The Portrait of Baba. Chimita Tsibenova, 4th year student, BSU, Ulan-Ude

I’d like to analyze the minor character of the novel, Baba. He changes throughout the text so he’s a round and dynamic character. The author uses indirect method of characterization. We get to know Baba through Amir’ s description and his actions.

Baba is Amir’s father who belongs to the upper social class in Kabul. By building an orphanage he expresses himself as a caring man for the society. But he seems to be distant to his son. He’s the biological father of Hassan and he hides it from both of his children. Besides he seems to favor Hassan over Amir.

As Rahim Khan wrote in the letter in the end of the story, Baba was a tortured soul, he was hard on Amir and was hard on himself. Like Amir, he suffered because of keeping in secret the fact of being the father of Hassan. He felt guilty being wealthy and seeing that Hassan lives a hard and poor life. Baba didn’t want Ali and Hassan to leave his house, because he wanted them to live near him safely.

So I think Baba loves the boys equally. Baba cared about Amir and taught him the moral values he believes. Baba worried that Amir was not brave enough to stand up for himself. He didn’t discuss it with Amir, he set the example himself standing up for a woman in a track while they were fleeing Kabul. By this example Baba wanted to show Amir how to behave when he must choose between saving himself or doing what he knows to be right. Baba’s great value is doing right according to the moral values. Amir got this lesson and followed this example going to Afghanistan to find Sohrab.

After moving to America, Baba and Amir’s life changed completely. Baba who was a wealthy and respected man in Kabul, in California worked at a gas station and lived modestly. But Baba and Amir became closer. Without Hassan around, Baba’s guilt diminished so he could focus on building relationship he always wanted to have with his son.

As it was said earlier, Baba’s character changes throughout the novel. At the beginning of it, Baba as Amir described him, was proud, independent, determined, but sometimes emotionally distant and impatient. But few years later in America, he changed a lot. When Amir was a young boy and wrote his first story, Baba didn’t express any interest and support. Amir graduated the high school and entered the college on faculty of the creative writing. Baba wasn’t against it, he just asked few questions. It describes him as a tolerant, kind and caring father. But Baba’ s one trait of character stayed unchanged till the end of his life. He stayed strong and independent, not willing someone to feel pity for him, and see him weak. In his last years he had a cancer. He refused chemotherapy and forbid Amir from saying about it to anyone. But I think he was happy feeling proud of Amir and seeing Amir and Soraya’s wedding.

The author choice of the name Baba turns out to be meaningful. According to site Wikipedia a name Baba in Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Sanskrit, Punjabi, Bengali, Hindi and Marathi means father; grandfather; wise old man; sir. It is a Persian honorific term used in several West and South Asian cultures. It is used as a mark of respect to refer to Sufi saints. (Sufi is a branch of Islam).»Patera» is the formal translation of the word «father» into the modern Greek language (Meaning, «priest»; «father» and is also used as a term of respect towards fathers in law). While «Patera» may be the formal way to address elders (out of respect) the word «Baba» is a more casual way of saying father, and much more commonly used. It can be most directly translated to the American English words «Dad,» «Daddy,» and «Pops.» So by giving this name to Amir’s father, the author shows that in the novel Baba plays the only role which is the father, and also expresses his respect to him.

Among all of the characters of the novel I liked Baba the most. Actually every character evokes double attitude: both negative and positive. Everyone makes mistakes and a way a person deals with them reveals his character. But I sympathize with Baba because during the whole life he tried to fix his mistake by doing good things, being a good father and a role model to Amir. And it makes me respect him a lot.

In conclusion I’d like to say that while reading this novel I got a lot of different emotions. It was unpleasant to read about the rape accident and the changes of relationship between Amir and Hassan. But I was glad to read that Amir married Soraya and how Baba and Amir’s relationship changed in the final partsof the novel. For me, it was also very interesting to read about life and culture of Afghanistan. I’ve never read or watched any Afghan books or movies. And it was a good experience.

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