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Baba and America

Throughout ‘The Kite runner’ Baba’s character is portrayed as that of a man used to having the respect of others and someone who has strong beliefs and ideals that do not always coincide with those around him. After setting up an orphanage in town, something that gains him yet more respect, he tells Amir to ‘Piss on the beards on those self-righteous monkeys’. Baba is referring to the Islamic teachers in Amir’s school and we can see that Baba is very much his own man, not somebody who likes the idea of there being something greater than him.As a reader, we see Baba’s character through Amir’s eyes and his strong opinions prove him to be somebody who follows his own morals, meaning that he is not a sheep within the Afghanistan culture and does not easily succumb to pressure of those around him. This character portrayal means that readers see Baba as almost a revolutionary in some sense; although he is affluent and well-respected he is not scared to share opinions which more often than not are not in agreement with people who have a similar status in society to him. This portrayal is important in the novel because it allows us to believe the first part of Amir’s statement in chapter 11, that ‘Baba loved the idea of America.’ As the novel progresses through Amir’s childhood we can see the appeal of American society on a character like Baba, a society not grounded by religion and ignorance, a culture of freedom. Baba loves the idea of not being restrained by the culture around him but as the novel proves, actually living in America is extremely difficult for him.By chapter 11 it is understandable to readers why living in America could of given Baba an ‘ulcer’ because of who he was in Afghanistan. The novel depicts him as a very successful person, who was always at the centre of attention. ‘At parties, when all six-foot-five of him thundered into the room, attention shifted to him like sunflowers turning to the sun to the sun’ shows us Baba’s position is society and therefore allows readers to reflect on what he has to lose. With their move to America we see Baba lose everything that he has ever held in importance in his life. From being in a very high position in Afghanistan, with wealth and respect, Baba went from a somebody in his national country to a nobody in America. Although American society is perceived as a land of the free, the reality of moving to America was that Baba ended up worse off, the status and money he had once experienced was lost forever during that journey from Afghanistan to America.The ‘San Jose flea market’ which Baba and Amir frequent on Sundays to sell ‘knickknacks’ symbolises Baba’s feeling of identity loss in America. The market evokes memories of who he once was at it represents Afghanistan society on a microscopic level. ‘Tea, Politics and scandal, the ingredients of an Afghan Sunday at the flea market’ highlights Baba’s need for Afghanistan culture because his move to America has resulted in a loss of identity. Although as a citizen of Afghanistan he had respect for American society, the novel explains that moving to another country after you have already made a life in another one is difficult. This is why for Amir the move is a positive one, unlike Baba he was not a successful person in Afghanistan therefore he has the ability to adapt and make a new life in America.In conclusion, the novel explains the statement ‘Baba loved the idea of America. It was living in America that gave him an ulcer’ by depicting Baba as a person who was more dependent on Afghanistan and its culture than he first believed. It is possible Baba suffered from a classic case where he did not realise what he had before he lost it, although he was always finding faults with Afghanistan culture he was still a part of it and he owed the respect and wealth he had accumulated to Afghanistan. The symbol of America as a land of the free was enticing for Baba because it was so different from Afghanistan culture, but as Baba later realised change isn’t always for the best.

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