In his words and actions, Baba sets the moral bar in the novel. When Amir is a boy, Baba’s major concern about him is that he doesn’t have the courage to stand up for himself, demonstrating that Baba places great value on doing what is right. If Amir cannot take of himself as a boy, he worries, he will not have the strength to behave morally as an adult. Baba follows through on these beliefs in his own behavior. When he and Amir flee Kabul, he is willing to sacrifice his life to keep the Russian guard from raping the woman with them, and in doing so he sets the example that Amir will follow later when he must choose between saving himself or doing what he knows to be right.
What the reader sees of Baba from Amir’s narrative is not the full story, however. As Amir describes him, he is proud, independent, determined, but sometimes emotionally distant and impatient. We learn from a note Rahim Khan writes to Amir toward the end of the book that Baba was a man torn between two halves, specifically between Amir and Hassan. Amir never sees Baba’s inner conflict because Baba has very much separated his outward appearance from his internal emotions. For instance, Baba builds an orphanage, which appears to be a simple act of charity. But as Rahim Khan explains, Baba built the orphanage to make up for the guilt he felt for not being able to acknowledge Hassan as his son. Baba’s hesitation to reveal his emotions causes Amir to feel that he never knows Baba completely, alienating Amir from Baba while Amir is growing up.
The move to America is very difficult for Baba, who is used to being wealthy and well-respected in his community. He goes from having wealth and a position of power to working a low-paying job at a gas station and living modestly. Yet his relationship with Amir improves. Baba, as Rahim Khan explains in his note, felt guilty over his rich, privileged life because Hassan was not able to share in it. When he no longer has his wealth, his guilt diminishes, and with Hassan not around, he is not straining uncomfortably to act one way with Amir and another with Hassan. As a result, he is able to open up more with Amir, and the two grow much closer in Baba’s final years. Despite the fact that he lost everything he had as a refugee, he dies genuinely happy, feeling proud of Amir and perhaps happy that he was able to build the relationship he always wanted with at least one of his sons.