The Kite Runner is a story about the life of Amir, the narrator who is living in the US, and how his childhood years in Afghanistan shaped his life. As a child, his father tells him that a child who cannot stand up for himself grows into a man who does not stand for anything. His history continues to affect his life for the rest of the novel, and he keeps reflecting back in a recurring motif. Amir grew up with his friend Hassan.
They spent a lot of time together playing, reading stories and were close. The story mainly revolves around the theme of betrayal and loyalty between Amir and Hassan. Hassan is the son of Ali, a servant of Baba. Baba was very rich and lived in a posh house in Kabul, Afghanistan. Ali and his son lived in the servant quarters. Baba and Ali similarly grew up together and were very close. The relationship between the two protagonists who grew up together in Kabul, define the rest of the novel.
This essay explicates the concept of betrayal, and its implications on the lives of the characters.
Hassan, who considered Amir a close friend, was very loyal. This is seen from the beginning of the novel where they use a slingshot to shoot walnuts at the neighbor’s dog. Even though these were Amir’s ideas, Hassan never gives him up when they are caught. He stood up for Amir when Assef wanted to beat him for having a Hazara friend. Another instance is when he refuses to handover Amir’s kite to Assef and his friends even though he was out numbered. To him, he would rather be bitten up than give up his friend’s kite. His loyalty is again depicted when he chooses to admit to stealing Amir’s birthday presents even though he had seen Amir place them under his mattress. In spite of his awareness on how grave Baba perceived stealing, he still went ahead and confessed, choosing not to give up Amir. Baba believed that stealing was the only sin; the rest were just variations.
Hassan’s choice to never betray Amir regardless of the situation had its own share of consequences. Firstly, although the narrator does not tell us what would happen when they were caught shooting walnuts at the dog belonging to their neighbor, by revealing that Hassan never gave him up, he intimates that both of them would be subject to punishment. Secondly, when he stands up for Amir when Assef wanted to hit him for being a Hazara, he risked being beaten up. He knew that he was a bully and a tribalist but still stood up for his friend. Thirdly, he was beaten and even raped for refusing to give up the kite in spite of Assef’s warning that Amir would not do the same for him. Fourthly, by admitting that he had stolen Amir’s kite, which was not the case, he would have been punished not only by his father, but also by Baba.
The fact that Hassan was Baba’s son too, presents another twist to the story. Baba had slept with Ali’s wife, even though they were friends and had even grown up together. The guilt that he feels ends up affecting the way he treated his son, Amir. He was unable to openly show his love for Hassan and ended up taking it out on Amir. He did not realize the impact of his actions on his son. When Amir wrote his first story, he had hoped that his father would read it and maybe like it. He, however, did not even pay attention. It is Rahim Kahn, his father’s friend who read his story and told him that he had talent in writing. The narrator says that at that moment, he wished that Kahn was his dad. Amir worked very hard to please his dad. He had hoped that by winning the kite contest he would finally make him proud, which he accomplished. Ironically, although Amir was trying very hard to be like his father, he actually was. Both of them betrayed their closest friends.
In spite of Hassan always standing up for him, Amir betrayed him most of the time. While Assef was raping Hassan in the alley, he speechlessly watched and ran away instead of helping him. His failure to act when Hassan was being raped affected him for the rest of his life. He felt guilty and tried to redeem himself by provoking him to beat him. This is depicted when he throws pomegranates at Hassan in order to upset him. When this failed, he felt guiltier and even decided to get rid of him. He places his birthday gifts beneath Hassan’s mattress and accused him of stealing them.
In this story, those who were loyal kept their peace of mind while those who betrayed them had to live with guilt and struggled to seek redemption for most if not all of their lives. Baba, after betraying his friend Ali, lived with guilt for the rest of his life. He did everything he could to get redemption such as building an orphanage, feeding the poor and even paid for Hassan’s lip surgery. His guilt was even made worse by the fact that he bore a child with his friend’s wife. Amir too, was haunted by guilt until he found redemption. Ever since he let Assef rape Hassan, he tried everything that would give him redemption but it made it worse. In the end, he finds redemption in Sohrab, Hassan’s son. He met Assef once again when he had gone to take Sohrab but this time he stood up to him. The pain of the punches relieved him off his guilt and pain – a burden that had been haunting him all his life. It is what he should have done the first time when Assef attacked Hassan. Just like in Hassan, Sohrab aimed his slingshot at Assef to stop him from hitting Amir anymore. He takes him with him to the US and flies a kite with him. This time, he runs the kite; like Sohrab’s father used to do for him.