Born a Crime

by

Trevor Noah

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Abel is Trevor’s abusive alcoholic stepfather, Andrew’s biological father, and Patricia’s husband. From Trevor’s childhood onwards, when he and his mother bring their Volkswagen in for repairs, the auto mechanic Abel is a constant fixture in their lives. In Eden Park, Abel once beats up a colored kid who is bullying Trevor and then threatens to kill the man’s father, which makes Trevor realize that Abel is genuinely dangerous; Trevor eventually moves out of the house to get away from Abel, who has started viciously beating both Trevor and Patricia. Every time, Abel apologizes profusely after, convincing the family to take him back. He is also beloved by the community and goes out of his way to help those in need—the family feels caught between his outward and inward selves. Patricia sells the family’s house and quits her job to try and help Abel fix his garage business, but he drinks away their profits. Eventually, Patricia moves to a shed in the backyard to get away from Abel, but she is afraid to leave because she thinks he might kill her. Ultimately, she meets someone else and does leave—and then Abel tries to kill her by shooting her in the head. Miraculously, she survives, but Abel turns himself in and gets off with no prison time. The police had never taken Patricia seriously when she reported the previous beatings, so Abel had no criminal record, and he convinced the court he needed to be free to support his children (even though they were completely dependent on Patricia’s salary). Abel’s constant violence and professional failure reflect the endemic problems that threatened black South African communities after apartheid. Abel is furious because he feels powerless and emasculated, unable to make a decent living because he has never learned how to run a business and obsessed with “controlling” his wife in order to prove his masculinity in a world that denies him any sense of honor.

Abel Quotes in Born a Crime

The Born a Crime quotes below are all either spoken by Abel or refer to Abel. 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:
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Born a Crime published in 2016.
Chapter 7 Quotes

Fufi was my first heartbreak. No one has ever betrayed me more than Fufi. It was a valuable lesson to me. The hard thing was understanding that Fufi wasn’t cheating on me with another boy. She was merely living her life to the fullest. Until I knew that she was going out on her own during the day, her other relationship hadn't affected me at all. Fufi had no malicious intent.

I believed that Fufi was my dog but of course that wasn't true. Fufi was a dog. I was a boy. We got along well. She happened to live in my house. That experience shaped what I've felt about relationships for the rest of my life: You do not own the thing that you love.

Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

“I know you see me as some crazy old bitch nagging at you,” she said, “but you forget the reason I ride you so hard and give you so much shit is because I love you. Everything I have ever done I've done from a place of love. If I don't punish you, the world will punish you even worse. The world doesn't love you. If the police get you, the police don't love you. When I beat you, I'm trying to save you. When they beat you, they're trying to kill you.”

Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

I grew up in a world of violence, but I myself was never violent at all. Yes, I played pranks and set fires and broke windows, but I never attacked people. I never hit anyone. I was never angry. I just didn't see myself that way. My mother had exposed me to a different world than the one she grew up in. She bought me the books she never got to read. She took me to the schools that she never got to go to. I immersed myself in those worlds and I came back looking at the world a different way. I saw that not all families are violent. I saw the futility of violence, the cycle that just repeats itself, the damage that's inflicted on people that they in turn inflict on others.

I saw, more than anything, that relationships are not sustained by violence but by love. Love is a creative act. When you love someone you create a new world for them. My mother did that for me, and with the progress I made and the things I learned, I came back and created a new world and a new understanding for her. After that, she never raised her hand to her children again. Unfortunately, by the time she stopped, Abel had started.

Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:
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Born a Crime PDF

Abel Character Timeline in Born a Crime

The timeline below shows where the character Abel appears in Born a Crime. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Patricia starts dating Abel when Trevor is about six years old. Abel is renting out a white family’s garage,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...moves away to Cape Town by the time Trevor is 13. Patricia has since married Abel, who turns out to be a controlling alcoholic and does not want Trevor and Patricia... (full context)
Chapter 9
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Abel comes over soon thereafter—he has not been violent with Trevor or his mother yet, but... (full context)
Chapter 14
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...girlfriend. But with the dance nearing, he begins to worry. For one, he lacks a car—Abel agrees to loan him one that he is fixing up, and then, after Babiki comes... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
On “the big night,” Trevor goes to get the BMW keys from Abel, who is completely drunk. First, Abel makes Trevor buy him beer; then, he refuses to... (full context)
Chapter 16
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
After high school, Trevor moves out of the house with his mother’s encouragement because Abel is too “toxic.” Trevor needs to make money to afford university tuition, so he decides... (full context)
Chapter 17
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...suburbs and knows he and Sizwe can make a profit. So he steals one of Abel’s junk cars, as he has been doing for years, and summarily gets pulled over. Cops... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...into his cell and “everyone was terrified.” But the man is speaking Tsonga—the same language Abel speaks—and the guard is speaking Zulu, so Trevor steps in to translate and immediately wins... (full context)
Chapter 18
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...in her day,” but Trevor only ever knew of her being with his father and Abel. They meet Abel when bringing their Volkswagen to the repair shop. “Handsome, but [not] good-looking,”... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
When Trevor’s mother announces that she is planning to marry Abel, Trevor immediately says it is a bad idea because “there’s just something not right about... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
After Andrew’s birth, Abel increasingly tries to “impose his ideas of what he thought his family should be,” although... (full context)
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Patricia makes Abel stop smoking weed when they get married, and he starts drinking instead, usually starting at... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
...police tell Patricia to calm down and think over it before flat-out refusing to charge Abel, who soon shows up. The cops reassure him that everything will be fine, that they... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Abel is an excellent mechanic, and Patricia sincerely wants him to succeed. They buy the company... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Trevor realizes the problem: Abel is buying auto parts on credit, with “a crazy markup,” and drinking any profits he... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Just as Patricia stops physically disciplining the children, Abel starts hitting them instead. This first happens to Trevor in the sixth grade. He gets... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
After the business fails, Patricia legally divorces Abel in order to save her credit, but they stay together. Abel continues fixing cars, now... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Abel is unrecognizable when drunk, nothing like his usual self—he once pees on Trevor’s floor, thinking... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
One day after school, Trevor’s mom tells him that Abel has bought a gun because “he thinks he’s the policeman of the world.” Trevor soon... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...entirely stops visiting, but one day when he does, there are police cars out front. Abel has hit Patricia with a bicycle—but the cops are friends of his, and again they... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...he calls Andrew again. Andrew explains what happened: when the family got home from church, Abel was waiting with his gun; he shot Patricia in the leg, and then in the... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Andrew tells Trevor the story in more detail: Abel drunkenly insisted that he would kill the whole family, which had “stolen [his] life” and... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Andrew does not know what has happened to Abel. Trevor decides to call him, and he picks up. Trevor yells that he “killed my... (full context)
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...Trevor visits Patricia, who seems “frail and weak.” He wonders why he did not kill Abel himself years before and feels “angry at God” for letting this happen to Patricia despite... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...explains that the family later manages to “piece the whole story together.” After shooting Patricia, Abel takes his frightened four-year-old son Isaac to a family friend’s house. On the way, he... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Astonishingly, Abel manages to get bail and is free again in a month. Because none of the... (full context)
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...then there is Patricia’s side of the story. When she is on the ground and Abel is pointing the gun at her, she prays—and, inexplicably, the gun misfires four times. The... (full context)