In The Kite Runner, how can Assef's betrayal be seen as the worst in the novel?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that a case can be made that Assef's betrayal is the greatest in Hosseini's work.  Assef does not betray one person, but rather an entire nation.  As a member of the Taliban, Assef betrays his people by not assisting in the rebuilding following the war with the Russians.  Rather, he uses power for his own end and through his association with the Taliban, he does not build community or enhance a sense of collective identity with his people.  Rather, he creates division within it and targets individuals within it as an exercise of self- indulgent power.  Naturally, these tendencies were shown as a young person, representing again his betrayal, only this time to the promises and possibilities to what can be.  His raping of Hassan in the alley is representative of this.  The stealing of another's voice, the forced sodomy that forever alters Hassan's life, and by effect, Amir's, is another example of how Assef's brutality is an example of the worst in betrayal.  At the very least, the other characters who betray others do so with some type of productive or constructive end.  The betrayal of younger people to older results in something productive and something that creates, as opposed to destroys.  Assef does nothing of the sort, with his betrayal being the ultimate representation of the worst that human beings can and willingly do.

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The Kite Runner

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