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One thing that perhaps all humans can agree on, based on their own experiences of life, is that obstacles cannot be avoided. They can be ignored, they can even be dodged sometimes, but at the end of the day, they cannot be avoided. In the novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and the poem “Where There’s a Wall” by Joy Kogawa, character and symbolism are used to demonstrate that one’s own thoughts and deep contemplations are the biggest obstacles standing in front of one’s need for redemption and self-fulfillment. Those who leave their guilt unaddressed are clearing the pathway for guilt to consume them, leading to an overall change not just in their lives, but also an overall change in who they truly are.
Character is one of the most fundamental tools used by both Hosseini and Kogawa to convey the obstacles that both characters have created for themselves using their own thoughts and feelings. Throughout The Kite Runner, Amir’s biggest goal was redemption, whether he was in his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Throughout his life, Amir has always tried to redeem himself, not necessarily for himself. During Amir’s childhood years, his goal is to redeem himself to Baba, as he is constantly trying to do that because Baba always made him feel like he was not good enough and that Hassan was better than Amir, leading to the event that shapes the book, Amir watching as Hassan, who he did not know at the time was his brother, getting severely violated and Amir had done nothing about it. More importantly, it was all to make Baba proud by bringing home that blue kite, so that Amir could be worthy in Baba’s eyes. Throughout his teenage years and then his adulthood, Amir developed a new goal, and that is self redemption, the main reason being is so he could rid his guilt. No matter where Amir was in life, there never was anything actually holding him back from achieving his goals and doing what could have stopped the growth of such enormous guilt, except for one obstacle, and that is Amir himself. Amir’s thoughts and what he valued most, which at that time was the image he portrayed to the rest of the world and what others would think of his childhood mistake, resulting in him making an even huger mistake of staying silent.
Furthermore, Kogawa’s character in her poem demonstrates such ideas in a similar way, except the only difference being is that Amir’s “wall” was more of a mental barrier, an image in his mind. However, this character is facing a physical wall, a physical barrier and obstacle, restricting her from being free and being part of whatever is on the other side of the wall. Somewhat like Amir, the character in the poem knows that she can in fact surpass that wall, and even lists all the possible ways she can do that, but is still stuck on the other side, not because she does not want to see what is on the other side of the wall, but because she is overthinking and these thoughts resulted in leading her to believe that she cannot go any further than the wall. “On this side of the wall / I am staring at the top / lost in the clouds / I hear every sound you make / but cannot see you” (29-33). These lines reveal that the character feels lost, perhaps she does not know who she is anymore, thus the statement “lost in the clouds,” but she knows what could be on the other side because she hears it all, she just cannot see it, making it so much harder to believe that everything thing she could be and everything that could change is indeed on the other side of the wall. The character is frustrated, lost and wants to know the truth, but the real truth that she needs to figure out is who she really is, and that begins with redemption of one’s self, the same way Amir began gaining touch with his true self after he redeemed himself. The character in the poem could look up to Amir as an inspiration and motive to take the first chance she can get to redeem and fulfill herself, because at one point Amir was just as lost as her and just like her, he knew all that he could possibly do but chose to ignore what is right in front of him.
The manner of symbolism used throughout the novel and the poem plays a huge part on the meaning and point of both the texts’ thematic main ideas; guilt and the loss of one’s self, by standing as obstacles in front of redemption and self fulfillment. In The Kite Runner, the kite itself is always the beginning or the end of something new. The book starts with the kite and ends with the kite, and the main event of the book happens because of the kite. Amir sees kites in San Francisco, bringing him all the way back to memories of his life in Kabul: “I glanced up and saw a pair of kites..floating side by side like a pair of eyes looking down on San Fran, the city I now call home. I looked up at the twin kites. I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of 1975 came along and changed everything. And made me what I am today” (Hosseini, 2). Amir then goes on to tell his story, emphasizing the fact that essentially, he was living his childhood trying to please Baba, and he did end up doing that, by getting him the blue kite. That blue kite itself resulted into the main event and the start of something new, the changing point in the story; the rape of Hassan while Amir watched and stayed silent for 25 years. For those 25 years, Amir did nothing but avoided his chances to redeem himself of his guilt and of what happened. When Amir did finally redeem himself, he realized it through the kite too, when Sohrab, the reason his guilts have washed away and his past mistakes have been made up for, smiled after kite running with Amir, developing the connection between Sohrab and Amir. Once again, the kite symbolizes the beginning of something new, this time being the beginning of a guiltless and burden free life for Amir.
In Kogawa’s poem, the wall is a symbol that tells a story. One side of the wall can be seen as a representation for the past, while the other is the present. The narrator, however, is stuck in the past. Her thoughts are based on the past and what happened then, and she knows exactly how to get over it all, listing many ways to overcome the obstacle, also known as the wall, throughout the poem. In addition, it seems as if she believes she cannot move on from where she currently is because she is lost in herself and who she truly is, a result of previous events, so she stays on that side of the wall carrying the burden of what has already happened and what cannot be undone. She remains standing, listening to people that she cannot see who are on the other side, knowing that life on that side would be better, but once again, she’s trapped in this fear of letting go of whatever already happened and moving on to redeem herself. In comparison, the kites symbolized for Amir the same wall that is in the poem, but the kites also ultimately destroyed that wall when they became the reason Amir redeems himself and finds peace within his true self. The same way that this wall would symbolize the character and who she is, the kites in Hosseini’s novel symbolize Amir from his childhood to the present day him.
Through their texts and their portrayals of characters and symbolism, Khaled Hosseini and Joy Kogawa illustrate human nature’s need for redemption and self fulfillment in order to be rid of one’s guilt and isolation from their own self. Amir was haunted by his own thoughts and beliefs for 25 years, trying to ignore the fact that the only cause of his lack of self redemption and self fulfillment was nothing other than his own self and his guilt, similarly to the narrator in Kogawa’s poem, who, just like Amir, is also stuck in the past, not knowing which of the many options she knows she has to use in order to jump over her obstacle to gain self fulfillment and find her true self. It is typical for humans to think that staying silent to try and isolate one’s self from their burdens will change anything, because the problem with humans is that they depend on time to fix things for them, when really all it does is it masks and covers up whatever happened, not changing the fact that it is all still there, eating them up, and just waiting to be approached.
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