Describe the character of Baba (physically, socially and psychologically) in The Kite Runner. How does his character change and what are the reasons?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Baba was a physically imposing man, standing 6'5 with a thick beard and unruly brown hair. His hands were so large that they seemed "capable of uprooting a willow tree." His eyes produced a "black glare that would 'drop the devil to his knees begging for mercy,' " according to Rahim Khan. Khan provided Baba with the nickname "Toophan agha"--"Mr. Hurricane"--and he was often compared to a black bear, which, according to legend, Baba once fought with his bare hands. One of the wealthiest men in Kabul, Baba loved throwing parties and hosting friends in his study, the "smoking room," which was filled with comfortable leather furniture. He was always the life of the party and the instant center of attention. During his days in Kabul, he was a philanthropist, building an orphanage which he designed and financed himself.

However, his life changed drastically after he was forced to flee Afghanistan to California. He became a member of the lowly working class, taking employment in a gas station/convenience store. He eventually lost his health to the cancer that killed him, and he seems to have lost much of the confidence that propelled him to his exalted status in Kabul. However, he never lost his respect in the Afghan community, where people still remembered him as "Toophan agha."

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rareynolds | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Baba is an imposing man, but it seems to me that his stature and prominance in Afghan society belie a certain moral conflict or even cowardice. In chapter three we get some description of Baba as "Mr. Hurricane," the man that wrestled a bear with his bare hands. Even in sleep, he is imposing (his snoring was like "a growling truck engine"). Baba is rich and powerful -- one of the most successful businessmen in Kabul. His wife is highly educated and respected. However, perhaps because of his will to succeed, Baba is emotionally distant from his acknowledged son Amir and his unacknowledged son Hassan. As Amir puts it,

"Father molded the world around him to his liking. The problem, of course, was that Baba saw the world in black and white. And he got to decide what was black and what was white. You can't love a person who lives that way without fearing him too. Maybe even hating him a little."

Baba's worldview, and his image of himself, makes it impossible to admit his relationship with Hassan's mother. So, Baba tries to "mold the world" to atone for his failure with Hassan, most significantly by building the orphanage. However, it is only after Baba leaves Afghanistan and comes as a refugee to the United States that he is able to stop seing things in "black and white" and connect with his son.

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