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The Kite Runner is Khaled Hosseini's account of Amir from Kabul. His childhood experiences set in motion a series of heinous events that would come to characterize him. As a result, the book is a story of betrayal and a boy's desire for salvation. Hassan, Baba, and Amir are the primary characters in the story who bring up the subject of betrayal and allegiance. These three characters' storylines are intertwined, and their lives reflect on one another. Amir is born into a wealthy family. He does, however, remain with Ali and his son, Hassan. Unfortunately, Hassan and Ali are from a minority group and therefore considered as having less of a stake to social justice by their neighbors (Banu 183). However, Amir and his father, Baba, treat the two with respect and as equals. The interactions between these characters create the plot of the story. Hassan is the epitome of loyalty while Baba and Amir's betrayals constantly keep straining their relationship with others.
Betrayal is the act of violating or breaking confidence and causes schism in relationships. The theme of betrayal is deeply rooted in the kite runner and is manifest in the friendships therein. Amir and Baba betray their friends with serious consequences.
Amir betrays Hassan. Amir and Hassan were raised under the same roof. Amir and Hassan were both adored by Baba, Amir’s father. Hassan’s father, Ali, also took care of both boys with equal care. In their relationship, Hassan looked up to Amir. Although they were different, the two boys almost complemented each other. Hassan’s devotion to Amir is evident in several scenes. For instance, while it was Amir’s quest to participate in the kite competition and gain his father’s approval, Hassan offered to help (Saraswat 168). Things take an unprecedented turn when Assef, a bully, picks on Hassan for refusing to hand over Amir’s kite. Amir comes along and watches from a hidden position as his friend is assaulted and raped. In light of their shared bond, Amir owed it to Assef to stand up for him (Banu 183). However, his betrayal is motivated by fear and a selfish sense of self-preservation. As a result of his betrayal, Hassan is scarred for life, and Amir has to battle with the burden of guilt and the knowledge that he is a coward. He is to spend much of his later life trying to shake off this belief by redeeming his name (Saraswat 169). The betrayal even extends further as Amir plots to have Hassan kicked out of the house by framing him for the theft of his watch and money. In this instance, Amir’s betrayal is motivated by selfishness and jealousy. He perceives his own friend as a competitor for his father’s affection and decides to do away with the competition (Banu 185). As a result of his action, Hassan and Ali are kicked out of the house. However, Amir has to battle the guilty conscience that plagues him, especially after Hassan still shows him kindness in spite of Amir’s evil intentions to him.
Baba also betrays his friend and worker, Ali. Later into the novel, it is clear that Hassan’s parentage was hidden. Baba is the true father of Hassan. Baba slept with Ali’s wife and let Ali believe that the child was his all along (Parveen 164). Baba’s motivation for the betrayal was passion. He then covered up his betrayal in a conspiracy with the wife. However, even so, he does not escape the consequences of his betrayal. Baba is forced to watch his son grow to call another man ‘father.' Moreover, he cannot openly express his affection for the boy who is, in so many ways, better than his legal son. Even when he tries to express affection, this drives a chasm within the family as Amir resents Hassan. Baba's betrayal has the effect of accentuating the pain of Amir's betrayal when the fact is finally presented to him. It is easier to live with the fact that he betrayed a friend than to live with the knowledge that he betrayed his own half-brother. This drives Amir to unimaginable heights to try and make up for his errors by saving Hassan’s son.
Loyalty refers to the expression of dedication and faithfulness to a person regardless of their stand. Loyalty is the antithesis of betrayal. In The Kite Runner, Hassan is the embodiment of loyalty (Banu 185). Hassan is depicted as the most loyal character, expecting nothing in return, despite all betrayals from his close friends and family. The motivation for Hassan’s loyalty in all instances seems to be a deep sense of devotion and friendship. However, the consequences of his loyalty were often detrimental to him since the others did not reciprocate the sentiment. For instance, Hassan guarded Amir’s kite very jealously from Assef. The consequence is that Hassan was assaulted by Assef. In a different scenario, Hassan owns up to a mistake that he did not commit just to get Amir in the clear. Hassan confessed to having stolen the watch and money under his pillow while in reality, it was Amit who put them there. As a consequence of this misplaced devotion, Hassan is branded a thief and driven away from his biological father. His father and himself have to leave the place they called home for a long time and the good life that came with it (Saraswat 172). However, the refusal to betray his friend is not without positive consequences for Hassan. When he shows kindness to his friend as a response to the cruelty he has been subjected to, the burden of guilt on Amir enlarges. He becomes more aware of the fact that Hassan was a true friend, and this drives him to seek to make amends later in life (Saraswat 167).
In conclusion, The Kite Runner is rich in themes. However, loyalty and betrayal are the core themes of the novel. The book offers some useful insight into human behavior, their motivations, and their consequences. Through Hassan, the virtue of loyalty can be appreciated. In Baba and Amir, the vice of betrayal is embodied. The author's emphasis seems to be the idea that what goes around comes around, as Amir struggles very hard to make amends for the past he regrets but cannot change (Parveen 164). In becoming the kite runner to Hassan’s son, Amir atones for his sins.
Banu, Shahira S. "Discrimination, War and Redemption in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns." Language in India 16.8 (2016): 180-194. Print.
Parveen, Tarana. "The Kite Runner: Role Of Multicultural Fiction In Fostering Cultural Competence." Research Journal of English Language and Literature (2015): 160-167. Print.
Saraswat, Niraja. "Theme of Identity and Redemption in Khaleed Hosseini's The Kite Runner." International Journal of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Studies (IJIMS) 1.5 (2014): 166-175. Print.
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