On the surface Baba and Amir depict completely contrasting personalities. Amir is a timid, insecure child. Baba is a generous, respected over-achiever. Despite outward appearances however they share some startling similarities. They both hide a terrible secret from everyone they hold dear, and they both spend a significant part of their lives trying to atone for their respective sins. It’s only when they deal with these issues that their true colors really show. In reality Baba and Amir’s few similarities far outweigh their many differences.
Amir and Baba appear to the outside world, and even to each other to be completely different people. Amir perceives Baba as perfect. Amir sees his father as a wealthy, and powerful man; everything anyone could aspire to be. In contrast Baba sees Amir as a weakling and a coward for the most part. He seems almost disgusted by Amir’s weak stomach and cowardly tendencies. Baba loves Amir, but he finds his inability to relate to him a difficult hurdle to get over. Baba was athletic as a young man, a competitor who was used to winning. He used what he knew and tried to relate to Amir through sports, but despite Amir’s best attempts to feign interest Baba saw through his charade, which only discouraged him further. Amir made his own attempts to bridge the gap between them with his stories, but Baba simply dismissed them as being childish.
Baba would not encourage Amir to pursue writing because he didn’t see it as a masculine thing to do. Perhaps one of the most prevalent differences between Baba and Amir is the way they see Hassan. In many ways Baba sees him as the son Amir should have been. Hassan is athletic, hard working, and exceptionally loyal. Amir treats Hassan like an underling, someone who makes him feel better about himself. Amir used Hassan’s illiteracy to make him feel better about himself. Even though they are genuinely friends, Amir still thinks of him as merely a Hazara, and harbors jealousy towards any affection Hassan receives from Baba. Hassan is not only the catalyst to many of their biggest differences, but also the foundation for their most intimate similarity.
Baba and Amir may seem completely different but the biggest testament to their similar personalities is the way they deal with the most serious problems in their lives. Baba fathers an illegitimate son and tried to keep him a secret for the sake of reputation. Amir allowed his best friend to be raped and uses the incident to gain his fathers love. Baba tried to alleviate his guilt over bedding his servant’s wife by treating Hassan equal to Amir, showering him with gifts and affection. Showing affection to Amir however made Baba feel even guiltier about Hassan’s situation so Amir is starved of his love. Subsequently Amir began to despise Hassan and did nothing to help him when he was raped by Assef.
In fact he used the situation to force Hassan and Ali out of his home. The regret he faced haunted him for the rest of his life and he tried to atone for it by getting Hassan’s son out of Afghanistan. Both father and son in this scenario spent their lives dealing with an incident that they couldn’t overcome. Baba showed he could be as cowardly as Amir when he refused to acknowledge Hassan as his son, and Amir showed he could be as brave as his father by going to Afghanistan and fighting Assef to save Sohrab.
Baba and Amir found it difficult to show affection for one another throughout Amir’s childhood due in large part to the glaring differences in their personalities. However, late in life Amir realizes that they’re really two of a kind. When they’re forced to deal with problems they show that their natural tendencies are strikingly similar. Baba and Amir’s personalities are polar opposites, but at their core they are the same.
Khaled Hosseini, “The Kite Runner”