In "The Kite Runner," why is Amir afraid to be Hassan's true friend?
I think it would be incorrect to say that Amir was afraid to be Hassan's true friend. It would be more accurate to say that during their childhood, Amir was incapable of being his friend, for several reasons. First of all, Amir and Hassan were separated by social class. No matter how much Amir enjoyed Hassan's company, he was never unaware of Hassan's lower class; he never related to Hassan as his equal because he was not; Hassan was a servant in Baba's house, specifically a servant to Amir. Hassan's social ostracism made Amir feel superior, at least superficially, since he actually felt very inferior. He often lorded his superiority over Hassan to make himself feel better.
Amir was not capable of friendship because of these deep feelings of inferiority, the result of his troubled relationship with Baba. He was completely self-centered; he felt no empathy for Hassan. He recognized Hassan's complete devotion, but he did not value it. When he had to choose between Hassan's safety and his own, he deserted him. When Hassan's presence intensified his own guilt, he lied, forcing Hassan out of his home. Amir's psychological conflicts and pain made it impossible for him to be Hassan's friend.
It is only as an adult, having gained understanding of himself and his behavior, that Amir can honor Hassan's friendship by returning to Afghanistan, risking his life to rescue Hassan's son, Sohrab, and then bringing the boy home to give him a good life. Amir becomes Hassan's true friend after Hassan's death.
This is a good question because Hasan is incredibly loyal to Amir; yet Amir is not able to reciprocate. This fact alone requires interpretation. Amir is afraid to be a true friend to Hasan for two reason.
First, there is the issue of social class. In other words, we need to look at their social dynamic from the context of a Middle Eastern culture where there are servants and masters. Hasan is from a different social class. His father is a successful business man with wealth, social prestige, and means. So, Amir goes to school, is educated, and has prerogatives. Hasan, on the other hand, does not have these things. He is an ethnic Hazara (lower class). So, society divides them.
Second and more importantly, Amir feels insecure. Even though he cannot put his finger on it, he feels that Hasan is more like his father than he is. Hasan is loyal, tough, and most of all brave. Here is a quote from Baba:
“A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.”
The one who lives up to these words is Hasan and Baba himself. The one who cannot live up to these words is Amir. So, Amir feels threatened. He feels that his father might love Hasan more. So, his insecurity does not allow him to be a good friend to Hasan. In other words, there is a psychological hinderance.
The main reason why Amir is afraid to acknowledge that Hassan is his friend is due to the social pressure and ethnic prejudice against Hazaras in his community. Amir is a Pashtun, which is the majority Sunni ethnic group in Afghanistan. For centuries the Pashtuns have discriminated against the Hazara minority ethnic group living in Afghanistan. The Hazaras are a minority Shia ethnic group in Afghanistan and are treated as second-class citizens with few civil rights. There is a great economic and social disparity between Amir and Hassan, and Hassan is technically Amir's servant. Although Amir is close friends with Hassan and spends the majority of his childhood days playing with him, the social pressure and centuries of discrimination prevent Amir from publicly acknowledging Hassan as his friend.
Another significant reason why Amir does not admit that Hassan is his friend involves his feelings of jealousy towards Hassan. Amir desperately desires his father's affection and is painfully aware that Baba favors Hassan over him. Baba favors Hassan because he is naturally athletic, courageous, and masculine. Amir's feelings of jealousy coupled with the social pressure of his prejudiced community toward Hazaras prevents him from acknowledging Hassan as his true friend.