The Kite Runner: Is Amir a hero?Get Your
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In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, we see that the character Amir can be defined as a hero. A character who seeks to redeem himself in a world where there can be good. Yet the Kite Runner can be interpreted in many different ways, not just the character Amir. Perhaps it represents a longing for something out of reach or something more symbolic such as an emotion. But within the novel, The Kite Runner can be focused very thematically with the character Amir. He becomes a hero after finding what truly matters in the world and suffers to obtain that goodness.
A selfless nature is what separates the hero from an ordinary person. In The Kite Runner Amir believes that by capturing the winning flag at the kite tournament he’ll be able to gain his father’s respect. The character Amir is very selfish, by his longing for the kite. He has total disregard of the help he has received by his best friend Hassan, one of the best Kite Runners. Amir believes that by capturing this kite he’ll become a hero to everyone. All I saw was the blue kite. All I smelled was victory. Salvation. Redemption.
If Baba was wrong and there was a God like they said in school, then He’d let me win. I didn’t know what the other guy was playing for, maybe just bragging rights. But this was my one chance to become someone who was looked at, not seen, listened to, not heard. (P. 69, Par 4)Amir believes that this is his way to become better than anyone else, including his friend Hassan. When he finally wins the tournament, he thinks of himself as a hero. Yet it is Hassan who runs off to capture the winning tournament Kite. When Amir cannot find Hassan after the tournament he goes looking for him.
There, before him, stands Hassan, the Kite and his enemies Assef with his two followers are intent to harm Hassan. It is here when Amir has the choice to either run or help his friend. It is this decision that ultimately decides whether he is a hero and not the Kite Tournament as he thinks. I had one last chance to make a decision. One final opportunity to decide who I was going to be. I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan-the way he’d stood up for me all those times in the past-and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run. In the end I ran. (P. 2, Par 2)Though Amir is upset with himself for doing this he quickly forgets when he sees how happy Baba is with him. Amir is selfish. Redemption cannot be received without suffering. Because of what Amir sacrificed, the friendship with Hassan, for the Kite, Amir begins to experience loss on a grand scale. When at first he begins losing his friendship with Hassan he despairingly searches for punishment. “I hit him with another pomegranate, in the shoulder this time. The juice splattered his face. “Hit me back! ” I spat. “Hit me back, goddamn you! ” I wished he would.
I wished he’d give me the punishment I craved… (P. 98, Par 5). Further in the novel, Amir is unable to step off the path and be honest with what he’s done. Because of his cowardice he destroyed a 45 year relationship between Baba and Rahim Khan. Later in the novel, Amir is still unresolved and needs a sense of forgiveness. When Soraya tells Amir about her past, he envies her. I envied her. Her secret was out. Spoken. Dealt with. I opened my mouth and almost told her how I’d betrayed Hassan, lied, driven him out, and destroyed a forty-year relationship between Baba and Ali.
But I didn’t. (P. 174, Par 6)This shows that Amir has not yet forgotten nor dealt with his past mistakes. He attempts to live a happy life yet still cannot atone. Ultimately he is plagued by his remorse but there is an underlining urge to go to his friend Hassan. “Come. There is a way to be good again, Rahim Khan had said on the phone just before hanging up. Said it in passing, almost as an afterthought. A way to be good again. (P. 202, Par 2). When Amir received the phone call from Rahim, Amir made the decision to fly to Pakistan to see his sick friend Rahim Khan.
Amir knows that Rahim knew all these years of what he’d done and it’s his chance to help. When Amir learned of Hassan’s death, he decides to find his son. This shows both a desire to redeem himself for his past mistakes, as well as the opportunity to take care of Sohrab, Hassan’s child as his own. When Amir goes to Assef, his childhood nemesis, where Sohrab is, and fights him to reclaim Sohrab, Amir redeems himself. “WHAT’S SO FUNNY? ” Assef bellowed. Another rib snapped, this time left lower. What was so funny was that, for the first time since the winter of 1975, I felt at peace.
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I laughed because I saw that, in some hidden nook in a corner of my mind, I’d even been looking forward to this. (P. 303, Par 2)This shows Amir finally is at peace with himself as he had saved Sohrab becoming a good person. Yet, not until after Amir breaks a promise with Sohrab, after he had recovered in the hospital, does Amir make peace with Hassan and Sohrab. “You know, I’ve done a lot of things I regret in my life,” I said, “and maybe none more than going back on the promise I made you. But that will never happen again, and I am so very profoundly sorry, I ask for your bakhshesh, your forgiveness. P. 374, Par 1)Amir, by saving Sohrab and atoning for the betrayal of Hassan, has made himself into a good person. Amir has proven that an ordinary person has the capability of becoming a hero by enduring their own challenges. By risking his own life in an attempt to redeem himself for his betrayal, shows how selfless he’s become and how much of a friend he is. It is because of Amir’s strength, the change in him as a person, and his overall devotion to his friend Hassan, is what makes Amir a hero. Bibliography:Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runne, 2004 Bloomsbury publishing.
Author: Brandon Johnson
The Kite Runner: Is Amir a hero?
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Like most good narrator-protagonists, Amir is a fairly complex character because the reader not only has to pay attention to Amir's actions but also how Amir describes his actions. Plus, Amir grows up, changes, and is affected by where he's living – whether that's Afghanistan or California. With this in mind, we analyzed Amir's character in each of the major settings of the novel. As we've stressed elsewhere, some really major events happen early in the novel. Thus, we'll spend the bulk of our time on Amir's childhood.
Amir the Boy in Kabul, Afghanistan
When the novel first describes Amir's childhood, it seems like Amir leads a relatively charmed life. He's got a great friend in Hassan, his father is wealthy, he adores his father, etc. We would like to pause here and praise the innocent joy of the first years of Amir and Hassan's friendship. Sure, there's jealousy and some cruelty and power struggles. But there's also adoration, loyalty, and genuine affection between the boys.
