What are the similarities and differences between Amir and Baba in The Kite Runner?

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In The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Hassan and Amir are best friends. While there are similarities between the two, there are also significant differences. Their personalities, faiths, social status, and even experiences are different. Amir is wealthy; Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant.

Amir lives in “Baba's mansion,” and Hassan in “the mud shack where he had been born.” Their religions are different. Hassan is a Shi'a Muslim and an ethnic Hazara. Amir is a Sunni Muslim. Amir attains an education and becomes a writer. Hassan, as the son of a servant, is destined to be a servant himself.

Amir is able to leave Afghanistan with his father. Hassan must stay. Hassan is sweet, good-natured, and often brave: “Even in birth, Hassan was true to his nature: He was incapable of hurting anyone.” Moreover, “Hassan...never told on me.” He always took the punishment himself. By comparison, Amir runs when Hassan is attacked in an alley.

Yet, despite these differences, there are also many similarities between the boys. The reader’s introduction to them is the following:

Hassan and I used to climb the poplar trees in the driveway of my father's house and annoy our neighbors by reflecting sunlight into their homes...We would sit across from each other on a pair of high branches, our naked feet dangling, our trouser pockets filled with dried mulberries and walnuts. We...pelted each other with them, giggling, laughing.

They are like mirror images of one another. Moreover, both boys are motherless. Also, “Baba hired the same nursing woman who had fed me to nurse Hassan." The narrator writes, “Hassan and I fed from the same breasts. We took our first steps on the same lawn in the same yard. And, under the same roof, we spoke our first words.“

When soldiers taunt Hassan about his mother, “I heard Hassan next to me, croaking. Tears were sliding down his cheeks. I reached across my seat, slung my arm around him, pulled him close. He rested his head on my shoulder.” They beg for songs. “What did she sing, Hassan and I always asked, though we already knew…We just wanted to hear Ali sing.”

The images of the two up in the tree and Amir comforting Hassan drive home their similarities. However, the biggest similarity between the boys is that they are actually brothers. Amir says, toward the end of the book, “my father slept with his servant's wife. She bore him a son named Hassan. Hassan is dead now. That boy sleeping on the couch is Hassan's son. He's my nephew."

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Baba is a respected, masculine businessman in Kabul, who builds his own beautiful home and orphanage in Afghanistan. Unlike his timid son, Baba is boisterous and confident. He is extremely benevolent and risks his life in order to prevent a Russian soldier from raping an innocent Afghan woman. Baba is revered throughout Kabul but gives up his luxurious lifestyle to flee Afghanistan and immigrate to America. In contrast, Amir is a rather quiet, sensitive boy, who does not excel at athletic competitions. Baba views his son as weak and does not support his literary interests. Amir spends the majority of his childhood attempting to please his father. Despite Amir's timid personality, he harbors a dark secret and is forced to live with guilt for the majority of his life.

While Baba has to live with the guilt of socially rejecting his secret son, Hassan, Amir feels extremely guilty for not intervening while Hassan was being raped. Both characters also search for redemption and end up atoning for their past sins. Baba sacrifices everything in order to give his son an opportunity in life by immigrating to America. Amir atones for his sins by risking his life to travel back to Afghanistan in order to save and adopt Hassan's son, Sohrab. 

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A major similarity between Baba and Amir is that they keep damning secrets from their loved ones. They understand the principle of honesty, but they fail to practice it when the situation appears dire. Amir learned that Hassan was his half-brother through Rahim Khan. Baba kept the information a secret until his death. Amir, on his part, did not tell Baba what happened to Hassan after the kite flying tournament. In addition, Amir never told Baba that he framed Hassan for theft.

A major difference between father and son is that Baba was a courageous man, while Amir was cowardly. For instance, Baba stopped the Russian soldier from making advances on the married woman in the truck. Amir, on the other hand, failed to intervene when Assef raped Hassan.

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Although Amir spends most of his childhood trying to please his father, he can never live up to Baba's great expectations and larger-than-life personality. Baba is strong and fearless, having lived to tell the tale of fighting a bear. Amir is weak and cowardly; it is Hassan who stands up for Amir when the two boys are accosted by Assef and his young gang. Amir resorts to lies when he believes it will be to his advantage, while Baba strongly believes in a personal code of honesty:

"When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness."  (Chapter 3)

Baba loves the outdoors and is a great hunter; Amir prefers the solitude of writing in his bedroom. Baba loves the company of men and throwing parties; Amir prefers being by himself. Baba shows only love and compassion for Ali and Hassan, while Amir is ashamed of being seen in public with the Hazara, Hassan.

The father and son share some similarities. Amir becomes a champion kite flyer, just as Baba had been as a child. They both share a love of American life, though Baba's expectations ultimately fall short of Amir's. They both respect the old Afghan culture and practice it faithfully in California. They both share a new love of the flea market culture on weekends. And, both Baba and Amir marry teachers.

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