In The Kite Runner, Baba is a complex character with both positive and negative traits, which makes it difficult to derive what his character suggests to the reader about fatherhood. Baba is an extremely successful man and in some ways, he is very generous. For example, he contributes to the building of an orphange in Kabul. This action, however, garners only confusion from his son, Amir, who feels neglected and misunderstood by Baba. Amir wonders why his father cannot be more giving and open with him.
Part of the tension in Baba and Amir's relationship comes from the circumstances of Amir's birth: his mother died as a result of the birth. Amir presumes that Baba blames him for the death of his wife. Baba, on the other hand, admits to his best friend Rahim Khan that he feels distant from Amir because he does not see himself in his son. While Baba is hypermasculine and traditional, Amir is quiet and sensitive and aspires to be a writer, not a businessman. Baba worries that Amir is weak and cannot stand up for himself. It is only winning the kite tournament that brings the father and son temporarily closer, though at a high cost to Amir's psyche.
Once conditions in Afghanistan become so severe that Baba must consider leaving his homeland, he finds a way to get himself and his son out of Kabul. Though the journey is difficult and traumatic, the pair eventually arrive in Pakistan before emigrating to the United States. There, Baba must suffer a sharp decrease in status and reputation, working a low-paying job at a gas station. However, his priority has become Amir's future, so he is determined to see his son earn an education and successful future in America. These actions show that, despite Baba's earlier doubts about Amir, he truly cares for his son and wants the best for him. Now that they are in California, separated from their community and former lives in Kabul, Baba and Amir grow closer since they are more dependent on one another. This section of the novel suggests that being a father means making personal sacrifices for the good of one's child.
Though Baba takes some time to adjust to Amir's writing aspirations, he eventually gains a sense of pride in his son's achievements. Baba sickens and moves in with Amir and his wife before his death, and this period brings the father and son even closer together. Baba finally expresses his appreciation of Amir' s work and the two reconcile before Baba passes away.
However, after Baba's death, Amir's second father figure Rahim reveals that Hassan, the servant boy with whom Amir grew up but who he also deeply betrayed, was also Baba's son. As a child, Amir had been jealous of Baba's attention to Hassan, thinking it unjust that someone of such low status be treated as his equal in Baba's eyes. Now, Baba's choices make sense to Amir, but he cannot reconcile the dishonesty and treachery that he sees in Baba's secret. Amir feels that Baba greatly wronged him by keeping this information from him, as Amir would've possibly acted differently toward Hassan, and potentially their relationships and lives could have been far less tragic.
Before going to meet Rahim in Pakistan, Amir and his wife had been trying to have a child of their own. Amir had considered his treatment of Hassan as a precursor to their bad luck, interpreting their inability to conceive as a punishment for himself. After hearing about Baba's secret, Amir rethinks his reconciliation with his father and reassesses his own potential fatherhood. When he does eventually adopt Hassan's son, Sohrab, Amir stands up for the boy when his father-in-law criticizes his ethnicity. Amir seeks to make amends for the past wrongs of both himself and Baba.
Baba is a multifaceted character, who is sometimes a loving, generous father and other times a mystery to his son. While the two struggled to understand one another, the novel suggests that ultimately these characters have much in common and develop an understanding of and compassion for one another's weaknesses. The novel suggests that being a father is a complex task and that no one does it perfectly. However, making an effort to understand, appreciate, and protect one's son helps to build the bond between parent and child.