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In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, several major themes arise. One of the most dominant themes is the idea of redemption for past wrongdoings. The protagonist, an Afghani-American named Amir, relays the story of his childhood; through this, one realizes the issues he went through and the events that will come to shape the plot of the novel. Amir seeks redemption for his betrayal of his childhood best friend, Hassan. Because of his cowardice during Hassan’s rape, his betrayal of Hassan after the incident, and his committing of the vilest sin in Afghani culture, Amir must depart on a long and debilitating journey for the ultimate goal of total redemption that will take him back to his violent and war-torn homeland and beyond.
As children, Amir and Hassan were inseparable. The two of them “used to climb the poplar trees in the driveway of [Amir’s] father’s house and annoy our neighbors by reflecting sunlight into their homes with a shard of mirror” (Hosseini 3). The two young boys, though they were of different social classes and ethnicities, were able to remain steadfast friends no matter the circumstances presented to them. Amir, a Pashtun, was of a higher class and a different religious sect than Hassan, a Hazara. This did not matter to either of the children. Though Hassan was a servant to Amir’s family, Amir held nothing above Hassan in that respect. The friendship was golden, until one fateful day after a kite fight. Assef, a boy similar to Amir in the fact that he is a Pashtun but drastically different in so many other aspects, finds and chases Hassan in an attempt to steal Amir’s lavish blue kite. Hassan will not give up the kite, and Assef refers to him in terms of a pet: “A loyal Hazara. Loyal as a dog” (72). Assef lunges himself onto Hassan while Amir timidly stands by out of sight, doing nothing to help his companion. Hassan is raped by Assef in an effort to assert his authority. After the rape, Hassan, on the verge of collapsing, walks towards Amir, who acts as though nothing has happened: “Just like I pretended I hadn’t seen the dark stain in the seat of his pants. Or those tiny drops that fell from between his legs and stained the snow black” (78).
Amir’s betrayal eventually leads to the appearance of other issues between the two former best friends. Amir cannot seem to control the guilt he feels about Hassan’s rape; he even offers up a chance for Hassan to use physical violence in order to alleviate some of his internal pain: “[Amir] hurled the pomegranate at him. It struck him in the chest, exploded in a spray of red pulp. Hassan’s cry was pregnant with surprise and pain. “Hit me back!” [Amir] snapped” (92). Hassan refuses to harm Amir, which angers Amir even further. Any attempt by Amir to rid himself of the guilt he feels fails miserably. He then decides that the only way to rid himself of these feelings is to get rid of Hassan. He goes as far as to ask his father, “Baba, have you ever thought about getting new servants?” (89). Baba rejects any notion of ridding the family of Hassan or his father, and chastises Amir for suggesting such a preposterous idea. Amir still feels that Hassan must be gotten rid of; he secretly places his own watch and stacks of money under Hassan’s bed to make it look like Hassan stole the items. Amir tells Baba, who confronts Hassan about the watch and money. Hassan, who “never denied [Amir] anything” (2), took the blame for the incident, and he and his father moved out of Baba’s house. Stealing was regarded as the highest crime in Afghani culture. Ironically, though, it was not Hassan that stole something, but Amir: he took away any innocence that Hassan still possessed by framing him for this crime.
Redemption still reveals itself in the novel, though. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Baba and Amir are forced to move to America. There, they settle in Fremont, California, among several other Afghani refugee families. Amir assimilates much more successfully than Baba; he goes to college, gets married, and eventually starts a life of his own. Baba eventually passes away, and thus Amir no longer has any ties to his old lifestyle; that is, until he receives a life-altering phone call: “One day last summer, my friend Rahim Khan called from Pakistan. He asked me to come see him. Standing in the kitchen with the receiver to my ear, I knew it wasn’t just Rahim Khan on the line. It was my past of unatoned sins” (1). Amir travels to Pakistan, where he finds out that Hassan and his wife have been murdered, and that their son, Sohrab, has been taken away. Rahim Khan deems the task of getting Sohrab back as Amir’s “way to be good again” (2). Amir discovers Sohrab’s whereabouts, and departs to retrieve him. The only thing standing in his way upon arrival is the indirect cause of all his grief, his childhood rival, Assef. Assef will not give up Sohrab and forces Amir into a fight. Amir is almost beaten to death, but Sohrab, much like his father would have done, protects Amir by shooting Assef’s eye out with a slingshot. In this respect, it appears that the progression of the novel has come full circle, and that the journey for redemption is complete. Though life is far from perfect as Amir and Sohrab return to the United States, a glimmer of hope appears on Sohrab’s face as Amir offers to be his kite runner.
Redemption is not easy to achieve, but sometimes the hardest-fought battles reap the greatest reward. Through his struggles to make amends for his past wrongdoings, Amir not only finds redemption for his actions, but gains back a little piece of his innocent, immaculate childhood with Hassan in the form of his nephew, Sohrab.
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