I Am Malala

I Am Malala Literary Elements



Setting and Context

Swat Valley, Pakistan, from 1997 to 2013

Narrator and Point of View

Malala Yousafzai, a girl growing up in Pakistan under the Taliban’s control, narrates the memoir in first-person past tense.

Tone and Mood

The first part of the memoir, when Malala is living happily in Swat, attending school and remaining at the top of her class, has a much more lighthearted tone. The tone and mood darken once the Taliban arrive to Swat Valley in 2007, and becomes much more urgent as Malala and her father step up as activists.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Malala is the protagonist, while the Taliban—an oppressive Islamic fundamentalist organization that occupied Swat Valley during her adolescence—is the antagonist.

Major Conflict

Though there are many struggles that accompany daily life in Swat, the primary conflict is over the Taliban's occupation of Swat. The Taliban have banned girls' education, something Malala believes is invaluable. Not only does Malala want to continue going to school, but she wants all other girls to receive an education as well, and throughout the memoir she stands up against the Taliban to promote this.


The climax of the memoir occurs when a Taliban officer boards Malala's school bus, asks for her by name, and then shoots her in the face.


Malala narrates this memoir in retrospect, so there are many instances where she hints at what is going to happen. A notable instance of foreshadowing occurs at the end of Chapter 23, when Malala finishes the chapter about her hospitalization in Birmingham by saying, "I didn't realize then I wouldn't be going home" (pg. 143).




Malala repeatedly alludes to Twilight, the famous book series about vampires by Stephenie Meyer. When the Taliban comes to Swat Valley, she says, "It seemed to us that the Taliban arrived in the night just like vampires" (pg. 60).


Discussed further in the Imagery section of this ClassicNote.





Metonymy and Synecdoche