February 4, 2013
Kite Runner Essay
“There is a way to be good again” (2). This is the line that rolls through Amir's mind over and over throughout Khaled Hosseini's novel, The Kite Runner. This is the story of a man’s struggle to find redemption. The author illustrates with the story of Amir that it is not possible to make wrongs completely right again because it’s too late to change past. In this novel Hosseini is telling us that redemption is obtainable, and by allowing us to see Amir’s thought process throughout the novel, Hosseini shows us that it guilt is the primary motivation for someone who seeks redemption. Hosseini also uses not only the main character, but other secondary characters to show how big of a part that guilt plays in the desire for redemption. In this novel, redemption is not when things are justified, because the wrong has been done and you can't go back to the past and change things to make it right. Rather, as defined in a letter to Amir by an old family friend, Rahim Khan, redemption is when the guilt from something wrong leads to something good (302).
Guilt is a strong incentive in a quest for redemption and it isn't easy to shake. “There is a way to be good again” Rahim Khan said to Amir in the beginning of the novel, insinuating that there was hope. That there was a way for Amir to have peace with himself and let go of his guilt. This phrase was something that echoed in Amir’s mind throughout the novel and would be a reminder that there was a way to be rid of the guilt that plagued him, a way to be good again. We can see how heavy this guilt is even at the beginning of the novel when we don't even know the reason why he would be guilty. Amir begins his story by telling us “I became what I am today at the age of 12” (1). The first thing we notice is that he says “what I am today” rather than “who” and as we finish the first chapter it leaves us with the slightly bitter feeling that the narrator has dark past that he cannot shake, a past that has been hovering over his life. He gives us the idea that he is not happy with who he has become, and it was his wrong doing that made it that way.
Hosseini shows that it is Amir’s immense guilt that drives him to want to make things right and to earn redemption. We learn about Amir's guilt through his memories. It is caused by a lack of response at a time when his loyal servant and close friend Hassan is in trouble. Amir makes a conscious decision to hide in the distance and just watch, not because he was afraid. He sacrifices Hassan in order to earn his father’s attention and affection. This decision results in Hassan suffering though a traumatic experience and is the root of Amir's lasting regret. At first, Amir does not seek to earn redemption. We know that he is ashamed at what he has done but he prefers to hide his guilt rather than confess and redeem himself right away. After the incident, Amir attempted to avoid Hassan at all costs. Even when Hassan approached him to see if he wanted to go for a walk, like they used to do frequently, Amir refused to go with him and told him to go away (88). He knew that he didn't deserve his friends unwavering love and loyalty.
This is just the beginnings of his guilt. We leave Amir’s childhood memories and return to the summer of 2001, where Amir and Baba, Amir's father, have moved to America (191). Amir embraced this move as a chance to bury his memories and forget his past in hopes to remove his guilt. With Hassan on the other side of the world, Amir doesn’t have any problem avoiding him and yet many times his memories would still sneak up on him. Some of the littlest things would remind him of his friend, and bring back the shame of the wrong that he had done. When Amir first saw the Pacific Ocean he recalls a promise he made Hassan that one day they would walk and play along the beach (136). Even after ten years had gone by, he continued to attempt to bury his past, but we see that the guilt still doesn't leave. When he discussed his story with Soraya, his future wife, she told him about the time she taught one of her families hired servants how to read. This conversation reminded him of how he used to take advantage of Hassan's illiteracy (151). Also he remembered that on his wedding night he found himself wondering if Hassan had gotten married and to whom (171). Like these examples, Amir is unsuccessful in removing his guilt by trying to run from it but instead the past constantly came back to haunt him.
There are many instances where we can see the guilt that still burdens Amir even later on in the story. More than twenty-five years later, after Amir learns about the death of Hassan, he can’t help but wonder if Hassan would have still been alive if he hadn’t driven Hassan’s family out of his house when they where children.
Rahim Khan called Amir back to Pakistan and told him that there was indeed “a way to be good again” (192). He gives Amir the opportunity to redeem himself by asking him to save Hassan's son, Sohrab. Amir refuses at first and attempts to come up with excuses to be able to turn Rahim down without adding to his guilt. To convince himself that he wasn't obligated to save Sohrab. He told himself that he had to be back home with his family and his job, but again the line that Rahim said played through Amir's head. “There's a way to be good again.” Amir knew that this was his last chance to earn his redemption and end his guilt (226). Amir had taken his guilt out on the very people that he had betrayed and then tried to run away from it all. He realizes this and asks himself “what had I ever done to right things” (303). As Rahim says “Redemption comes when guilt leads to good.” You can may never fully get rid of the guilt or make right what has been wronged, but it is this guilt that motivates you to try. We see in his thought process just how motivated he is by guilt. As much as he doesn't want to help Sohrab, he is drawn by the need for redemption, and the need to remove his guilt. This line running through his head over and over again shows just how much that guilt has driven him to yearn for things to be right.
We don't get to see Amir reach his point of redemption and we don't get to watch him be completely relieved of his heavy laden of guilt. However the ending does leave us hopeful. Although nothing has been made right it was the beginning and leaves us with hope and the assurance that Amir is on his way to finding his redemption. Amir describes Sohrab's lopsided smile at him being like the first snowflake melting in the spring, the first bit of good that had come out of his quest (371). Amir is not the only one who is haunted by his past in this novel. We can also see how guilt drives some of the other characters to find their redemption. This is a huge secret and we learn from Rahim Khan that Baba, for fear of being shamed, had hid the fact that Amir’s lifelong friend was actually his half-brother (223). Rahim tells Amir in a letter that the guilt that Baba carried from, keeping this secret was why he cared so much about the poor, built an orphanage and gave to whoever needed money (302). Even after Baba had done so much good, his past still had haunted him. One example of this was at Amir's graduation, Baba wished Hassan could have been there too since he was like one of the family (133). Unlike Amir who ran from his chances for redemption, Baba took advantage and made right what was wrong.
Rahim Khan also carried this secret with Baba, and this was something that he too sought redemption from. In the same letter, he asked Amir for his forgiveness. Even when Amir was a child Rahim treated him well and was sympathetic to his needs and his lack of self respect. Another secondary character who was searching for redemption in this novel was Amir's wife Soraya. Before they get married confesses to him about the time she ran away with someone as a teenager and clears up her past which had also haunted her (164). Even after she confessed to Amir, people still talked down about her because of her past (178).
Amir, like Baba, Rahim Khan and Soraya, had sinned by what he had done, or rather what he didn’t do. This caused guilt which he attempted to hide, but the memories and the past continued to haunt him, nag at him, and remind him of the person who had loved him so much. The person he had turned around and betrayed in their time of need. This guilt of betrayal weighs on Amir’s character throughout the story, and pushes him to seek out redemption. He longs to “be good again” and get rid of the guilt that he has carried since he was just twelve years old.