Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb

I Am Malala

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I Am Malala Symbols & Motifs


Persistence permeates the narrative—itis the most common motif, though it isnot mentioned by name. Malala’s entire narrative demonstrates her persistence to continue learning and pushing societal expectations. Her family’s story is a story of persistence: her father worked hard to get through college, then worked through a couple failed schools before opening a successful one. Even after the Taliban shoots Malala, she persists, recovers, and thrives. Eventually, she makes a speech in front of the U.N., advocating for girls’ rights.


What would persistence be without some form of oppression?Oppression surrounds Malala and her family, but instead of pushing them down, it motivates them. The Taliban moves into town and begins mandating curfews, limitations on school, limitations for women, and more. While everyone else remains silent, Malala and her father speak out. When religious leaders denounce Malala’s learning, she continues going to school. However, outside of their family, others are oppressed. This oppression leads them to fear rebelling or making their own choices. It harms society. It harms progress. It creates a culture of death, fear, and darkness.

The Quran

An important symbol in Malala’s narrative is the Quran. The Taliban, religious leaders, and others reference it to gain control over the community. Because many people are not educated and cannot read, they do not know the words of the Quran outside what leaders tell them. Through this ignorance, power figures take control of the masses. Malala describes learning the Quran from a man who agrees with the killings taking place in the country. She is horrified, but her father reminds her she needs to learn the Quranso she can interpret it for herself.

The Quran also represents a powerful symbol of hope. Malala’s mother prays and speaks Quranic passages to the sky, hoping it will help Malala recover. Similarly, Malala recites Quranic passages over her books to protect them before her family leaves Swat. It is seen as powerful and protecting.

Face Covering

The face covering is a symbol of oppression. Some women wear the face covering or the burqa because they are told it is what women must do. Others, like Malala do not…

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