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Character Analysis

This guy takes some serious abuse in the novel. First off, Baba has an affair with Ali's wife and fathers Hassan. Then, Amir forces Ali and Hassan to leave Baba's house. Finally, in the random violence now so common in war, Ali steps on a land mine and dies. However, like Hassan and Sohrab, Ali is a kind and good person. He has a beautiful voice and Amir and Hassan love to hear him sing. He remains faithful to Baba even though Baba dishonored Ali by sleeping with Sanaubar. Ali is also devout – his humble, constant faith perhaps influences Amir's own religious awakening later in the novel (see Themes: Religion for more).

We also want to say a word about appearances. Here are some early description's of Ali:

[...] Ali had congenital paralysis of his lower face muscles, a condition that rendered him unable to smile and left him perpetually grimfaced. (2.20)

But polio had left Ali with a twisted, atrophied right leg that was sallow skin over bone with little in between except a paper-thin layer of muscle. [...]. I watched him [Ali] swing his scraggy leg in a sweeping arc, watched his whole body tilt impossibly to the right every time he planted that foot. It seemed a minor miracle he didn't tip over with each step. [...]. Ali's face frightened some of the younger children in the neighborhood. [...]. Some had taken to calling him Babalu, or Boogeyman. (2.22)

It's almost as if deformities, in this novel, suggest goodness. Remember how Hassan has a harelip? Also, Soraya has a sickle-shaped birthmark, and Amir picks up a scar on his lip while rescuing Sohrab. We often think of deformities as the calling cards of villains: a hook, a scar, or an eye that twitches. The real boogeymen, the real monsters of this novel, don't have any deformities. Amir, Baba (notice the similarity between Baba and Babalu), and Assef don't have any disfiguring marks. What does this mean? We're not sure – but it's worth noting because Ali is both the scariest-looking and the possibly the kindest character in the book.

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