In The Kite Runner, how is Hassan's reaction to Amir's first story a metaphor for Amir's life and indicative of their character differences?

After hearing Amir's story, Hassan asks, "Why did the man kill his wife? In fact, why did he ever have to feel sad to shed tears? Couldn't he have just smelled an onion?"

Quick answer:

The significance of the irony is that the story is a metaphor for both boys. Hassan is destined to be a poor man, but is nevertheless happy. Amir metaphorically kills Hassan by failing to help in the alley and thinking about the material item instead (the kite, represented by the pearls). Hassan's reaction is another metaphor. He cannot understand the impulse to slay, which reflects the character difference between the boys.

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There are several ironies in Amir’s first story and his telling of it to Hassan. The story is a

dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls.

First, the story, in some ways, is a metaphor for both Amir's life and Hassan’s. Up until its end, the story represents Hassan’s life. He is the son of a poor man, so he is destined to be a poor man himself according to the restrictive caste society in which they live. Yet he is happy, just as the man in the story is initially happy. Although Hassan aspires to improve himself, as we later see when we learn that he has taught himself to read, he enjoys his life and appreciates the simple things in it.

Another irony is that Hassan cannot understand why the man would need to do something as evil and self-destructive as slaying his own beloved wife. This is in part because of his naiveté and innocence. More importantly, he does not understand how anyone could be so driven to obtain wealth that their need would lead them to commit murder. Hassan is too kind to even contemplate this. For example, when Amir talks him into slinging walnuts at the neighbor’s dog, he is reluctant.

Moreover, Hassan immediately sees the problem with the plot of Amir’s story, asking, "Why did the man kill his wife? Couldn't he have just smelled an onion?" The takeaway to his reaction is twofold. It epitomizes the difference in character between the two boys. Hassan is extremely kind, and Amir is very unthinking and unfeeling at this early stage in his life and in the book. We also see this character difference in the story of the neighbor’s dog noted above.

Finally, the story is also meant as a metaphor for Amir's life. Hassan sees the simple solution immediately, while Amir struggles to find deep meaning in something that need not be complicated. More importantly, Amir metaphorically kills Hassan—or contributes to the killing of his innocence—when he fails to help him in the alley. The event follows him for the rest of his life. He thinks about how he placed the importance of the material item—the kite, represented by the pearls in his story—ahead of his beloved Hassan, represented by the wife in his story. Thereafter, all the success and material wealth in the world cannot make Amir happy until he finally achieves redemption at the end by adopting Sohrab.

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The irony in the first story demonstrates the inherent differences between Hassan and Amir. Responses by Hassan after the story show that he is introspective and manages to read between the lines. He makes well-thought-out observations, and Amir learns something from Hassan despite his low opinion of him. Although Hassan does not know how to read and write, he points out an obvious flaw in the story, and Amir takes the comments negatively.

His reaction is a metaphor for Amir’s life because, although the events concerning the poor man in the story can be compared to Amir's life, the two are not the same. Hassan suggests that there were simpler methods available to the man, but he chose the most drastic method to achieve his objectives. Although the option to use an onion was not available to Amir, he could have achieved his objectives without causing harm to Hassan and, by extension, to Ali and his own father.

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Amir's first short story is about a poor man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup his tears would turn into pearls. Since the poor man was always happy, he had to find ways to make himself sad so that his tears would make him rich. The story ends with the man weeping over his slain wife's body as his cup overflows with pearls. The irony in Amir's short story is that the poor man sacrificed his happiness for material wealth, which was supposed to bring him joy but did not. After hearing the story, Hassan immediately identifies the plot hole and asks Amir why the man would not simply smell an onion to make himself cry. Hassan's perspective of the story illustrates his innocence and optimistic outlook on life. The thought of harming another person for personal gain would never cross Hassan's mind. In contrast, Amir is more selfish and would consider harming another individual for personal gain.

Amir's story can be metaphorically applied to his own life. For Amir to gain his father's affection, he neglects Hassan's friendship, which is very dear to him. Amir unnecessarily suffers and makes the situation worse by not addressing the situation with Assef. Rather than expressing his true feelings, Amir selfishly ruins his relationship with his best friend, which leaves him miserable and depressed, much like the man in his short story.

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The irony in the story is that, in order to satisfy his own greed, the man destroys that which he realizes too late is most dear to him.  It is significant because it is a metaphor for Amir's own life in that, in his desperate longing for his father's love, Amir effectively destroys the safe and comfortable life of Hassan along with their relationship with each other, never realizing the great value of the friendship they share.  A further irony is that both Amir and his fictional character could have easily gotten what they wanted without paying anywhere near such a drastic price.

Amir's story illustrates major differences in Hassan's and Amir's characters.  Hassan has a clear vision of things, picking up immediately the fact that the man could have found a more practical way of achieving his goals.  Amir makes everything more complicated for himself; the possibility perceived by Hassan never occurs to him, even though it is "so obvious it (is) utterly stupid".  The story also points out a basic difference between the two boys' perception of human nature.  Hassan, even though he is constantly victimized because of his nationality, has a trusting spirit and cannot conceive of any reason why the man would have wanted to kill his wife, while Amir is more in touch with the darker side of human nature because it is so active in his own character (Chapter 4).

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In The Kite Runner, what is the significance of the irony in Amir's first story and how is it a metaphor for Amir's life?

Amir's first story is about a man who discovers that his tears turn into pearls; so he performs acts that cause him to cry, increasing his collection of valuable pearls.  At the story's end, the man sits on a pile of pearls after having killed his wife so that he could cry and produce for pearls. Amir's moral and the story's irony demonstrate that often a person must make great sacrifices at the expense of family and friends in order to get what he wants.

Of course, Amir does exactly what the man in his story did--he sacrifices his friend (and half brother) in order to get his father's approval. Later, Amir also believes that he sacrificed his right to be a father when he betrayed Hassan.  He thinks that his wife's infertility is a result of his heinous act years earlier.

Ironically, Hassan offers a solution to both "stories." For Amir's fictional story, he suggests that the man cut up onions in order to produce tears, and his forgiveness and son Sohrab present Amir with opportunity to redeem himself.

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