What is the symbolism behind the pomegranate tree in The Kite Runner?
What is the connection between the pomegranate tree that Amir and Hassan used to read under and the same pomegranate tree that Amir finds bare with nothing but his and Hassan's carvings when he returns to find his childhood home destroyed?
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The pomegranate could also be an allusion to the Greek myth of Persephone. Persephone is the daughter of Demeter, the harvest goddess. When Persephone is kidnapped by Hades, she is trapped in the underworld. Demeter causes all plant life to die, a mother too grief-stricken to do her job properly. Zeus, to save all plant life, intervenes and orders Hades to send her back to the land of the living, but because Persephone has eaten some pomegranate seeds in the underworld, she is compelled to spend as many months in the underworld as the number of seeds she has consumed. Some versions say she ate four pomegranate seeds, but in the version I remember from my childhood, she ate six. This is meant to explain our seasons, so many months of winter and so many months of summer. I don't know if the author had this ancient myth in mind, but it does seem apt in some ways, I think. Certainly, there is a level on which Afghanistan itself has become a dreadful underworld, taken over by evil, where nothing good can thrive, unlike the lush beauty of the boys' childhoods.
Amir and Hassan are the best of friends, although they are from different backgrounds. The two boys believe their friendship will last forever and they promise to always be there for each other.
Amir and Hassan spend most of their time outside. They are boys and they like to run and play. They spend a lot of their time under a pomegranate tree. The tree shades them and Amir reads to Hassan. Hassan can't read, because he isn't allowed to go to school, he is the servant's son of Amir's father. Amir spends lots of time reading to Hassan and making up stories. The pomegranate tree symbolizes the nurturing and beautiful friendship these two young boys have, at the time.
"There was a pomegranate tree near the entrance of the cemetery. One summer day, I used one of Ali's kitchen knives to carve our names on it: 'Amir and Hassan, the sultans of Kabul'. Those words made it formal: The tree was ours."
The boys saw the tree as their special place and thought that nothing could take the friendship away from them. After the horrible tragedy that Amir witnesses with Hassan, the tree no longer holds the same meaning for the two of them. Amir is wracked with guilt, that he carries most of his life. He wants Hassan to show him how angry he is at him. He throws pomegranates at Hassan and wants him to hit him back, instead Hassan hits the pomegranate over his own head.
When Amir goes back and visits the tree, he sees that the tree is no longer bearing fruit, which represents the fact that their friendship is no longer in tact. The two names are still carved in the wood, but the tree is dead, just like their friendship.
The pomegranate tree is a symbol of friendship, childhood innocence, and shelter. When it appears in the first part of the story, Amir and Hassan were fast friends who, despite elements of caste, shared happy times together and enjoyed each other's company. The lush, blooming tree paralleled their lives which were full of promise, and its wide, spreading branches provided shelter, as did their comaraderie.
When Amir sees the tree again when he returns to his childhood home in the latter part of the story, it is bare and has ceased to blossom, like the ruins of his friendship with Hassan. All that remains of that idyllic time is a memory, as represented by the carvings they made on the tree as children.
The pomegranate tree serves more than one purpose in the novel. It can be viewed as a symbol of Amir and Hassan's friendship and as a symbol of Afghanistan as a whole (it is not coincidental that when Amir returns to war torn Afghanistan the tree is shriveled and nearly dead).
In such a sense the tree does not simply symbolize one thing but stands as poignant representation of a crumbling Afghanistan (Amir and Hassan's home) and also of their broken friendship.
Furthermore, the tree is also representative of the innocence of childhood and innocence that the war and Hassan's rape have destroyed. It is not a coincidence that the tree is dry and shriveled when Amir returns home.
The most important thing about the pomegranate, too, is that it is spoken of in the Qu'ran as one of the fruits in the garden of paradise. In its earlier appearance it suggests such a state, and in its reappearance later, barren, it suggests a fall from paradise.
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