The Kite Runner/Life of Pi: the Foil

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The Kite Runner/Life of Pi: The Foil
In both The Kite Runner and Life of Pi, the relationship between the major character and a minor character—the foil—help to highlight the main character’s qualities, illuminating his traits to be seen in an extraordinary, nonstandard way. In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini creates Hassan as the foil for Amir. Hassan’s character, as perfect as he is, causes Amir to pale in comparison, something that Amir channels throughout his life, governing his actions. Similarly, Yann Martel employs Richard Parker as the foil for Pi in Life of Pi. The strength and ferocity of the tiger emphasizes Pi’s hopelessness and fear. Pi utilizes these emotions to fight and continue living. In both novels, the foil character underlines the main protagonist’s characteristics and provokes certain feelings that ultimately determine his fate. In The Kite Runner, Hassan is Amir’s half-brother, best friend, and servant. His character is nearly perfect—loyal, courageous, caring, kind, and selfless. He has no evil qualities. When compared to Hassan, Amir’s value and positive qualities fall flat and are seen as insignificant and mediocre. Even more, his bad features are amplified and made more prominent. Amir cannot live up to Hassan’s goodness. This inadequateness is put into words and exemplified through Baba, who declares that, “If I hadn’t seen the doctor pull [Amir] out of my wife with my own eyes, I’d never believe he’s my son” (Hosseini 23). Baba often treated Amir and Hassan equally, which was unusual because the Hazara was essentially their servant. If Amir asked for a big and fancy kite, Baba would buy it for him—but then he would buy it for Hassan as well (Hosseini 51). These displays of affection were later explained in that Baba was actually Hassan’s real father, but the effect they had had on Amir stuck. Amir was always desperately vying for his father’s love and approval. The fondness Baba treated Hassan with vexed and aggravated him. Without the knowledge of Hassan’s true parentage, Amir felt many flashes of jealousy and frustration—emotions that, compared with his own brother’s understanding and humility, projects him as criminal. The most prominent situation that highlights Amir’s character is when he witnesses Hassan being raped. The event leading up to the incident is of Hassan running after the final kite—just for Amir. He finds it, only to be cornered by Assef who demands the kite as retribution for the “rude manners” he showed him during and earlier incident (Hosseini 71). Hassan refuses, retorting back, “Amir agha won the tournament and I ran this kite for him. I ran it fairly. This is his kite” (Hosseini 72). He is assaulted in reply. Here, Hassan’s traits of extraordinary loyalty and courageousness are displayed; however, switch the scope to Amir and the qualities revealed are the exact opposite. Amir witnessed the raping of his best friend and did nothing. He was afraid of getting hurt, afraid of losing Baba’s newly earned affections and simply ran away (Hosseini 77). When compared to Hassan, Amir’s qualities of selfishness and cowardice are highlighted and intensified. From the presence of Hassan, Amir’s selfishness and cowardice, in addition to his desire to be “good enough”, are not only emphasized, but acknowledged by Amir himself. These are the traits that ultimately drive him throughout his life. The recognition of the evil in himself coupled with his will to do good lead him to search for redemption—one of the main themes of the novel. With the immense guilt over Hassan’s rape pushing him forward, Amir lives his life stiffly until taking the move to America where he starts a new morally upright life, where he helps his father and marries a good woman, and then finally completely redeeming himself through returning to Afghanistan and saving Sohrab from Assef. By establishing Hassan as a foil character for Amir, Hosseini creates a domino effect in which his main character discovers...
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