Chapter twenty-two represents a kind of purgatory for the main protagonist, Amir, within the novel. It can be argued that this chapter represents the cyclic nature of the novel, in the repetition of events. Hosseini manipulates Amir into nervous action; seemingly casual movements that delineate the fear, and in some respects the anticipation, that Amir experiences lying in wait for the ‘Talib’, visible within short sentences, for instance in ‘I crossed my legs. Uncrossed them;. In these lines, Amir’s inner tension is evident.
Amir’s isolation within the house is emphasised by his self-absorption, the way in which he studies the objects surrounding him. One such object that is described by Hosseini is the coffee table; on which are ‘walnut sized brass balls’, this depiction takes the reader back to the beginning of the novel, where in chapter 2 Hassan and Amir fired ‘mulberries and walnuts’, Hosseini uses symbolism to remind the reader of the friendship Amir once shared with Hassan in the house, which was ripped away by Assef, foreshadowing his return in chapter 22.
The alliteration of ‘brass balls’ again takes the reader back to Amir’s childhood as Hosseini described Assef’s appearance as ‘stainless-steel, brass knuckles’ creating elements of fear. This fear is still there as Amir has avoided a confrontation as a child and the cause of his guilt, Amir now has the chance to redeem himself, throughout this part of the chapter Hosseini uses the sacrificial lamb imagery that he used when describing Hassan’s rape Through Amir, Hosseini explores the Talib’s appearance in comparison to the other occupants of the room.
In terms of colouring, he is labelled as “much paler” than the other two men, and so different in origin. This seems to be a re-occurring theme throughout, this differences of culture and beliefs. His clothing is also depicted; by Amir in finding fascination in bloodstains left by participation in the stoning, the blood on this stark white clothing could have connotations of butchery and the rape of Hassan. The Talib’s dialogue reinforces the visibility of a vicious nature, so viewed in previous chapters (i.e. public stoning), in the recounting of achievements ‘We’d shoot them right there in front of their families’ massacring Hazaras.
Upon meeting Sohrab, Amir comments on the similarities between father and son, referring to Sohrab’s facial structure as the “Chinese doll face of my childhood” in reference to Hassan. Sohrab’s features act as a physical reminder of what Hassan experienced earlier in the novel. This is reflected in the Talib’s identity; Assef. It is almost fitting that in a country broken in pieces, he has come to a position of power, Assef himself becomes a later characterisation of Hitler, ‘doing God’s work’. This helps to associate the Taliban’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ with the Holocaust, re-enforcing the Assef is an evil man that hasn’t changed since he was a child, emphasised by his paedophilia.
There is symmetry in the way that Amir receives the beating, a relation to Assef in it. As Assef laughed during his own in passing a painful kidney stone, so Amir laughs in his pain. He finally collects his due, and in doing so expels his guilt and inner turmoil. The circle is completed when he is rescued from death by Sohrab, releases a slingshot containing one of the brass balls into Assef’s eye, in an action that almost replicates his father’s, Hassan’s, decades before. In protecting Sorab, Amir also saves himself, ‘for the first time since the winter of 1975, I felt at peace’, It seems that Amir has finally found redemption which he has been looking for ever since his childhood, a turning point in the novel The last instance of irony occurs at the climax of the novel in chapter 22 in Amir’s act of redemption.
This act was submitting to Assef’s beating when going to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab from him. A small ironic instance is that Amir is healed emotionally by being wounded and destroyed physically. This shows the supremacy of emotions and the mind over the body in finding joy, as Amir is immensely relieved in his pain. The more important example was that Amir finally is the man Baba desired him to be after Baba’s death, when he no longer is obsessed with pleasing his father and making him proud.
By the time he finally earned Baba’s respect and pride, Baba couldn’t see it. This is vital because it shows that Amir’s motives were pure. There was no glory as a result of his heroic actions and his father wouldn’t know. Because of his pure motives, he was able to be a true hero and the man he had been seeking to become. No progress can be made or no character built and strengthened when the driving motive behind the actions is glory.. Amir is forever changed from this action he takes to save Sohrab and humbly take Assef’s beating.
Courtney from Study Moose
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