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The feeling of guilt can cause turmoil in one’s self, and is also an important factor to
development in one’s character. In the book, The Kite Runner, the character Amir goes through
many obstacles with his childhood companion Hassan. Their hardships challenge one another’s
loyalty, uncovering new revelations, hidden in the dark. Amir’s character drastically changes as he
witnesses something which causes uncertainty and regret to grow from seeds, manifesting in his
These growing emotions cause him to drive Hassan out of their home.
Years go by and Baba
sadly passes away. Though Baba is no longer alive, Amir finds out he is no longer the man he
thought of him to be, as he returns to Kabul. Amir meets with Baba’s friend Rahim Khan, and as
they talk, many accounts of betrayal are retold and there, Amir begins his quest to redeem himself
from his sins. In the book, The Kite Runner, it is evident that guilt has the ability to haunt one’s life.
This is shown as Amir is haunted by Hassan’s assault, Baba’s life of atonement for his sin, and guilt
heavily weighs down on Amir as he feels guilty for his overall existence.
Amir’s cowardice and inability to stand up for himself and anybody else allows a shocking
situation to arise. As Amir and Hassan defeat the last kite flier, Hassan runs the last kite for Amir.
Running after him, Amir finds Hassan getting raped by Assef.
Frozen in place he witnesses the
Then finally coming to his senses, Amir runs away, afraid of what Assef would do to him if he intervened. Later in the night, Hassan silently brings back the kite. Amir acts as if he had
not seen anything, and continues to remain silent about the problem, with guilt tugging on his heart for years on end. A week later in his uncle’s estate in Jalalabad, Amir expresses his uneasiness about what happened to Hassan as he says,
An hour later, I still couldn’t sleep. I kept tossing and turning as my relatives grunted, sighed,
and snored in their sleep. I sat up. A wedge of moonlight streamed in through the window. ‘I watched Hassan get raped,’ I said to no one. Baba stirred in his sleep. Kaka Homayoun
grunted. A part of me was hoping someone would wake up and hear, so I wouldn’t have to live
with this lie anymore. But no one woke up and in the silence that followed, I understood the
nature of my new curse: I was going to get away with it. (Hosseini 91).
Amir realizes the weight of his burden, and shows great anxiety about it. He indicates how he
cannot fall asleep as flashbacks from that night keeps replaying in his head. When Amir discloses
that he watched Hassan get raped, aloud, it reveals how the secret is too much for Amir to bear
alone as he yearns for someone else to hear him so he would not have to endure the guilt alone.
Using a metaphor, Amir compares how this secret of his is dreadful and powerful like a curse, and
just like a curse, his guilt is invisible, but torments him in every way as he is going to get away with
his sin. For this reason, Amir begins his quest for redemption later, as an adult.
Amir travels to Peshawar where Rahim Khan reveals shocking information to Amir and guides him
through redemption. As it turns out, Hassan and his family lived with Rahim Khan in Baba’s large
house, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of Rahim as they find out that Baba has passed away, and
Hassan believes in paying his respects by taking care of his belongings.
As Rahim Khan retells the story to Amir, Amir is informed of Hassan’s cruel death, which unlock the reality of his cowardice during his old friend’s rape, renews his feeling of guilt and a new sense of agony floods Amir. His distress is clearly shown as he recalls Hassan’s name, ‘Hassan,’ I said. When was the last time I had spoken his name?
Those thorny old barbs of guilt bore into me once more, as if speaking his name had broken a spell, set them free to torment me anew.” (Hosseini 212) Amir states that he has not spoken of Hassan in a very long time, but doing so has unleashed his feelings of regret and remorse that had slipped from his memory overtime. He describes speaking Hassan’s name makes it feel as though thorny barbs of guilt strangles him.
The thorny barbs of guilt symbolize how his guilt has taken the form of a sharp object which opens old wounds or memories and fills them with shame. He also emphasises how bad it hurts to speak of Hassan as he believes his name breaks a spell which frees the barbs of guilt causing Amir more pain. Throughout the years of his childhood, Amir has betrayed Hassan in many ways, causing guilt to carry on into his adulthood, similar to Baba.
