Aarav DubeyMrs. Bernier
Honors English 1/ Period 4
26 April 2018
The Remedy of Redemption; Amir’s character transformation in The Kite Runner
Too often, storybook heroes are constrained by the need to be a surrogate for the audience or live up to a false ideal of a morally just person. This makes for characters that are quite bland and predictable. In The Kite Runner, however, Khaled Hosseini presents a protagonist free from these cliche chains, a rich Afghan boy named Amir. Amir is a young and privileged boy who goes on a journey to earn forgiveness for the passiveness he showed towards his best friend Hassan. He, like most humans, makes regrettable life decisions. While mistakes often provide the best opportunities for character development, Amir learns, as the novel progresses, that it is equally important to learn to forgive oneself and strive towards redemption rather than dwelling upon the guilt from past decisions. Khaled Hosseini, by freeing Amir from cliche hero standards, allows him to be a character with flaws and shortcomings without a clear understanding of how to deal with these emotions. Hosseini, through the indirect characterization of Amir, reveals that guilt, stemming from frustration and helplessness, can only be redeemed through the endurance of pain; genuine redemption is achieved only through selflessness and a mindset free from prejudice.
Amir’s helplessness in dealing with the disappointment he caused Baba leads to frustration that results in further acts of cruelty and betrayals. Amir grows up with the perception that his father, Baba, “hated him a little” since “he had killed Baba’s beloved wife.” This feeling is amplified by Amir’s inability to have “the decency to have turned out a little more like Baba” (19). Amir lives his entire youth under the delusion that Baba “hates” him. However, Amir has no control over his mother’s death when she gave birth to him, making his situation helpless. The inadequacy of not being more like Baba fuels Amir’s desire to compensate for his shortcomings. However, Amir cannot change the way he is naturally, creating a feeling of frustration in him in not being able to redeem himself. The feeling of being hated by the person he loves the most creates a cruel mentality in Amir’s young mind. Amir takes out the frustration on his loyal friend Hassan. Amir constantly teases Hassan and plays cruel jokes on him by taking advantage of Hassan’s loyalty, generosity and naive nature. Amir describes taunting Hassan as “fascinating … kind of like … playing insect torture … except Hassan is the ant and Amir is holding the magnifying glass” (54). This draws a very cruel metaphor between Amir and Hassan. Saying that Amir is a like little boy with a magnifying glass conveys the strange and childlike glee Amir feels in teasing Hassan. Comparing Hassan to an ant shows how Amir belittles and dehumanizes his friend to achieve a feeling of empowerment. Baba’s lack of affection towards Amir leads to him taking his frustration out on people around him who are loyal and even submissive. When Amir is finally given an opportunity to please Baba and therefore redeem himself in his eyes in a kite-flying tournament, he hastily clings to this thread of hope. However, this desperation leads to him making the most regrettable decision of his life: leaving Hassan behind in the alley while he is being raped. However, Amir believes that “Hassan was the price he has to pay, the lamb he has to slay, to win Baba” (77). Amir’s desperation for redemption leads to him committing a greater sin which he did have control over. Comparing Hassan to a sheep makes him feel passive and helpless. Amir realizes the sin he commits by sacrificing someone else’s welfare, but thinks it is worth it to “win Baba.” However, Amir doesn’t realize that Baba is not something he can “win” and that permanent love comes from genuine feelings, not from materialistic ideas. The desperation for Baba’s temporary love causes Amir to take of his frustration on Hassan and committing the greatest betrayal of his life.
