In The Kite Runner, why does Amir feel guilty, how does this guilt affect him, and how does he try to atone for his sins?

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In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, grown-up Amir’s overwhelming sense of guilt can be traced back to his treatment of his childhood friend, Hassan. Amir was a silent bystander to Hassan’s rape in an alley in Kabul when they were children.

However, what makes Amir’s guilt even greater...

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In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, grown-up Amir’s overwhelming sense of guilt can be traced back to his treatment of his childhood friend, Hassan. Amir was a silent bystander to Hassan’s rape in an alley in Kabul when they were children.

However, what makes Amir’s guilt even greater is that it was not only his cowardice but also his resentment of Hassan, which stopped him from intervening as bullies assaulted his friend. A child himself, Amir is unable to process that his intense jealousy of Hassan is a direct consequence of his father’s praising Hassan for what bookish Amir is not: brave, resourceful, and athletic. When Hasan’s bravery fails to protect him from violence, Amir feels vindicated at Hassan’s emasculation. These feelings are not explicitly expressed in the novel, but the subtext to Amir’s behavior is clear.

Worse, in the wake of the rape, Amir continues to treat Hassan horribly. Hassan now begins to remind Amir of his own cowardice, and Amir wants nothing more than for Hassan to disappear, along with his guilt. He tries to frame Hassan for theft so Baba, his father, can send him away. Though Baba forgives Hassan, Hassan's proud father, Ali, well aware of Amir’s role in the sequence of events, leaves the home with his son anyway. Soon after, Baba and Amir flee Kabul for the United States.

As Amir grows up, he realizes the full import of his actions. His guilt at betraying selfless, loyal Hassan becomes entwined with his guilt about his racist and class-driven attitudes towards Hassan. Hassan was a Hazra, an ethnic minority community in Afghanistan, and the son of a household servant, both of which realities made Amir ashamed to have him for a best friend. As Amir himself is now a part of a small minority, his renewed experience of class and race informs his guilt about his past.

Guilt of such enormity can only be atoned for through a trial by fire. Thus, Amir must return to the same war-torn Afghanistan he fled along with his father; except the Afghanistan of his adulthood is far worse than his childhood self could have imagined. Amir has to make the hazardous trip to rescue Sohrab, Hassan’s orphaned young son, who is in the clutches of the Taliban.

After his father’s death, Amir learns that Hassan was actually Baba’s son, a fact which adds even more pathos to their shared past. In a way, atoning for his actions is also Amir’s way of reclaiming his own lost, child-like self, since in betraying Hassan, he also betrayed his own innocence. Therefore, Amir risks his life and rescues traumatized Sohrab from an intensely dangerous situation, bringing him to America and adopting him. Amir redeems himself, and through Sohrab, reclaims Hassan, as well as his own lost authentic self.

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Amir feels guilty because he witnesses Hassan being raped by Assef in a back alley following the kite-fighting tournament. Instead of being a good friend and intervening to stop Assef, Amir silently watched from behind a broken cement wall as Assef rapes Hassan. Amir is overwhelmed by guilt following the incident and cannot be around Hassan. Amir stops playing with Hassan, and their relationship suffers. Amir then sets up Hassan by placing his gifts in Hassan's bed in the hopes that Baba will kick Hassan out of their home when he discovers that Hassan stole Amir's gifts. However, Baba forgives Hassan; but Ali takes his son and leaves Baba's estate because he knows the truth about everything.

Baba and Amir then flee Kabul and immigrate to America, which gives Amir a second chance at life. As an adult, Amir's repressed feelings of guilt continue to haunt him, and he begins losing sleep. After receiving a call from Rahim Khan, Amir travels to Pakistan and learns that Hassan was his half-brother and has a son named Sohrab. Amir finds redemption and atones for his past sins by traveling to Taliban-occupied Kabul to rescue Sohrab. Amir ends up fighting Assef in order to save Sohrab and atones for his past sins by saving and adopting Hassan's son.

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Amir spends most of his adult life trying to get redemption in The Kite Runner. Amir and Hassan were the best of friends when they were younger, but as they got a little older, Amir began to resent Hassan in many ways. Amir was born into a family that was wealthy while Hassan was the "son" of Amir's father's servant. Amir's father, Baba, seems to show much affection and attention on Hassan and Amir is jealous of that. Hassan stays faithful to Amir, even after Amir turns his back on his one time friend. Amir feels great guilt about letting Hassan get raped and not trying to help. Amir knows that he was a coward, but he treats Hassan badly after this. 

As Amir grows older he lives with this regret more and more. He and Baba escaped to America, but when Baba dies, Amir finally finds out the truth. Hassan is really his half brother. Baba was Hassan's father. This realization hits Amir hard. He struggles with what he had done and what to do next. When he learns that Hassan has been killed by the Taliban, Amir makes the decision to travel to Afghanistan to rescue Hassan's son,  Sohrab. Sohrab has been taken by the Taliban and Amir goes to get him. 

By the end of The Kite Runner, we see that Amir does what he has to do to atone for his sins. He has lived with his guilt for many years, and now he is living for redemption. He is finally able to get that redemption in the form of Sohrab.

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Amir's quest for redemption in The Kite Runner becomes the most powerful force in his adult life. Amir feels constant guilt over his treatment of Hassan. Their class differences prevented Amir from accepting Hassan as a true friend, but Amir's more direct behavior was more troubling. He failed to come to Hassan's assistance when he was raped by Assef's gang, and his jealousy over Baba's attention prompted him to plant the evidence that seemed to prove Hassan guilty of theft. These cruel truths bothered Amir somewhat before he and Baba left Kabul, but they became overpowering when Amir reached adulthood in California. Amir compensated by becoming even closer to his father, and this contents him somewhat. But following Baba's death, Amir learns that Hassan is also Baba's son, and this fact merely reopens the old wounds. In Amir's mind, there is only one way to atone for his past mistakes: He must make the dangerous trip back to Afghanistan and recover Hassan's son, Sohrab--Amir's own flesh and blood as well. Only in this way will he ever complete his quest for redemption.

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