial discourse is used to show the poverty, crimes, and ethnicity of the countries. Women and children are shown as the most suppressed and marginalized portion of the country. Without understanding culture and traditions of the country, their ways of living, dress code, language and religion all the aspects are criticized. Impression is made by the writer that west is civilized, peaceful and rich country, where everything is pleasant. Afghan children are shown fantasizing for West. In the midst of death, destruction and hunger of Afghanistan, Dream of Europe is tranquilizing for the youth. Moreover, Afghanistan and Pakistan are portrayed in consummate conformity with the orientalist discourse: feminine, destroyed, shattered, helpless and waiting for Western saviors. By the analysis of the Ellis’s trilogy from Orientalist perspective researchers have proved following points.

Thus, it has been substantiated that the binaries constructed by the colonials still exist in the modern World. Fundamental to the view of the world asserted by west is the binary division between the Orient and the Occident. Each is assumed to exist in opposition to the other: the occident is conceived as being that the West is not. However, this is not an opposition of equal partners. The Orient is frequently described in a series of negative terms that serves to support sense of West’s superiority and strength. This mentality did not end with the end of colonialism but today west occupies a superior rank while the Orient is its “other” in a subservient position. This makes the relations between them asymmetrical.


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