Amir’s Quest for Salvation in "The Kite Runner"

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About this sample


Words: 2210 |

Pages: 5|

12 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

Words: 2210|Pages: 5|12 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

“There is a way to be good again” (Hosseini 2). Rahim Khan’s first words to Amir in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner set in motion Amir’s attempt to mend his scarred past. A mentally tormented man until Khan’s call, he has repressed memories from his childhood for decades. His journey to Afghanistan to seek redemption forms a way for him to realize what is truly important in life. Although Amir’s unintentional barbarity to Hassan is terrible, he is able to overcome his past sins and achieve personal salvation by confronting his actions and doing good.

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Amir is an ordinary boy and though his behavior harms Hassan, he is not cruel or sadistic. Rather, his evil deeds take a more benign form, disguised as a need to please his father. For example, when he prepares to take part in the annual Kabul kite flying contest, he declares to himself that he will “run that last kite… and show it to Baba. Show him once and for all that his son was worthy” (Hosseini 56). Amir’s motivation for entering the contest is not to gain recognition or fame among his peers. Instead, his goal is to win over his father, who has constantly reminded Amir that he is not worthy of affection. Only a demonstration of physical skill, he reasons, will ever make Baba like him. Likewise, when he observes Assef brutally raping Hassan, Amir declines to intervene, instead rationalizing to himself that Hassan was merely “the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba” (Hosseini 77). Amir refuses to stop Assef’s violation of Hassan because he realizes that Hassan’s fate is irrelevant to whether or not Baba will bestow praise upon his son. Baba will not find out about Amir’s cowardly behavior, and he will still gain praise and recognition from Baba. In fact, Amir “resents sharing his father's affection with the loyal and talented Hassan,” and actually views Hassan’s rape as an opportunity to become closer to his father (“Khaled”). If Hassan, humiliated and shamed by the brutal act, cannot bear to face or speak with other people, Amir will eliminate a former competitor for his father’s affections. Caught up in an emotionally charged moment, Amir’s only thought is to gain praise from his dear Baba. In the process, he commits the largest crime of his young life.

However, Amir is not intentionally malicious toward Hassan, so he later feels guilty. After finally celebrating his kite contest victory in Jalalabad with his dear Baba, Amir realizes that he is a “monster” (Hosseini 86). Amir fully grasps the enormity of what he has done: he has committed almost unforgivable sin against Hassan stemming from a childish, selfish desire to gain Baba’s graces. However, instead of cowering in shame and blaming others or cursing fate, he accepts sole responsibility for his actions. Amir reveals that he is an otherwise good person, as he possesses a conscience and a sense of guilt. In fact, as Amir notices, the real danger that has arisen from his actions is “the nature of my new curse: I was going to get away with it” (Hosseini 86). What pains him most is the realization that there is no going back. No one would find out what he did. Secretly, Amir wishes that someone would find out and rat him out for his true nature. He cannot bear to live with the secret of his shameful deed, yet cannot bring himself to face it. Although he knows that no one will expose him, he attempts to right the wrong that he has done.

Despite his good intentions, Amir’s attempt to conceal his evil causes him to perpetrate even more offenses. When first talking to Hassan after the rape, Amir throws a pomegranate at him and wishes that Hassan would strike back in return and “give me the punishment I craved, so maybe I’d finally sleep at night” (Hosseini 92). Amir knows the magnitude of the offense he has committed, and foolishly thinks that if Hassan retaliates, the retaliation will somehow mitigate the severity of his action. Amir begins to harm others while trying to make up for what he has done. His twisted logic is taken to the extreme when he decides that the only way that he can fully solve the problem he has created is to remove Hassan from the household: “The better to hide his own secret sin, Amir betrays Hassan a second time, resulting in Hassan leaving the relative paradise and safety of Baba’s home” (Morace).

Ironically, the very thing that Amir wanted so badly (winning the kite competition), the very thing that finally brought him the praise of his dear Baba, is now the thing that figuratively tears him apart. Hassan’s mere presence is a constant reminder of Amir’s shame and guilt, a dark shadow that lingers to haunt him. Hassan’s unwavering loyalty despite Amir’s terrible treachery is even worse. Hassan’s naivety and devotedness emphasize his purity and natural goodness, a sharp contrast to the emotionally tortured Amir. Consequently, when committing his second betrayal, Amir is only able to think of himself. Never does he consider the effect of his actions on Hassan or Ali. Regrettably, in parallel to the thickening web of lies and deception, Amir’s behavior grows worse. For instance, after Baba confronts Hassan about “stealing” Amir’s watch, Amir almost blurts out the truth, “except that a part of me was glad. Glad that this would all be over with soon” (Hosseini 105). Amir’s selfishness and shortsightedness have now become his primary traits, causing more havoc than he could have imagined. He is actually is able to paint his dreadful treachery of Hassan as a hardship on himself, a burden that he would be relieved to get rid of. Amir begins to stop feeling emotions about others, replacing feelings for them with his own distorted view of reality. He has changed from an ordinary boy to one that uses a misshapen view of others to inflict suffering upon them. When he finally fully recognizes the extent of his treachery and sins, Amir is shocked at the pain that he has caused others.

