Khalid Hosseini explains many aspects of human nature and the events in a person’s life that affect him or her, shaping the personality differently from every other individual around that person. In The Kite Runner, the main character, Amir, lives with his father growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan. Devoid of a mother or a best friend, his closest companion is the servant’s son, Hassan. Because of the social class difference, Amir does not always treat Hassan as a true friend and even abuses his powers of being the master. The fact that Hassan never utters a complaint and is unshaking loyal only makes Amir feel guiltier and makes him stubborn in competing against him. The biggest reason for Amir’s competitiveness is perhaps to gain his father’s undivided attention, which is often times split with being keen on Hassan’s well-being. Amir’s father, in return, is at fault for having this effect on Amir as his teaching methods are never consistent, which further bewilder Amir and make him dubious about which method to use in order to get the approval he desperately desires from his father.
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Throughout his childhood and even after his father’s death, Amir is unaware of the fact that Hassan is in fact his half-brother. When he finds this out after his marriage through Rahim Shah, his father’s long-time family friend, all the missing puzzle pieces seem to fit together. Suddenly, Amir realizes the “why” behind his father’s way of treating him and his now deceased brother, Hassan. At the time, Amir despised sharing special moments of solitude which would have gifted him Baba’s undivided attention, with Hassan. Whether it was going to the movies or getting a special treat to eat, Hassan’s accompaniment was a must. Even through these occasions, Hassan would excuse his father in his mind, believing him to be excessively generous with the servants and keeping their well-being in mind.
It is important to understand that the reader receives the chance to understand Baba’s personality in two parts of the book, just as Amir’s character is told in two parts: the first is during Amir’s childhood and the second is in his adult life, after Baba passes away. Amir was brought up during Afghanistan’s golden age, having witnessed and tasted its luxuries. Baba was a successful businessman who was in the center of the elite social circle, which provided Amir with all of life’s comforts and privileges. However, Amir was devoid of the luxury of his father’s complete approval or total love and attention. Baba’s method of raising Amir was to teach him as much as possible about life’s harsh truths. In Baba’s eyes the successful man was the one who was on top of everyone else in intellect and business success.
Even though the reader might misunderstand Baba as being shallow and self-centered at the first encounter, Amir justifies that his father was a man of self-respect, inhibiting very strong personality characteristics. He states in chapter three, “With me as the glaring exception, my father molded the world around him to his liking. The problem, of course, was that Baba saw the world in black and white. And he got to decide what was black and what was white. You can't love a person who lives that way without fearing him too. Maybe even hating him a little.” Despite breaking the strictest of religious obligations and rules, Baba possessed a strong and unwavering self-moral system which exhibited his true bravery and strong personality. He always taught Amir to stand up for what he thinks is right and just, but always make sure that you look out for your own best interest as no one else will carry the burden. Also, life is all about reaching one’s self goals which will ensure that one stays on top of the social circles and which also means that one must keep the stakes high and aim higher than before. Baba’s bravery and selflessness astonishes the reader when he stands up for the protection of a woman during their escape from Afghanistan. The girl’s rape was prevented because Baba ignored his life and stood up for justice.
This experience was astonishment and an opening look at another side of Baba’s personality for Amir as well. He used this example to portray his father’s true personality and to gain support for him from the reader. What is even more, the reader and Amir gain more information about Baba’s so-called “weaker” side after he passes away. Learning from Rahim Shah about his father’s affair with the servant’s wife, Sanobaur, Amir realizes that many things that Baba did were out of guilt and shame for his previous actions. The shame was evident because Baba had betrayed his loyal servant and friend, Ali, and because he had degraded his own social standards by sleeping with a Hazara woman. As for the guilt, it was blatant because he wanted to carry out his obligations to Hassan as a father but could not openly face his past crime.
Pulled down by social rules and restrictions, Baba was constantly ripped in two directions: one was to be the respected father for Amir and the other was to reach his own redemption by fixing his wrongs according to not only societal rules but also because he had let down his own system for justice and fairness. The fact that he could never truly treat Hassan equal to Amir made him queasy inside. The redemption process, therefore, included Hassan’s top treatment to the best of Baba’s abilities which in his eyes was to provide him with the same materialistic childhood joys as he gave Amir such as kites, ice cream and toys. When the time came for Hassan to leave because of his supposed theft crime, the reader could sense the relief in his behavior as he did not do much to stop him. If he had wanted, he could have easily used his status and influence to keep Hassan with him but he let him go.
As a father, Baba knew which son was at fault for framing Hassan for the robbery and even though he was upset at Ali’s decision, he let Hassan walk out of his life looking at it as an opportunity to move on from the haunting past. At this point, the reader and Amir notice Baba’s weaker morals and personality aspects, both almost empathize with him. There is a great lesson for Amir in his father’s life as he finally realizes that his main goal from childhood until his father’s death was to please him and to live up to his standards. However, he should not have worried so much nor let Hassan be treated unjustly as he stood watching many times, whether it was the rape or the robbery framing. At this point Amir finally comes to the realization that his father’s weakness was Hassan and not him and the reason that his lessons were geared towards topics of self-image and success in life was because he did not want Amir to make the same mistakes, which ironically he had.
At the end of the novel, Amir finally reaches redemption in two ways: firstly, he realizes that his father’s tough lessons and actions were out of love for both of his sons and, secondly, by saving Hassan’s son, Sohrab, from Assef’s abuse and cruelty and most importantly by giving him his due right-the family name. Amir was never the son that he so desperately wanted to be as his personality was sensitive and he enjoyed writing and reading, things considered least manly in Baba’s world. However, through kite flying and letting Hassan take all the heat, Amir thought he could gain his father’s attention the way he so desperately desired. Amir said,
“…there was a brotherhood between people who had fed from the same breast, a kinship that not even time could break. Hassan and I fed from the same breasts. We took our first steps on the same lawn in the same yard. And, under the same roof, we spoke our first words. Mine was Baba. His was Amir. My name. Looking back on it now, I think the foundation for what happened in the winter of 1975—and all that followed—was already laid in those first words” (11).
At long last, Amir realized that while Hassan’s life-long desire was to make Amir happy, his was to please Baba. The irony was that Baba did love Amir and his lessons were only to give him a sense of fairness in his own eyes, letting him feel that he was treating both sons equally. The method he used was to treat the privileged son harsher and the illegitimate son with sympathy and kindness as these were the missing elements in both their lives, respectively.
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