Katherine Boo

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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  • Features 17 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
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Behind the Beautiful Forevers Major Character Analysis

Abdul Husain

Abdul is arguably one of the hardest workers in Annawadi, rising with the sun and working long past sunset on his recycling business. Since his father is unable to work due to poor health conditions, Abdul supports his family of eleven. For Abdul, hard work is enough to get ahead. He discourages Sunil and other road boys from stealing, and after his stint in Dongri prison, refuses to purchase any recycling that may have been stolen.

Abdul serves as a moral compass for this book. By keeping his head down and working hard, Abdul has brought the Husains a measure of prosperity. However, he learns that this can vanish in a second. When Fatima sets herself on fire, Abdul goes from being a prosperous recycler to a prisoner. In his absence, the family business suffers and the Husains find themselves in a pattern of “earn-to-eat.” During his time in prison, Abdul comes across a man called The Master, who inspires him to live a purer life. Abdul sees himself as “ice” – made of the same essential components as the other residents of Annawadi but somehow rising to a better state.

Asha Waghekar

Asha, who for much of the book aspires to be the slumlord of Annawadi, is determined to rise above her situation, even if this is done at the expense of standing on others. She fawns over local politicians like the Corporator, who she believes can make her prosperous, and attempts any get-rich-quick scheme she encounters. She is callous about her neighbors, many of whom come to her for help; she turns the illiterate Greeta and her children onto the streets, and refuses to help Mr. Kamble secure a government loan for a heart operation (although this means he later dies). She leaves the family hut to visit with any number of male companions, trading sexual favors for influence – and is unashamed, although her husband and children witness these actions. She also has no difficulty taking government funds for a school she does not run, and for students who are not being educated. Stepping over others allows Asha…

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