Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1762
Essential Passage 1: Chapter 7
I stopped watching, turned away from the alley. Something warm was running down my wrist. I blinked, saw I was still biting down on my fist, hard enough to draw blood from the knuckles. I realized something else. I was weeping. From just around the corner, I could hear Assef’s quick, rhythmic grunts.
I had one last chance to make a decision. One final opportunity to decide who I was going to be. I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan—the way he’d stepped up for me all those times in the past—and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run.
In the end, I ran.
I ran because I was a coward. I was afraid of Assef and what he would do to me. I was afraid of getting hurt. That’s what I told myself as I turned my back to the alley, to Hassan. That’s what I made myself believe. I actually aspired to cowardice, because the alternative, the real reason I was running, was that Assef was right: Nothing was free in this world. Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba. Was it a fair price? The answer floated to my conscious mind before I could thwart it: He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?
Amir has just emerged victorious in the kite-flying tournament, having sawn through the string of the last remaining kite and thus freeing it to fly free. Hassan, the son of his father’s servant and also his friend, was the best kite runner in Kabul, chasing down the free-flying kites. Hassan had run off to find this kite that was a symbol of Amir’s victory, a victory that Amir hoped would bring some measure of pride to his father, Baba, for his only son. Amir, running to find Hassan, comes across his friend cornered in an alley by three bullies. Assef, whose mother was German and who had a keen fascination for Adolph Hitler, has demanded that Hassan give him the kite. Hassan refuses because he has promised it for Amir. Assef then agrees that Hassan should keep the kite so that it will remind him of what is about to happen to him. With his two friends holding Hassan down, Assef rapes Hassan. Amir is hiding, observing the rape take place. Too afraid to interfere and protect his friend, all he does is stand and watch. Overcome with fear and guilt, Amir runs, leaving Hassan in the hands of the bullies. This is a moment that will henceforth affect all the characters’ lives.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 14
I thought about a comment Rahim Khan had made just before we hung up. Made it in passing, almost as an afterthought. I closed my eyes and saw him at the other end of the scratchy long-distance line, saw him with his lips slightly parted, head tilted to one side. And again, something in his bottomless black eyes hinted at an unspoken secret between us. Except now I knew he knew. Suzanne...there is something in his bottomless black eyes hinted at an unspoken secret between us. Except now I knew he knew. My suspicions had been right all those years. He knew about Assef, the kite, the money, the watch with the lightning bolt hands. He had always known.
Come. There is a way to be good again, Rahim Khan had said on the phone just before hanging up. Said it in passing, almost as an afterthought.
A way to be good again.
In the summer of 2001, after living for many years in America, Amir receives a telephone call from Rahim Khan, his father’s old friend. Rahim tells Amir that he is ill and needs him to come to Pakistan. Amir senses there is some other reason, so he agrees to return to the East. A chance phrase at the end of the phone call makes Amir think about the past: "There is a way to be good again." For many years, Amir has kept secret the fact that he saw Hassan be raped and did nothing. Then, to assuage his guilt, he planted money and his watch under Hassan’s pillow. Amir accused Hassan of theft so that he would be sent away. With that one phrase from Rahim, however, Amir knows that it is not really a secret. Rahim knows all that he has done and that he has lived concealing the secrets of his acts of cowardice. Rahim knows his true character. With this return, Rahim is offering Amir a chance for redemption.
Essential Passage 3: Chapter 25
I looked at the photo. Your father was a man torn between two halves, Rahim Khan had said in his letter. I had been the entitled half, the society-approved, legitimate half, the unwitting embodiment of Baba’s guilt. I looked at Hassan, showing those two missing front teeth, sunlight slanting on his face. Baba’s other half. The unentitled, unprivileged half. The half who had inherited what had been pure and noble in Baba. The half that, maybe, in the most secret recesses of his heart, Baba had thought of as his true son.
I slipped the picture back where I had found it. Then I realized something: That last thought had brought no sting with it. Closing Sohrab’s door, I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.
Amir has rescued Sohrab, Hassan’s son, from Assef. After many hurdles and difficulties, Amir has brought him to America, to be adopted by himself and Soraya. Sohrab, thinking that Amir was breaking his promise to him and placing him in an orphanage, had attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. Although Amir assured him that he was not going to the orphanage but to America with him, Sohrab does not talk, and will not talk, for almost a year. As Amir watches Sohrab asleep that first night in his new bed, he sees the photograph of Sohrab and Hassan that Amir had given to him. Long feeling angry at the secret that Baba had kept from him, that Hassan was not just a servant but his son and Amir’s brother, Amir finally is able to forgive his father. Baba had told him long ago that lying was the greatest sin because it was a theft. When Amir discovered that Baba lied for years, he develops a cold anger at the theft not only of the truth but of the brother that he could have had all these years. He realizes that he no longer feels the pain of anger that he has felt toward his father.
Analysis of Essential Passages
In The Kite Runner, the main character, Amir, is well on his way to being a classic tragic hero through his fatal flaws of fear, unresolved guilt, and unforgiveness. From his childhood until well into his adulthood, Amir must battle the character weaknesses that have marked his life, even in the midst of happiness.
Amir’s cowardice, bred by insecurity in his father's love, leads him to make choices that not only damage his own life but also result in the greatest tragedy for others. His father, Baba, frequently recognizes instances in which Amir will not make the brave choice but remain where he is in the safety of a risk-free environment. In the conversation that Amir overhears between his father and Rahim, Baba states that Amir, who will not stand up for himself, will eventually not stand up for anything. It is this very characteristic that leads to the breakdown of the family, with the rape of Hassan and Amir’s failure to intervene. Although Hassan has consistently protected his friend, Amir chooses to hope for a surface appreciation from his father at the expense of Hassan. At the risk of losing the kite that he has won in the tournament, Amir stands by and allows Assef to rape his friend. Not only does this action have consequences for Amir himself, but it sets the stage for the departure of Hassan and his father from the household. Their banishment causes them to be left behind during the Russian invasion and subsequent takeover by the Taliban, which results in their murders and the abduction of Sohrab. The hospital scenes, where Amir is treated following his fight with Assef and Sorhab’s recovery from his suicide attempt, are the direct results of Amir’s fear.
Although Amir believes that he alone knows that he stood by and allowed Hassan to be raped, the guilt that he suffers forces him to withdraw from Hassan, eventually lying about the supposed theft of his watch and his money by Hassan. Though the object of his guilt has been removed, the inner secret continues to eat away for years to come. Physical pain results whenever anything reminds him of Hassan, who had once been his best friend. The betrayal of friendship will color every relationship that he has from then on, particularly with his father as well as with Soraya, his wife. It is only through Rahim, who has known his secret all along, that Amir may at last find redemption, a “way to be good again.”
The betrayal of Hassan is mirrored in Amir’s life by the feeling of his father’s betrayal by not telling him that Hassan was his brother. The lecture that Baba gave him once in childhood—that lying was the greatest sin because it was a theft of many things—leaves Amir unable to forgive his father for the theft of the truth and for the theft of a brother. Whether or not his childhood choices would be different if he had known is unclear, but his focus is on this flaw in his father whom he had for so long tried to please. Only the rescue of Sohrab and his adoption bring restoration of Amir’s faith in his father.
Amir’s road to redemption is a lifelong process. As philosopher William James says, “When you have to make a choice, and do not make it, that in itself is a choice.” The choices that Amir made, beginning in his childhood, show what he truly is. Total redemption is not possible: the dead cannot be saved. However, through his search for Sohrab and bringing him home, Amir manages to make peace with himself.
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