The Kite Runner – Practise Essay 2
No matter how hard Amir tries to forget the past, ‘it claws its way out’. Discuss
There are defining moments or events in life that stay with the individual into adulthood. We often try to forget things that make us feel guilt or anxiety but we never really lose the impact they have made on us or who we become. The Kite Runner is a confronting story about two boys whose lives are shaped by the political and social imbalances that existed in Afghanistan during the 1970s. It is a story that highlights the danger of hiding behind lies and putting one’s own needs ahead of another human being’s welfare and rights. Amir, the main character and narrator begins his story of redemption by indicating that all attempts to forget the past have failed. Amir is forced to reflect on his troubled childhood and past mistakes, things that he has tried to forget. When he finally learns the truth about his past, Amir is compelled to confront his fears and take control over his life. He chooses to deal with the ‘monster’ that has clawed its way out to once again to destroy someone close to him.
The novel begins with Amir the adult, receiving a phone call from someone from his past, informing him that ‘there is a way to be good again’. From the very start, the reader knows that Amir has done something wrong in the past and the indication of twenty-six years, accentuates just how significant this past event was. Amir later refers to this defining event as ‘my past of unatoned sins’, also suggesting that this moment led to additional ‘sins’ requiring expiation or making amends for harm to others. Therefore, the book begins with the premise that you cannot avoid the past, particularly if you have done something morally wrong; and that it is only a matter of time before you are made accountable for what you have done wrong. We later learn that the phone call to Amir was from Rahim Khan, who was perhaps the greatest support to Amir through his troubled childhood. Rahim Khan is also the keeper of the truth and the one who knows the sins of all involved in this story; and it is he who calls Amir back to Afghanistan to face what he has been responsible for and to try and attempt to rectify the horrifying consequences of the past.
When we learn that Amir witnessed Hassan being raped in the deserted alley and did not take action, we understand that the impact of this traumatic event defined the course of his life and consequently, cemented Hassan and Sohrab’s fate. Amir attempts to bury this event, lying to hide his cowardice from his father, leading to a lifetime of cover ups and guilt over what he should have done. When Amir says ‘that the past continues to claw its way out’, he understands that as much as he tried to bury the past, he was unable to. Amir’s feelings of guilt are a continual presence in his life, the images of dark stains on snow or discarded brown cord pants, symbolise Hassan’s rape and are triggered easily for Amir. He figuratively continues ‘peeking into that deserted alley’, viewing Assef’s violation of Hassan, as he keeps going over the events in his mind. The horror of this betrayal is compounded when Amir hides his watch and accuses Hassan of stealing it, resulting in the end of their friendship, as well as the end of the relationships between Baba, Ali and Hassan forever. Hassan keeps his silence about Amir’s actions, showing loyalty to his friend (and brother) till the end – and this too is something that Amir must live with. The attempt at forging a close relationship with Baba, is soon realised as unachievable and Amir is left with the emptiness and loneliness of someone who cannot share his shame with anyone.
Furthermore, when Amir finally returns to face Rahim Khan who he realises has known the truth all along, he is provided the opportunity to finally discuss the impact of these shameful secrets. He soon learns that there are additional secrets from the past that have come...
References: to Hitler are linked to the character of Assef and the reader is led to believe that there have been many examples of social injustice in the past. The Kite Runner reflects the negativity that has been present in all past societies, such as: racism, sexism, religious fanaticism, opportunism and totalitarianism. The end of the novel appears to be some kind of a resolution but we are left feeling that the past will still influence the remaining characters. Amir will still continue to experience guilt about the past, Sohrab will never get over his past abuse and Soraya will have no choice but to support two people unable to completely put the past behind them. However, the ending has a positive message as they all move forward together and ‘end the cycle’, breaking past limitations and preserving what was ‘good’ about their culture.
The novel The Kite Runner operates on many levels and highlights the notion that by not doing everything possible to save the innocent or the oppressed of the world from the effects of abuse and evil, we run the risk of living a life of guilt, regret and eventually repeated injustice and power imbalances. Amir represents anyone who has ever betrayed a friend or family member to serve their own interests; although he was a child influenced by the dysfunctional relationship with his father, he still made a choice to be a bystander and do nothing, run away and try to forget and then lie to hide his weaknesses – and the past does catch up with him. Amir ultimately must live with himself and his conscience. He tries to bury the past and it does ‘claw’ its way back to attack him and it is a greater monster when the long term consequences of that one unchecked action occur. Amir tries to bury his past relationship with Hassan and in the end this is the ‘brush stroke of colour’ that becomes the most meaningful to him and drives him to save Sohrab and honour the ‘kinship that not even time could break’. You cannot bury the past, as it serves as a reminder about how you became the person you became and in the case of Amir, the past enabled him to work towards becoming the person he wanted to be – someone who displayed the selfless qualities of his friend Hassan.
‘For you a thousand times over.’
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