by Ayad Akhtar

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The main characters in Disgraced are Amir, Emily, Abe, Isaac, and Jory.

  • Amir, the protagonist, is a corporate lawyer. Though he outwardly dismisses Islam, he reveals his emotional connection to it.
  • Emily is a painter married to Amir. Though she is white, her primary influence is Islamic art.
  • Abe is Amir’s nephew. He supports Islamic causes and pushes Amir to do the same.
  • Isaac is a museum curator with a Jewish background. He is attracted to Emily.
  • Jory is one of Amir’s colleagues. Her promotion to partner at their law firm enrages Amir.


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Last Updated on February 17, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 806


Amir is a successful, hard-working lawyer of about forty. His heritage is Pakistani and Muslim, but he hides this, pretending to be an Indian man from a Hindu background. At the beginning of the play, he considers himself an American who is completely assimilated and who despises Islam as a backward religion of bigotry and hatred. However, he is still uneasy about his position in American society and is quick to take offense at perceived slights. He lectures both Abe and Isaac on the subject of Islam, and he adopts a particularly patronizing manner when talking to Isaac, explaining words and concepts to him in a condescending manner.

Amir is meticulous about his appearance, spending significant sums of money on clothes and always taking care to look and sound the way he thinks a successful corporate lawyer should. He is nervous about anything that might damage his reputation at the firm where he works, and he seems to be somewhat deluded about the esteem the partners have for him. A combination of alcohol and stress causes his polished persona first to crack, then to shatter, and he shows the anger he has been keeping at bay when he fights with his guests and brutally assaults his wife. By the end of the play, he is subdued and defeated, if not entirely broken.


Emily is a white woman who appears to be from a privileged background and is a rising professional artist. She is married to Amir and seems to be drawn to him partly because of his ethnicity and cultural background. She has a strong affinity for Islamic art and culture, and she speaks passionately about the beauty of Islam. However, by the end of the play, she feels that her aesthetic evangelism was misguided and that her understanding of Islam was shallow, as was her view of Amir.

It is clear from the beginning of the play that Emily’s marriage to Amir is in trouble, and it is she who tries to make overtures to him, encouraging him to talk about his concerns and doubts. It seems to be her frustration at his unwillingness to communicate that drives her to have an affair with Isaac.


Abe is Amir’s twenty-two-year-old nephew. He has lived in America since he left Pakistan at the age of eight. When he first appears, he is wearing American clothes and seems to be fully assimilated. This, however, is an illusion. The Islamic faith is vitally important to him, and he is close to Imam Fareed, who has been accused of collecting money for Hamas. Whether the Imam is guilty is not explored within the play, but by the final scene, it is clear that Abe has radical ideas. He feels that Islam has been humiliated by the power of America, and now is the time for Islam to take control of the world.

At the beginning of the play, Abe looks up to his uncle. By the end, he no longer has any admiration for Amir. This seems to be principally because Abe thinks Amir is weak due to his desire to be part of American culture rather than because Abe has witnessed the result of Amir’s brutal assault on Emily, a matter which he mentions only briefly.


Isaac, a museum curator, is intelligent, suave, and superficially sophisticated. At first, he appears more secure than Amir, but his competitive streak soon emerges as the two men begin to argue. He resents that Amir patronizes him, and he deliberately asks provocative questions and makes controversial comments to irritate him. Isaac takes a...

(This entire section contains 806 words.)

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favorable view towards Islam precisely because it is not his heritage. He adopts a somewhat critical tone when talking about Judaism, but he flares up immediately when he feels that the State of Israel is under attack. His racism, like his tribalism, is latent and carefully concealed, but eventually he attributes Amir’s brutal behavior to his racial and cultural background.


Jory is a strong, confident, opinionated African-American lawyer. She is more balanced than her husband and not so quick to anger, but when her temper is roused, her instincts as a litigator quickly become apparent. Jory is the most obviously conservative character in the play, and she freely admits that she agrees with Henry Kissinger’s view that order and stability are more important than justice. She is a powerful advocate for the rights of women, and her principal objection to Islam is the sexism she sees in the dress codes it imposes. Jory’s race, unlike Amir’s, seems to have had no negative impact on her career, and she has risen quickly in her profession. Although Amir claims that she does not work as hard as he does, the audience has no way of knowing whether this is true.