Amir’s journey demonstrates how guilt can physically and psychologically push a person to search for a way to redeem themselves, and how eventual punishment, ironically, is what ends up healing the human conscience and spirit. Amir feels “a pair of steel hands closing around his windpipe at the sound of Hassan’s name” (134). Guilt is an emotion that worsens over time if unaddressed. Amir’s personal guilt of not standing up for Hassan heavily burdens his conscience and consumes his internal judgment and therefore his external actions. Amir experiences the internal conflict of wanting redemption and an overwhelming need to punish himself. This is due to his understanding that it is impossible to ever truly undo what he has done. As a child, Amir tries to provoke Hassan to hit him back so that he could endure physical pain for his wrongdoing and be relieved of his overbearing, suppressed regret. Amir pelts Hassan with pomegranates and “falls to his knees, tired, spent, frustrated” when Hassan just crushes a pomegranate on his own forehead (93).This incident explains how defeated Amir feels when the opportunity of a punishment is quickly turned into an exponentially worse feeling of helplessness. The word “spent” explains the emotional exhaustion is Amir’s mind. The action of “falling to his knees” is a testament to the emotional pain beginning to drain Amir of physical strength. The quest for redemption drives the climactic events of the story when Amir goes back to Kabul to rescue Sohrab. He feels “at peace” when Assef brutally cracks down on Amir (289). Amir reflects upon his childhood memories of Hassan; the physical pain he feels mirrors the mental pain he has gone through since abandoning Hassan as he was being raped by Assef. This physical punishment makes Amir feel clear of this emotional debt he had, due to Hassan’s rape. Amir’s journey is representative of how one must endure physical or emotional pain to come to terms with their own guilt.
Amir finally changes for the better and atones for his sins when he erases the boundaries and limitations through which society labels individuals. A while after learning about how Hassan had become literate, Amir wonders for the “first time what thoughts had passed through Hassan’s head” after realizing how Amir had lied to him and taken advantage of his illiteracy (353). His deep reflection about his past iniquities starts a transformational change in Amir’s personality. He begins to see the people around him as individuals possessing their own ambitions, routines, and worries. This leads to Amir becoming less self-centered and more sensitive about people around him. This selflessness in Amir turns his cowardice as a child into a fuel for doing the right thing in the present. When Amirs observes his friend Wahid’s economic condition he plants money under a mattress at his house when he is “certain absolutely no one is looking” (242).He took this exact same action to get Hassan kicked out of his house. However this time his malicious intents were replaced by a thoughtful concern of a friend. The fact that he makes sure “no one is looking” is a testament that he is taking this action to achieve inner peace and satisfaction, not to please someone else or portray himself as a good person. Performing good deeds without the expectation of a reward is the ultimate testimony for Amir’s unwavering selflessness. After seeing the poverty in Afghanistan, Amir remembers a news headline that stated that “there are many children in Afghanistan but not a lot of childhood” (318). Amir begins to register that all of these deaths and casualties are not simply statistics on news but rather, a representation of entire lifestyles being destroyed. This incident opens his eyes to the atrocities in Afghanistan. He realizes how lucky he had been in comparison to all the lives being destroyed due to the extremely impoverished lifestyle. This is worsened by witnessing how the children had been neglected and left to the streets since everyone was too preoccupied with their own struggles. This makes Amir realize the hypocrisy of his worries about risking his wealth and family in America when”his actions may have cost Hassan a chance at those very same things” and decides to take Sohrab, Hassan’s son, to America along with him (226). Amir takes Sohrab to America so that he can give him what he had taken away from Hassan, a chance at a higher standard of living, free from the condescending labels given to people in Afghanistan. America also gives Sohrab a fair opportunity to learn and grow as a person, an opportunity that was taken away from Hassan due to his social status. Amir’s ultimate redemption is realized when his guilt ultimately leads to righteous acts. Upon being inquired by his father-in-law who is worried about the “community’s perception” of a “Hazara boy”, living with him, Amir firmly asserts, “he has a name and it is Sohrab” (361). Amir had broken the chains that bound people to stereotypes and classes. This incident also draws an acute contract with how he had belittled Hassan by comparing him to an ant. Amir not only treats Sohrab without detriments but also ushers other people around him to abandon the use of such negatively connotated labels. Amir sees beyond these labels that society puts on everyone, and judges people by their actions.
Amir’s burden of guilt and desperate need for redemption were a constant part of his life when he was younger, and clung to him throughout adulthood. Amir, through the course of the novel, has grown from a child unable to deal with the guilt proceeding his actions to a “true Afghan” as Wahid calls him (238). Amir learns from his guilt and moves on while also takes righteous actions. Instead of dwelling on his sins, Amir shows how important it is to move on and right one’s wrongs. Amir is finally redeemed when he disregards the condescending labels that society puts forth. These labels define a person with a few words, slowly chipping away at the sense of self-worth of the victims. Viewing other people without such labels allows Amir to grasp a better understanding of the people around him and demotes the idea of one label becoming a part of another person’s image.