Baba’s wrongdoings during his young adulthood, causes him to live the rest his life, atoning
for his sins. Baba is a big man of many morals. He strongly believes in charity and doing good to
others, however, Baba is only so honourable as he considers doing good deeds will redeem him
from his greatest sin, his betrayal to Ali, whom he sees as a brother and also to his sons. The core of
Baba’s guilt begins when he sleeps with Ali’s wife and impregnates her with Hassan.
Baba’s betrayal to Ali resonates deep in his soul as he not only sleeps with her, but gives her a child that Ali could not biologically give. As Baba’s honour has to be protected, Hassan is given to Ali to raise as his own son. Amir and Hassan grow up without being told that they are half brothers and in the end, Baba burys the secret with him in the grave with only Rahim Khan left to reveal the truth. Baba’s actions completely goes against his moral as he believes theft is the greatest sin.
He explains, “When you kill a man, you steal a life, You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?!” (Hosseini 19). His predicament is completely ironic as he sees theft to be the greatest sin, yet he steals the right from Amir and Hassan to know that they are brothers, which in turn causes many more problems such as Amir’s mistreatment to Hassan. As Baba agrees for Ali to raise Hassan as his own, Hassan’s right to know his biological father is taken.
Furthermore, in the quote, the words “steal”, and “right” are repeated many times. This is to
emphasise the correlation between how stealing can affect a person’s right to many things. As a
result of his offence, Baba spends the rest of his life atoning for his sin. Throughout the story, Baba
is always described in a heroic way and Amir always sees him as a strong, determined man. Even looking past Baba’s wretched actions, Rahim Khan still respects him as he explains to Amir, “This
is what I want you to understand, that good, real good, was born out of your father’s remorse.
Sometimes, I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need it was all his way of redeeming himself.” (Hosseini 316). Rahim Khan describes how guilt affected Baba so severely, that he dedicated himself to doing good deeds such as charity work and looking at life in a positive aspect to make up for betraying Ali and his children. Baba directs his guilt towards a good cause unlike Amir, who took his own guilt out on Hassan and himself.
To Amir, his very existence is something he should be guilty of. As he feels like a constant
disappointment to Baba, Amir wonders if the fact that his mother died giving birth to him is
something his father holds against him. To add on, although Amir tries to live up to his father’s
expectations, baba never seems pleased.
I watched him fill his glass at the bar and wondered how much time would pass before we
talked again the way we just had. Because the truth of it was, I always felt like Baba hated me
a little. And why not? After all, I had killed his beloved wife, his beautiful princess, hadn’t I?
The least I could have done was to have had the decency to have turned out a little more like
him. But I hadn’t turned out like him. Not at all. (Hosseini 20)
Amir expresses his guilt as he describes how he feels Baba hates him because his existence caused
the death of his wife, Amir’s mother. He also states how even as he killed his own mother, he cannot become the son Baba wanted him to be, rendering him a disappointment. Amir’s character is also constantly being compared to Hassan. This supports how Amir is a let down to Baba since he is so timid, and does not stand up for himself. Instead, Hassan the lowly, Hazara servant is the one that constantly stands up for Amir.
‘Self-defense has nothing to do with meanness. You know what always happens when the
neighborhood boys tease him? Hassan steps in and fends them off. I’ve seen it with my own
eyes. And when they come home, I say to him, ‘How did Hassan get that scrape on his face?’
And he says, ‘He fell down.’ I’m telling you, Rahim, there is something missing in that boy.’
“You just need to let him find his way,’ Rahim Khan said. “And where is he headed?’ Baba
said. “A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.’
Baba uses Hassan as an example to contrast against Amir’s weak character. Hassan gets beat up
from protecting Amir, yet Amir lies to Baba about where his injuries come from. This is an example
of how Amir’s life is filled with guilt as his personality does not align with his father’s expectations,
despite how much he tries to become a perfect son.
Guilt plays an important role in deciding how one lives their life. Amir lives life with
Hassan’s assault in the back of his mind, Baba’s life orbits around the quest for redemption, and
Amir’s whole reality is made up of guilt. After witnessing Hassan’s rape, Amir stays silent about it
causing him to live his life full of shame. Baba’s betrayal to Ali, Hassan and Amir is exactly what he
considers the greatest sin of all, and Amir’s guilt stems from his birth which killed his mother and
how he is not good enough for Baba, as a son. In conclusion, although guilt can cause one to feel
terrible, redemption from guilt helps to develop one’s character.
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