“The Pearl That Broke Its Shell” by Nadia Hashimi Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jun 9th, 2020


The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is one of the most profound works of feminist literature I have read. Although I had a hard time sticking to the plot at the start, I gradually discovered the overwhelming pull of the characters’ struggle and was drawn into their personal narrative.

Plot and Setting

The plot is centered on the lives of two women, Rahib and Shekiba who, despite living in different centuries, appear to suffer identical challenges in a country where women are treated as little more than property. By mirroring characters whose personal tragedies transcend the years, Hashimi is depicting a world that has stood still or even regressed on issues concerning the welfare of women. Indeed, the two “Afghanistans” are curiously similar in terms of political, social and cultural contexts.


Shekiba is the victim of a society where women are judged almost exclusively on their worth as wives and mothers of sons and she was discriminated alongside her crippled father. “The clan did not want to be associated with them and the village had no interest in a scarred old man or his even more scarred daughter-son” (Hashimi 17). Rahib, on the other hand, suffered the fate of being married off at a young age. These characters are gradually developping as the plot progresses so the reader can appreciate the similarity of their struggles and empathize with each as she tries to hang on to the freedom that men take for granted.


Cultural and religious conflicts are some of the central thematic concerns addressed in the text since they contextualize many of the two antagonists’ challenges. Afghan culture and religion do not recognize women as independent entities, which explains why they have to be chaperoned by a man or even a boy whenever they go. Rahib’s father is evidently disappointed because he has no son and his sentiments when he is banning the girls from school attest to this. “If I had a son, this would not be happening Goddamn it! Why do we have a house full of girls, not one, not two, but five of them” (Hashimi 5). The existence of Bacha Posh, a cultural practice where girls are allowed to dress as boys is testament to the low position held by women. It appears that being a boy does not entail anything special but looking, talking and dressing like one. The fact that the society is willing to accept girls who dress as boys proves that the gender issue has no logical basis.

Cultural Frame

The culture allows boys to make choices in their lives and even go to school while girls can only do so at the pleasure and convenience of their male relatives (Hashimi 73). In the historical exposition, the reader sees how Shaima was discriminated because of her deformity. “The clan did not want to be associated with them and the village had no interest in a scarred old man or his even more scarred daughter-son” (Hashimi 20). Even worse, Shekiba, who lost her looks in a freak accident as an infant is dehumanized, and regularly insulted, proving that in this particular society, women are only as good as their beauty. “Her cousins came up with twisted names for her. “Shola face,” as her skin resembled lumpy rice” (Hashimi 17).


In summary, I found this book to be a very illuminating depiction of the glaring atrocities that are committed to women all over the world. In my research on the context of the book, I came across background information that gave me a clearer picture of the fate of women in anachronistic and patriarchal societies. According to some men in similar cultures, a woman’s place is limited to the inside of her husband’s home or her grave. These inhuman sentiments may not be universal, but in the content of the novel, they might as well be the personification of the characters’ lives. In my opinion, the book should be used to create awareness on the plight of women in Afghanistan and any other nation where they are forced to live under oppression and subjugation by cultural and religious norms that discriminate them.

Works Cited

Hashimi, Nadia. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. New York: William Morrow, 2014. Print.

This essay on “The Pearl That Broke Its Shell” by Nadia Hashimi was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Read more