In The Kite Runner, is Baba a hero or a hypocrite?Please provide a couple of examples to support your answer.

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Baba is a complex character. The labels "hero" and "hypocrite" sort of mirror the way Baba's son, Amir, looks at his father at different points in the novel. As a child, Amir idolizes his father and desperately seeks his approval. As an adult, he learns that Baba fathered Hassan, therefore had an affair with Ali's wife (even though Baba and Ali are in different classes, they grew up together like brothers). Once Amir learns of Baba's secret indiscretion, he feels Baba is a hypocrite.

When the story begins, Baba is a powerful and successful upper-class man in Afghanistan. He has one son, Amir, and lost his wife in childbirth. Amir worries that Baba blames him for his mother's death. Amir and Baba have a hard time relating to one another; Amir is sensitive and creative, and Baba is very masculine. He does not think Amir can stand up for himself and says he would wonder if Amir were even his child except that he had seen him born from his wife. Nonetheless, young Amir wants to please his father and make him proud. Therefore, Amir enters the kite-fighting competition and vows to win; he feels this victory will also win over his father's affection. Amir does win, and Hassan chases down the last kite that he cuts down to win, but then Amir witnesses but does not stop an assault on Hassan in the alley. This obviously ruins Amir's ability to feel joyful or victorious; he feels too guilty and cowardly. Baba is proud, though, so Amir got what he wanted. When they move to California, Amir and Baba grow much closer and Amir admires his father's adaptability. He and his wife Soraya even take care of Baba in their home when he is sick with cancer. Amir is naturally devastated when his father passes away.

Later, however, Amir goes to see Baba's best friend Rahim Khan, who is terminally ill. Rahim Khan tells him he can "be good again" if he makes the journey back to Afghanistan to help Hassan's son Sohrab. However, Rahim Khan also must reveal the truth of Hassan's parentage: Baba was his father as well as Amir's, so Amir is actually biologically related to Sohrab. This increases his level of responsibility toward the child. Amir is furious to learn about his father's transgression, though. When Amir was a boy, Baba told him the worst sin is theft, and he described that in away that explained all forms of sin are actually kinds of theft, including adultery and lying. Amir thinks his father is the ultimate hypocrite since he stole Ali's wife and dignity, and he also stole Hassan's and Amir's right to know the truth. Amir can only wonder what could have been different had he known Hassan were his half-brother. He can only now try to atone for both his own sins and those of his father.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One could argue that Baba is both a hero and a hypocrite. Baba is a successful Afghan businessman who is charitable and relatively selfless. At the beginning of the story, Amir recalls how Baba constructed and opened up an orphanage in Kabul for needy children. Baba treats Ali and Hassan like family and even has a surgeon repair Hassan's upper lip. Baba is also depicted as a hero while he is fleeing Afghanistan. When a Russian soldier attempts to rape an Afghan woman at a checkpoint, Baba intervenes and risks his life by challenging the Russian soldier. Baba tells the soldier,

"Tell him I'll take a thousand of his bullets before I let this indecency take place" (Hosseini, 97).

Fortunately, a second Russian soldier intervenes, and nobody is hurt. Baba could also be considered heroic for leaving his affluent life in Kabul behind in order to give his son a new start at life by immigrating to America.

Despite Baba's heroics, he is also depicted as a hypocrite. Later in life, Amir learns that Baba was Hassan's biological father but refused to acknowledge Hassan as his son because Hassan was a Hazara. The fact that Baba was supposed to be Ali's close friend makes his actions that much worse. Baba essentially had an affair with Ali's wife, then neglected to acknowledge Hassan as his son.

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like most people Baba is a mixture of several layers. He is a decisive and generous man who tries to help his people.   He has heroic moments, one is when he stands up for the man and his wife as they are fleeing Kabul.  The soldiers are harassing and going to harm a female passenger and Baba stands up and prevents this from happening at the risk of his own life. The fact that he is willing to take his son and flee Kabul, begin again in America and raise his son with the opportunity for a college education is also in some ways heroic. 

Yet, like all human beings Baba is also a hypocrite.  He is a hypocrite because he denies a birthright to his other son, Hassan, his birthright because he is the result of an adulterous affair with a servant.  Baba is never honest with Amir or with Hassan, yet he demands honesty from them.  Baba can't relate to Amir because he doesn't see Amir as a "courageous boy" yet Baba demonstrates a lack of courage in his relationship with his son and Hassan by not being honest.

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The Kite Runner

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