Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner


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An important stepping stone in every child's life is when a child makes a vow to be best friends forever with another child. Many girls cement this promise by buying a necklace with half hearts on them, while boys may carve their names into trees, but either way this promise is very important for children to prove that they have someone who they can trust. In Khaled Hosseini's best-selling novel The Kite Runner, two boys, Hassan and Amir, have a friendship that is not as typical as most children's. Although they do carve into a tree that they are the "sultans of Kabul" (Hosseini 27), their friendship is weak and one sided. These boys grew up in Kabul, and although their childhood friendship may have seemed like something out of a book, complete with pomegranate trees and story telling, it was dark and emotionally wearing. A main reason for this was because of the one subtle difference between these boys, omitting the differences in character; Hassan is a Hazara and Amir is a Pashtun. For this reason the Afghan society has classified Hassan as a lower human being and he, along with his father, is in servitude towards Amir and his family. Amirs lack of self-confidence throughout the novel hinders his ablity to have a true friendship with Hassan. Amir ruins the chance for friendship between himself and Hassan because he is jealous of Hassan, he thinks of Hassan as a lower human, and because of his bitter resentment.

An underlying cause of the problems Amir has with his friendship pertaining to Hassan is that he is jealous of Hassan; this jealousy causes him to test Hassan, and to take advantage of Hassan's unwavering loyalty. Amir constantly ridicules and tests Hassan; this is just to prove that Hassan is lower than he is. Amir confirms this by humiliating Hassan to himself, by taking advantage of Hassan illiteracy to amuse himself: "Well, everyone in my school knows what it means,' I said. "Let's see. ‘Imbecile.' it means smart, intelligent. I'll use it in a sentence for you. ‘When it comes to words, Hassan is an imbecile'"(29). Amir is not accomplishing anything by teasing Hassan except that he is establishing that he is smarter. Amir feels that he has to prove, even to himself that he is smarter than Hassan', he lacks acceptance from his father, so he feels that he needs to tease Hassan in order to accept himself.

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Amir once again has to prove to himself that he has the ultimate superiority by testing Hassan when he tells him to eat dirt. Hassan says that he would, which is all Amir needs to expand his ego and confirm that he is still above Hassan. Furthermore, Amir is also jealous because his father, whom he longs for his approval, seems to favor Hassan. Hassan is athletic and Baba has said that he associates himself with Hassan over Amir. Amir's jealousy arose from his avid pursuit and evident failure to achieve his father's illusive approval. Because of the lack of approval from his father, Amir finds it necessary to tear down Hassan in order to build himself up.
The friendship exemplified in The Kite Runner is very weak because Amir thinks of Hassan as his servant, which explains why he is constantly testing him and does not stand up for him as a true friend would do. Hazaras are not accepted in the Afghan society that Hassan and Amir grew up in, but Amir does not refute the biased and racist culture set out in front of him; instead, he embraces it. Even at the susceptible age of twelve, Amir is well aware of the principles of right and wrong and he chooses to do wrong. Hassan gets harassed by his peers, an example of this is when Assef bullies him by saying, "Afghanistan is the land of the Pashtuns. It always has been, always will be. We are the true Afghans, the pure Afghans, not this Flat-Nose here. His people pollute our homeland, our watan. They dirty our blood.....How can you talk to him, play with him, let him touch you?" (40-41). When Hassan is harassed, Amir does nothing; rather, he almost blurts out that Hassan is nothing but a servant when in fact he spends all of his free time playing like true friends play. Amir wants to be accepted by his peers, peers such as Assef, Wali, and Kamal. He wants to be accepted with such a passion that he chooses to disregard his friend in order to gain approval from these boys. Amir ends up sacrificing his morals for popularity. Another example of how Amir is a coward and only wants to be accepted by his peers and his father is when he turns his back on Hassan when Hassan desperately needs his help. Hassan gets raped by Assef while trying to complete the task of kite running for Amir. Amir witnesses this horrible act and does nothing to stop it; he does not step in to help his friend because he believes that Hassan is sacrificing himself for him. This is a completely selfish thought on Amir's part because no one should have to bear another persons burden, even if one person is another person's servant. The choice made by Amir to sacrifice his morals and rationalize his decisions forever haunts him.
Amir is clearly an emotionally unstable person, but his resentment towards Hassan is deepened because of his own guilt. Amir feels extreme guilt after he watches his friend get raped in an alley, after witnessing this he feels that he can no longer be in the same room as Hassan: "I'd hear Hassan shuffling around the kitchen in the morning, hear the clinking of silverware, the whistle of the teapot. I'd wait to hear the door shut and only then I would walk down to eat" (87). This shows that Amir cannot face his guilt; he knows that he has done something wrong but refuses to confront it and redeem himself and his friendship with Hassan. Amir realizes that he has done a grave dishonor to Hassan; he believed that "There was a monster in the lake. It had grabbed Hassan by the ankles, dragged him to the murky bottom. I was that monster" (86). Amir comes to terms with the fact that he is a selfish, immature person, yet instead of accepting that fact and trying to get Hassan's forgiveness, he once again betrays his friendship. Because Hassan is a reflection of Amir's guilt, Amir believes in an elementary manner that if he rids himself of what to him is the symbol of his guilt, he will also be freed of the guilt. This is why he frames Hassan of thievery; although this plan ultimately backfires and causes Amir even more personal anguish, it proves that he is a unstable and resentful person.
Amir thinks of Hassan as less worthy human being even though he is jealous of him, this mix of jealousy and resentment leads to a guilt that Amir handles unethically. Amir treats Hassan much like a dog; he believes that he can treat him as roughly as possible, but the animal will be forever loyal. Amir does not believe that he needs to defend Hassan, since Hassan is ultimately there to sacrifice himself for Amir. Amir is jealous of Hassan because of Hassan's approval earned by Baba, and this causes Amir to search for other ways to expand his ego. Amir resents Hassan because of the guilt that Amir has caused himself. The choices made by Amir and Hassan defined who they were and who they would become; Amir allows his original thoughts about Hassan, thoughts of loyalty and true friendship, to be tainted because he is a weak person. Although Amir and Hassan carved their names into a tree, Amir's character hinders their ability to be best friends and their bond is a far cry from even an equal friendship. It is important to know that a friendship can never be rewarding and equal if both parties are not of strong character and humble ego's.


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