The novel begins "I became what I am today at the age of twelve." To what is Amir referring? Is his assertion entirely true? What other factors have helped form his character? How would you...

The novel begins "I became what I am today at the age of twelve." To what is Amir referring? Is his assertion entirely true? What other factors have helped form his character? How would you describe Amir?

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a pivotal question, because as the novel says what happened to Amir when he was twelve truly has shaped his life. 

What Amir is referring to is the brutal assault and rape of Hassan, his best friend and the loyal servant boy of his family. Amir witnessed the attack, but he was too afraid to do anything about it. He tried to forget it, but the truth of the matter is that this act was seared into his mind indelibly. Furthermore, his act of cowardice and Hassan's unbeleivable loyalty exacerbated his guilt to a higher level. 

As an adult he still remembers what happened, and so even though he is in America, far removed from Afghanistan, he needs redemption. So, when there is an opportunity for him to go back and set things right by risking his life for Sohrab, Hassan's son, he takes the chance. Here is what he says:

"That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years."

When he is beat up, he says something remarkable. 

"My body was broken—just how badly I wouldn’t find out until later—but I felt healed. Healed at last. I laughed."

The reason why he says it is because he is reliving what he should have done when he was twelve.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The incident that Amir refers to is the rape of his best friend, Hassan, in an alley way by a boy named Assef who disdains the Hazara ethnic group that Hassan belongs to. Amir sees the incident but does not intervene because he is frightened and wants desperately to show his winning kite to his father, Baba. The incident occurs after a kite fight, and Hassan bravely refuses to give up the kite to Assef. Suffering from guilt and aware that Hassan is more courageous than he is, Amir later plants money under Hassan's mattress to make it look like he stole it. Hassan and his father later leave the hut where they live outside Amir's house, and Amir suffers guilt forever after.

In addition to this incident, Amir is formed by being privileged. He receives a fine education and can read and write, unlike Hassan. Amir is from the Pashtun ethnic group, who are favored in Afghanistan over the Hazara. As a result, Amir lives in a large and luxurious house, while Hassan lives in a mud hut outside Amir's house. In addition, Amir is the legitimate son of Baba, while Hassan is Baba's illegitimate son (which Amir does not realize until later). Therefore, Amir has a protected position in Afghan society, while Hassan does not.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The traumatic event that took place when Amir was twelve years old was when he witnessed his best friend Hassan being raped by Assad. Unfortunately, Amir neglected to intervene and help Hassan. For the remainder of Amir's life, he has to live with the guilt of not helping his friend fend off Assad. Many of Amir's significant life choices were a result of him witnessing Hassan's rape. He purposefully ruins his friendship with Hassan and struggles to come to terms with his actions as a grown adult. Decades later, Amir decides to risk his life by entering Afghanistan to save Sohrab, Hassan's son, in order to atone for his past mistakes. Amir's life has also been greatly affected by the political instability in Afghanistan, initially by the Russians and then by the Taliban. Amir and his father were forced to move to America in order to flee their Russian occupied nation. Years later, Amir returns to a dangerous Afghanistan, which is under Taliban control. Overall, Amir is a creative, traumatized, sensitive boy, who grows up into a guilt-ridden man. However, Amir finally redeems himself by saving and adopting Sohrab by the end of the novel.

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The Kite Runner

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