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How are Luke O'Neill in The Thorn Birds and Amir in The Kite Runner similar and different?

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Luke O'Neill and Amir are similar in that they are both deeply flawed individuals. Luke is a crude, selfish man who thinks only of his own needs. He marries Meggie for her money and then proceeds to treat her like dirt. As for Amir, he's so insanely jealous over his father's relationship with Hassan that he stands by and does nothing when Hassan is brutally raped. Amir betrays Hassan in the belief that it will bring him and his father closer together.

Yet the big difference between the two men is that Amir is capable of showing remorse and making amends for his unacceptable behavior. Much of The Kite Runner is concerned with Amir's attempts to make up for his refusal to intervene and help Hassan in his hour of need.

Luke, on the other hand, displays no such qualities. If anything, his behavior gets even worse as the story progresses. Not content with grabbing all the money that Meggie brought to the marriage, he hires her out as a maid, making her work long, hard hours for an absolute pittance. At no point does Luke show the slightest love or respect for Meggie. Completely lacking in concern for another living soul, Luke is chronically incapable of demonstrating the kind of selflessness which we see from Amir.

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Is Amir in The Kite Runner more like Father Ralph or Luke O'Neill in The Thorn Birds?

Amir, the protagonist of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, is a young Pashtun boy who witnesses the beating and rape of his friend, Hassan, but makes no effort to intervene. Amir eventually leaves Kabul after Soviet forces begin to intervene in Afghanistan. Amir only returns to his homeland many years later in order to rescue Sohrab, the orphaned son of Hassan, as an attempt to find "a way to be good again."

Thus, one might argue that Amir is most like Father Ralph in Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds. Amir, although unlikable and cowardly throughout much of the novel, is not a proactively aggressive character (unlike Luke O'Neill, who marries Meggie only to cruelly neglect her and steal her wages and savings).

Rather, Amir's greatest downfall is his passivity and weakness. Father Ralph suffers from this same flaw; he attempts to avoid conflict and "sells out" by accepting Mary's inappropriate bequest so he may gain favor within the Catholic Church. Ralph consciously makes this choice despite knowing that it will hurt Meggie, much like how Amir chooses to betray Hassan by failing to step in during his physical and sexual assault. 

Ralph also frequently violates his own principles and fails to uphold his integrity. He breaks his vows of chastity by impregnating Meggie and failing to acknowledge his parenthood; he values status over his own family. Similarly, Amir also chooses a comfortable existence over the lives of those who are important to him. After Hassan is raped, Amir frames the boy for theft in order to get him to leave the household. This betrayal becomes even more disturbing when we discover at the end of the book that Hassan was actually Amir's half-brother. 

Ultimately, although Amir is not as "active" or blatant of an instigator as Luke, his behavior at the beginning of The Kite Runner—like Father Ralph's own passivity—is perhaps more insidious than Luke's. The secrecy of his action (and inaction) allows him to avoid public responsibility, even if it can't save him from the burden of guilt. 

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