Born a Crime

by

Trevor Noah

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Trevor’s Father / Robert Character Analysis

Trevor’s reclusive father, a Swiss expatriate and restauranteur with a disdain for apartheid who opened (and closed) one of South Africa’s first integrated restaurants, then illegally lent Patricia a room in a white area of Johannesburg and agreed to give her the baby she wanted. For years, Trevor can only visit him in private, usually on Sundays, when they eat the same German meal and have occasional conversations (but mostly just share silence). When Trevor is 13, Robert moves to Cape Town and becomes incredibly difficult to track down—years later, well into his career, Trevor manages to get in touch with Robert and visit him. Robert is reluctant to share much about his life or past, but is incredibly proud of Trevor’s accomplishments, which he demonstrates by pulling out a scrapbook with clippings of every single show and media appearance Trevor has ever done.

Trevor’s Father / Robert Quotes in Born a Crime

The Born a Crime quotes below are all either spoken by Trevor’s Father / Robert or refer to Trevor’s Father / Robert. 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 2 Quotes

In any society built on institutionalized racism, race-mixing doesn't merely challenge the system as unjust, it reveals the system as unsustainable and incoherent. Race-mixing proves that races can mix—and in a lot of cases, want to mix. Because a mixed person embodies that rebuke to the logic of the system, race-mixing becomes a crime worse than treason.

Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

As a kid I understood that people were different colors, but in my head white and black and brown were like types of chocolate. Dad was the white chocolate, mom was the dark chocolate, and I was the milk chocolate. But we were all just chocolate. I didn't know any of it had anything to do with “race.” I didn't know what race was. My mother never referred to my dad as white or to me as mixed. So when the other kids in Soweto called me “white,” even though I was light brown, I just thought they had their colors mixed up, like they hadn't learned them properly. “Ah, yes, my friend. You've confused aqua with turquoise. I can see how you made that mistake. You're not the first.”

Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

While I was eating he got up and went and picked up this book, an oversized photo album, and brought it back to the table. “I've been following you,” he said, and he opened it up. It was a scrapbook of everything I had ever done, every time my name was mentioned in a newspaper, everything from magazine covers to the tiniest club listings, from the beginning of my career all the way through to that week. He was smiling so big as he took me through it, looking at the headlines. “Trevor Noah Appearing This Saturday at the Blues Room.” “Trevor Noah Hosting New TV Show.”

I felt a flood of emotions rushing through me. It was everything I could do not to start crying. It felt like this ten-year gap in my life closed right up in an instant, like only a day had passed since I'd last seen him. For years I'd had so many questions. Is he thinking about me? Does he know what I'm doing? Is he proud of me? But he'd been with me the whole time. He'd always been proud of me. Circumstance had pulled us apart, but he was never not my father.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker), Trevor’s Father / Robert
Page Number: 109-110
Explanation and Analysis:
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Trevor’s Father / Robert Character Timeline in Born a Crime

The timeline below shows where the character Trevor’s Father / Robert appears in Born a Crime. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
The chapter begins. Noah’s family is mixed: his mother is a black Xhosa woman, and his father is a Swiss/German man. Race-mixing is “one of the worst crimes you could commit” during... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...pass for a maid and advise her to rent a room from a “German fellow” (Robert) who does not much care about the laws. Still, Patricia is arrested over and over... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...who is a police informant. Patricia starts spending more time with the trustworthy Swiss man (Robert) who leased her the apartment and eventually asks him to give her a child—not to... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
The doctors are confused, but Patricia just says Trevor’s father is from Swaziland—this is enough to fill out the birth certificate, even though she is... (full context)
Chapter 3
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
This woman-centric household is the norm in Soweto: whereas Trevor is merely estranged from his father because of race, other children’s fathers are either imprisoned, fighting apartheid from abroad, or working... (full context)
Chapter 4
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
...mom teaches him Zulu (which is closely related to Xhosa), German (which she speaks with his father ), Afrikaans (which she learned “because it is useful to know the language of your... (full context)
Chapter 8
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...following story: one day, at the age of 24, Trevor’s mother tells him to find his father . It has been more than ten years; Trevor assumes he will never see his... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
...and works as a chef. When they knew each other before, Trevor always called him “Robert,” not “dad,” because of the risk of their being found out. (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Trevor does know that Robert is “very Swiss, clean and particular and precise,” living “in his own world” and uninterested... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Robert then moves to the integrated neighborhood of Yeoville, where he lives an “extremely frugal” life... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...be a controlling alcoholic and does not want Trevor and Patricia having any contact with Robert. Trevor stays busy and starts his comedy career, but always wonders about his father. It... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Robert is not in the phone book, so Trevor checks with acquaintances and then the Swiss... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...the door, and they have the same Sunday lunch they used to share years before. Robert pulls out a photo album: it is “a scrapbook of everything [Trevor] had ever done,”... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...facts, and “relationships are built in the silences.” When he tries to interview his father, Robert gets defensive and accuses Trevor of “interrogating” him; they decide to spend time together instead,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...a few hearts 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... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...all Sunday at church (but she goes by minibus, anyway). Trevor can no longer see his father , either. (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...who increasingly hates him and sees him as a reminder of Patricia’s old relationship with Robert. Soon, Patricia and Abel move to separate bedrooms, and Trevor is counting the years until... (full context)