And the Mountains Echoed

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Baba Jan / The Commander / Commander Sahib Character Analysis

An unnamed character, and one of the antagonists of Chapter Seven of And the Mountains Echoed, The Commander is a powerful, intimidating leader, about whom we know very little, since he’s seen entirely from the perspective of his young, adoring son, Adel. As the chapter unfolds, it becomes clear that The Commander is a dangerous military leader, as well as a criminal. He steals land from Iqbal and Gholam, and then manipulates the justice system to keep his property. While it’s not clear exactly what The Commander’s crimes are, we can deduce from the constant presence of guns in his followers’ hands that he’s a very dangerous person.

Baba Jan / The Commander / Commander Sahib Quotes in And the Mountains Echoed

The And the Mountains Echoed quotes below are all either spoken by Baba Jan / The Commander / Commander Sahib or refer to Baba Jan / The Commander / Commander Sahib . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Riverhead Books edition of And the Mountains Echoed published in 2014.
Chapter 7 Quotes

“My father is not a thief!” Adel shot back. “Ask anyone in Shadbagh-e-Nau, ask them what he’s done for this town.” He thought of how Baba jan received people at the town mosque, reclined on the floor, teacup before him, prayer beads in hand. A solemn line of people, stretching from his cushion to the front entrance, men with muddy hands, toothless old women, young widows with children, every one of them in need, each waiting for his or her turn to ask for a favor, a job, a small loan to repair a roof or an irrigation ditch or buy milk formula.

Related Characters: Adel (speaker), Baba Jan / The Commander / Commander Sahib , Gholam
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, we meet Adel, a young, idealistic boy who hero-worships his father, "The Commander." Although it's never explicitly stated, we get the sense that Adel's father isn't such a good man--in fact, he's probably a member of the Taliban, a fundamentalist, terrorist group that hurts and oppresses innocent people. The reason that Adel thinks of his father as a "good man" is that The Commander makes a point of granting special favors to the people of his community--he uses his wealth and prestige to make his neighbors loyal to him. As far as Adel is concerned, The Commander's actions are good and generous--but we can tell that they're just the opposite: selfish and calculating.

The passage brings up an interesting point: is generosity "good" if it's designed to make an evil person more influential in his community? The Commander may be an evil person, but he's still using his money to give jobs and repair roofs, after all. Perhaps there's no simple way of answering the question: as the div said in Chapter One, there's no real difference between cruelty and benevolence.

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Adel knew he would not love his father again as he had before, when he would sleep happily curled in the bay of his thick arms. That was inconceivable now. But he would learn to love him again even if now it was a different, more complicated, messier business. Adel could almost feel himself leapfrogging over childhood. Soon, he would land as an adult. And when he did, there would be no going back because adulthood was akin to what his father had once said about being a war hero: once you became one, you died one.

Related Characters: Adel (speaker), Baba Jan / The Commander / Commander Sahib
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Adel finds out the truth about his father: his father is a dangerous, violent man who's caused the deaths of innocent people. The boundless, worshipful love that Adel feels for his father evaporates the instant he learns the truth--and in the process, Adel senses that he's become an adult. As Adel sees is, childhood is defined by unconditional love, like the love he felt for his father (or, we might add, the love that Abdullah felt for Pari). Adulthood, by contrast, is defined by a cautious, cynical, self-deluding love. The only way that Adel can continue to love his father is to lie to himself, just as Adel's mother seems to lie to herself. In short, the passage paints a deeply cynical portrait of adult life: it's only possible to truly love people when you're too young and naive to know the truth about them--the second you learn the facts, you love in a "messier" way and become an adult.

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Baba Jan / The Commander / Commander Sahib Character Timeline in And the Mountains Echoed

The timeline below shows where the character Baba Jan / The Commander / Commander Sahib appears in And the Mountains Echoed. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Family Theme Icon
Power and Wealth Theme Icon
...Adel, Malalai, and many others are standing outside, listening to a speech from Adel’s father, Baba jan . Baba jan has built a school for young Afghani women, and this is the... (full context)
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Power and Wealth Theme Icon
Adel thinks about his relationship with his father, Baba jan . As a younger man, Baba jan fought against the Russians during their war in... (full context)
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Power and Wealth Theme Icon
The opening ceremony draws to a close, and Baba jan motions for Adel to accompany him to his car. An old man, accompanied by a... (full context)
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...remembers growing up in the larger city of Kabul. When he was still very young, Baba jan moved Adel and Baba jan’s wife to Shadbagh, where they still live. Baba jan and... (full context)
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
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Power and Wealth Theme Icon
Later in the evening, Baba jan has left for Helmand. The old man who stopped Baba jan earlier in the day... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
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Power and Wealth Theme Icon
A few days after Baba jan leaves for Helmand, Adel walks into his parents’ bedroom. There he finds his stepmother (whom... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
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Power and Wealth Theme Icon
...sees a young boy—the same boy who was standing with the old man who accosted Baba jan . Adel asks the boy what he’s doing there, and the boy explains that he’s... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Power and Wealth Theme Icon
...mentions that Adel’s father has many enemies. Adel has heard this from his own father: Baba jan told him that many of the same people who fought alongside him against the Russians... (full context)
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Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
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...can’t believe this is the truth. He accuses Gholam of lying, and tells him that Baba jan is a great, generous man. Gholam continues, talking about how horrible his family members felt... (full context)
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
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...cotton field in Helmand. His stepmother says that she’s never even been to Helmand, since Baba jan says it’s unsafe to stay there. (full context)
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
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Power and Wealth Theme Icon
A few days after Adel’s talk with Gholam, Baba jan returns to Shadbagh. Adel is overjoyed to see him, though he can’t stop thinking about... (full context)
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
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...he finds a story about an “Assassination Attempt” on his father. The story explains that Baba jan tried bravely to protect his wife and child from a dangerous assassin with ties to... (full context)