OK – on to more pain and suffering. Most of the early conflict seems confined to the lives of Ali and Hassan. There's racial discrimination toward them, Sanaubar leaving, Hassan's harelip, and the soldiers' taunting of Hassan.
We soon learn, however, that Amir has anything but a charmed existence. Amir's mother died giving birth to him. It's clear he feels a great lack in his life, and he throws himself into poetry and writing, we think, partly as a tribute to her. In addition, Amir feels an enormous amount of responsibility for his mother's death – as if he not only caused it but, more sinisterly, was responsible for it. Worse (can it get much worse?), Amir begins to believe his father also blames him for his mother's death. This is only one aspect of the incredibly fraught relationship between Amir and his father.
Amir is also extremely jealous of his half-brother Hassan. (At this point Amir doesn't know Hassan is his half-brother and that knowledge probably would have tempered Amir's jealousy.) Amir admires Baba to no end although Baba seems to have little time for Amir. In fact, at times it seems like Baba prefers Hassan. Baba is almost confused by Amir. How can his son not like violent Afghan sports? Why does Amir not stand up for himself? And so on. Most of Baba's complaints seem to spring from Amir's lack of "manliness."
All these tensions come to a breaking point during the kite-fighting tournament. Amir sees the kite-fighting tournament as a way to finally win Baba's love. Amir concocts this mad scheme where he'll win the tournament. Then Baba will love him and everything will be hunky-dory.
The strange thing is that Amir's plan sort of works. Amir wins the tournament and his father finally shows the boy some love. But that's not all that happens. Amir happens upon a horrific scene in the alleyway while looking for Hassan, who has just run down a kite, the crowning jewel of Amir's kite-fighting victory. While two neighborhood boys hold down Hassan, a nearly-demonic boy named Assef rapes Hassan. Amir watches this happen and does nothing.
It's tough to understand exactly why Amir doesn't help Hassan. Is it because he wants Baba's love all for himself? Because Hassan is a Hazara and thus "inferior"? Because Amir is simply a coward? Perhaps all of these motivations combine into one great instant of paralysis. Worse, after Amir sees a hollow-eyed Hassan around the house in the months following the rape, Amir falls apart and betrays Hassan again. He has to remove any reminder of his guilt. So he plants a wad of cash and watch under Hassan's mattress, framing him for theft, and driving Hassan and Ali out of Baba's house.
We don't think the rest of the novel really uncovers Amir's motivations. Hosseini takes the novel on a different track. He has Amir slowly change and attempt to make up for his moral failure. Perhaps this is the only thing Amir can do: what would more thinking and inaction accomplish? Isn't the remedy for passivity some sort of swift action? Sure, but it takes Amir thirty years to redeem himself, and even then we're not entirely sure it's enough.
Amir the Young Man in Fremont, California
Something really changes in Amir when he and Baba arrive in Fremont. Perhaps it's because Amir adapts easier to living in the United States. It could be that Amir no longer sees Baba as a legendary father and simply as a father. (Baba has to work long hours in a gas station and loses some of the mystique he had in Afghanistan.) Or maybe Amir is able to forget about his betrayal of Hassan. Somehow America allows him blankness, a forgetfulness that would be impossible in Afghanistan.
Whatever the case, this is a different Amir. He takes care of his father, meets a compassionate and beautiful woman named Soraya (whom he marries), and suddenly seems to have a moral compass. As Baba dies of cancer, Amir's kindness becomes apparent. This is not the self-centered, vindictive boy we knew in Kabul. Is it because Baba focuses only on Amir? Because Hassan isn't around?
Despite all the improvements and good deeds, Amir remains silent about his past deeds. Baba dies without Amir ever telling him about the times he betrayed Hassan. Through Amir, Hosseini comments on the difficulties – strange as this may sound – of being a good man. It's harder than one might think. Further, if we zoom out to the international arena of war and conflict, we see too how nations aren't that different from flawed human beings (see "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory: The Question of Allegory" for more).
Amir the Grown Man in Kabul, Afghanistan 2001
Is it possible to both take a step forward and a step backward at the same time? In the world of fiction, it's clearly possible. Back in Kabul, Amir is humble (and clumsy). His time in America has distanced him from the atrocities of war in Afghanistan. Sure, he's seen some stuff on the news, but Tom Brokaw doesn't compare to being surrounded by the real thing.
Back in Kabul, it seems like Amir is finally doing something good in his life. After some misgivings, Amir agrees to rescue Hassan's son, Sohrab, from an orphanage in Kabul. Amir even squares off against a Talib official – who, it turns out, is actually Assef – in order to save Sohrab. This is action instead of inaction; bravery instead of cowardice; selflessness instead of self-absorption. Perhaps this streak of good deeds will atone for his betrayal of Hassan.
On a larger scale, Hosseini is constructing a world where redemption is at least possible. In the universe of the novel, one can return to the site of his misdeeds. And this is important because it suggests nations can atone for mistakes the same as individual human beings (see "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory: The Question of Allegory" for more).
It's almost as if the confident young adult Amir combines with the helpless and misguided childhood Amir. While saving Sohrab, Amir makes a huge mistake and goes back on a promise to Sohrab. As a result, Sohrab tries to commit suicide. We're watching Amir repeat mistakes from the past even as he attempts to put the past to rest. This is Amir at his best and worst – and perhaps this final version of Amir really combines all the previous versions of him. He's weak and blind, but also essentially kind. He's jealous, but in the end only wants to be loved. To sum up: Amir is so frustrating. But we think that's what Hosseini wants us to feel. Even though we want to scream at Amir, he's an utterly human character.