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As a child in The Kite Runner, Amir was controlled by his immature emotions. He would not allow himself to treat Hassan as an equal even though no one was closer to him. He was jealous of his father's attentions toward Hassan, and this caused him to plant the money and the watch to disgrace the servant boy. As he grew up, the act haunted Amir, and the guilt over the mistreatment of Hassan continued to grow as well. When Amir finally discovered the truth about Hassan--that he was actually his half-brother--his conscience determined that he must return to Afghanistan to find Hassan's son. His adult motivation was based on past guilt and a desire to make his past transgressions right.
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