The Theme of Redemption in “The Kite Runner”
Literature is not only a means of expressing emotions for the author but also reflects social realities. Especially for authors, the ability to convey acute social agendas through artistic images and to talk about possible ways of introducing changes is valuable. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is an example of how complex social aspects can be described through literary imagery. The author uses his identity to talk about the problems and difficulties of an entire country. It is also important that he does this in retrospect, capturing both the past and the future. Hosseini, in his book, manages to discuss the prerequisites and consequences of the actions of privileged Afghani groups and also describe the ethnic and class struggle. The path of Amir’s redemption described by the author is an illustration of the collective trauma of an entire country and the only way to eliminate it.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a book written by an Afghan American writer, which became an international bestseller. The plot is set in Afghanistan in 1975, where the main character, a twelve-year-old boy named Amir, wants to win a local kite-fighting tournament. His friend Hassan, after the tournament, is beaten and raped by Assef, an older boy who is tended to violence. Amir witnesses this event but does not help his friend. After that, Hassan’s mental health rapidly deteriorates, and Amir distances herself from him due to feelings of guilt. After the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, Amir fled to America, where he received an education, married, and became a writer. After many years, Amir learns that Hassan was killed by members of the Taliban, whose leader was Assef. However, the main character gets a chance at redemption by rescuing Hassan’s son from the Taliban, as well as bringing him to America and adopting him.
The theme of atonement in the novel is the most significant and appears to be the culmination of the story. In particular, the author describes Amir’s way of atonement, which he experiences due to the episode with Hassan and his further behavior (Matondang 10). When the main character gets the opportunity to return to Kabul twenty years later, he sees it as “a way to be good again” (Hosseini 177). In particular, Amir feels that he and his father have betrayed people who were infinitely loyal to them. Amir stresses that he had to atone not only for his sins but also for Baba’s ones (Hosseini 209). Thus, the call to Kabul and the possibility of saving Hassan’s son for Amir became an opportunity to find peace in his soul.
The story of Amir and his path of redemption is a parable about choosing the right option. In particular, as a child, the boy did not defend his principles and chose the easy path, for which he paid in the future (Matondang 12). However, the main character has the opportunity to correct the consequences of his wrong actions partially. Probably, the author paints a picture of Afghanistan as a whole by illustrating the path of Amir’s redemption. Despite the brutality that has characterized the country in the past, Hosseini believes in the possibility of a bright future for Afghanistan. Amir says to Sohrab, “I can’t give you your old life back… You have a visa to go to America” (Hosseini 325). This aspect shows that Amir’s guilt opened up the opportunity for him to bring about change through the atonement.
In this situation, redemption and the path of Amir act as integral parts of the character’s development, becoming the raison d’être of his existence. Ahmad notes that without guilt, Amir would have no reason to fight the existing order presented by Assef as the head of the Taliban (135). He would not have the ability and desire to help the less fortunate as Sohrab. While Amir and Baba left Afghanistan and led a happy and secure life, Hassan was forced into poverty and danger in Afghanistan. In the happiest moments, Baba says, “I wish Hassan had been with us today” (Hosseini 133). Thus, he feels guilty for leaving Afghanistan and abandoning his compatriots there. He feels like a traitor, choosing a quiet life away from war and danger. Just as Amir, who is in need of redemption through help to the struggling Sohrab.
Betrayal for the main character is a traumatic experience that darkens his entire future life. Hosseini portrays Amir as both a victim and a sinner who suffers from his bad deed (Chun 964). His cowardice and guilt are compounded by his tendency to avoid Hassan and even frame him. However, even after escaping to the United States, heavy feelings and a sense of his own sinfulness do not leave him. Only when he returned to Afghanistan he notes, “My body was broken… but I felt healed” (Hosseini 303). This situation reflects Afghanistan’s collective trauma of class inequality and oppression. The author, through the characters Amir and Hossan, as well as their families, seeks to describe how the origin determines the fate of a person.
Amir and his family belonged to the higher class, while the Hossan were from an ethnic minority. In this case, the main character had the opportunity to flee the country, away from poverty and war. Whereas Hossan, due to his origin, was forced to stay in Afghanistan, which became fatal for him. Chun notes that through the path of Amir’s redemption, the author seeks to show how important it is to be aware of the past in order to build the future (966). The story of Amir and Hossan reveals to readers the collective trauma of Afghanistan in the form of ethnic and class inequality and war. Hosseini emphasizes that the upper class needs to admit their sins and try to atone for them. It is important not to run away like Amir in search of happiness away from war and poverty but to try to help the nation and the Afghani people.
Thus, Hosseini masterfully conveys an acute social agenda through literary images. Perhaps through the character of Amir, the author also expresses his sense of guilt for leaving Afghanistan. The path of redemption of the main character can be seen in this case as the desire of Hosseini himself for atonement, which he would never achieve. However, this story can also be viewed with a broader focus in relation to the entire Afghan society. In particular, Amir’s redemption is presented as the only way to eliminate the existing problems of society rooted in its past. According to the author, the future is possible only through the realization and acceptance of one’s sins, as well as the desire for their atonement.
Ahmad, Waseem. “Thematic Study of Khaled Hossein’s Novel The Kite Runner.” Research Review Journal, vol. 3, no. 5, 2018, pp. 131-137.
Chun, Yang. “Exploration of Trauma Narrative in The Kite Runner.” Sino-US English Teaching, vol. 11, no. 12, 2014, pp. 662-967.
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. Penguin Group (USA), 2003.
Matondang, Marhaeni K. D. “An Analysis of the Major Themes in Khaled Hosseini’s Novel The Kite Runner.” Research, Society and Development, vol. 9, no. 9, 2020, pp. 1-14.