Abel marries Patricia when Trevor is still a young boy and becomes a constant presence in Trevor’s life. For the most part, however, Abel is not the giant, looming figure he imagines himself to be. Noah flashes forward and back many times throughout the book, and up until the final chapter, Abel is portrayed as someone with whom he has a hot and cold relationship. Abel will occasionally play the role of Trevor’s father, such as when he takes revenge on Trevor’s bullies or agrees to lend him his car for the dance, but these fatherly gestures are not genuinely altruistic.
Noah illustrates the traditional roles that men and women in South Africa tend to play, so Abel’s fragile ego and controlling nature are unsurprising. However, the first time that he hits Patricia is a shocking and pivotal moment in the book. It is even more shocking that Abel’s rage leads him to attempt murder and suicide. Other than observing the fact that Abel’s insecurities grow along with Patricia’s independence, the reader never learns why he is so hateful because Trevor himself doesn’t know. Trevor wonders why a man from such a traditionally patriarchal society would choose such a fiery, intellectual woman to be his wife. However, the real question the book poses is why Patricia would choose Abel in return.