Accordingly, Amir relentlessly tries to escape his betrayal of his former friend, but cannot do so. However, in his desperate quest escape, he learns of the healing power of confronting the past. Soon, the Soviets invade Afghanistan and force Amir and his father to flee to America, a place Amir “embraced” because it contained “no ghosts, no memories, and no sins” (Hosseini 136). Amir supposes that by physically moving away from his past he can finally be at peace with it. He welcomes America because it is a place where he will not have to muster courage to face what he did to Hassan. He is, as Stella Algoo-Baksh notes, “convinced that his soul can be at peace now that he has left his past behind. Yet . . . Amir soon discovers that such a release is not easily achieved” (143). Although he does not think about it, his past still lurks in the deep recesses of his mind, haunting him, mocking him for his cowardliness. Ironically though, it is America where Amir learns his first lesson about remembering the past. His wife, Soraya, had a shameful history of her own, but she came out immediately and told him about it, and for that, he “envied her. Her secret was out. Spoken. Dealt with” (Hosseini 165). Amir admires how Soraya sets herself free by revealing her past. She relishes knowing that people accepts her as she is, even with her flaws and mistakes of long ago. However, Amir refuses to acknowledge his past and constantly lives in fear that those he loves would reject him upon learning of what he has done. Despite his important realization, Amir is reluctant to confront his past as he is still afraid that others will criticize him for it.

Only when prodded by a close friend, Rahim Khan, does Amir finally find the strength to confront his past. At first, when Khan calls to ask Amir to return Afghanistan, Amir wishes that “Rahim Khan hadn’t called me. I wished he had let me live on in my oblivion” (Hosseini 226). This statement is the last remaining bit of Amir’s crumbling resistance to facing his past. Although Amir verbally expresses dismay at Khan’s call, he has secretly hoped that this moment would come. He realizes that it is impossible to forget about one’s past, and actually wanted someone to spur him to action and give him the courage to face his past misdeeds. The deciding factor is secrecy. Now that somebody already knows what he has done, Amir can tackle his history without fearing that his past actions will then be discovered. In essence, he is freed from the threat of new shame because his secret is already known. Later on, when he does fly back to Pakistan to meet Khan, Amir learns that Baba was the father of Hassan and is he shocked at his father’s behavior. However, as Khan notes, the good that Baba did in his life “was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good” (Hosseini 302). Amir recognizes that Baba did not hide in disgrace from his past; on the contrary, he tried to make amends by building orphanages and helping society. Amir observes that he himself has done just the opposite: he has simply taken his shame out upon the same people he had already hurt. Only by righting his past can he atone for his sins; oblivion will accomplish nothing. And so Amir sets off to Afghanistan, a journey that Geraldine Pearson describes as “a way for Amir to deal with his own guilt about Hassan and ultimately forms a story of redemption and resolution” (66). He returns not only to end his own denial and guilt and atone for his sins, but also for the sins of his father. His father committed the offense that brought Hassan into the world. Rescuing Hassan’s son, Sohrab, will bring a resolution to this problem that his father started and that Amir has exacerbated. Amir is determined to at last deal with his past and sets off for Afghanistan, resolving to make good out of bad.

Subsequently, his new knowledge and determination to correct his wrongs give him newfound strength, both physically and mentally. Later, as Amir’s teeth break, ribs snap, and skin tears from Assef’s vicious thrashing, Amir oddly feels serenely calm: “I felt at peace. . . . My body was broken . . . but I felt healed. Healed at last” (Hosseini 289). Amir does not mind Assef’s blows because to him they are weak compared to the personal fulfillment he found when redeeming himself by saving Sohrab. He knows that now he, just like his father, has done an act of service to help right his past wrongs. The blows of Assef pale in comparison to the weight of decades of shame, guilt, and lies lifted from Amir’s shoulders. Likewise, after Amir brings Sohrab to America, and Sohrab gives a small, barely perceptible smile, Amir runs “with the wind blowing in my face, and a smile as wide as the Valley of Panjsher on my lips” (Hosseini 371). Although seemingly insignificant, Sohrab’s smile to Amir represents a new beginning. For the first time in a long time, Sohrab smiles—something that he would never have done voluntarily in Assef’s sexual slavery in Afghanistan. His first smile also symbolizes Amir’s spiritual renewal through ridding his soul of his long-past sins. For the first time since Hassan’s rape on that cold winter day in 1975, Amir’s conscience is clean and he is truly happy.

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However, Amir’s newfound happiness comes only after much determination and bravery. Only after mustering courage to deal with his childhood past and committing himself toward redressing his wrongs is he able to achieve it. However, his successful transformation in character also brings Hosseini’s work into a larger context and forces a look at society itself. The novel calls upon the reader to honestly face his own past and overcome any of his own wrongs by striving towards goodness and grace. As Amir’s story demonstrates, these personal challenges can be conquered through conscious thought and determination. And though he is only one person in the novel who found a way to fulfillment and salvation, Amir can count himself among those who successfully free themselves from shame and finally find a path to true happiness.

Works Cited

  1. Algoo-Baksh, Stella. “Ghosts of the Past.” Canadian Literature 184 (Spring 2005): 143. Academic Search Complete. Ebsco. Kingwood HS Lib., Kingwood. 9 April 2008 <>.
  2. Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead Books, 2003.
  3. "Khaled Hosseini." Contemporary Authors Online. Thomson Gale. Kingwood HS Lib., Kingwood. 9 April 2008 <>.
  4. Morace, Robert. “The Kite Runner.” Magill’s Literary Annual 2004. Salem Press, 2004. Literary Reference Center. Ebsco. Kingwood HS Lib., Kingwood. 9 April 2008 <>.
  5. Pearson, Geraldine. “Book Review.” Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing 20.1 (Feb 2007): 66. Academic Search Complete. Ebsco. Kingwood HS Lib., Kingwood. 9 April 2008 <>.
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