The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a story of a man and his experiences of cultural, geographical and emotional transition. The story reflects on an individual’s capacity for good and evil. It’s a story about complex emotions like jealousy, betrayal, guilt, and an individual’s journey to reach forgiveness and redemption. The communal divide which rips apart the fabric of personal relationships is described through the relationship between Amir, son of a respected Pashtun man in pre-Taliban Afghanistan and Hassan, his servant’s son. What was actually a budding friendship begins to resemble the socio-political reality of the world they were growing up in. The socio-political divide between them is further complicated by the growing resentments of young Amir, who deep down knew that Hassan was his rival in his quest for his father’s affection. These festering insecurities drove Amir to a point where he betrays Hassan at a point where Hassan is helplessly attacked. Plagued by his inaction, Amir ends up lashing out at Hassan, pushing him further away. To avoid these feelings of shame,disgust and guilt he unconsciously projects them onto Hassan, thereby feeling a sense of repulsion and anger towards him instead. He then desperately desires to distance himself from Hassan in the hope of escaping his crushing sense of guilt. Yet, he spends the next few years of his life stuck helplessly in this past:
“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.”
Amir’s story provides an insight into the corrupting effect of unprocessed guilt and shame.
It shows us how these feelings are not just personal and circumstantial but can also sometimes traverse intergenerationally and continue to manifest in different forms. In Amir’s life, his guilt began much before that day in the alley. Beginning from his birth, associated with his mother’s death during childbirth, Amir always sensed blame in his father’s eyes. This fact continued to haunt his relationship with his father constantly pushing him to somehow redeem himself in his father’s eyes. This need for redemption remains unfulfilled until in his adulthood he finally gets a chance to undo the wrong he did to Hassan.
The story reflects poignantly how we continue to remain deeply impacted by the dynamics of our early relationships. We sometimes continue to repeat them unconsciously in our subsequent relationships in life. These repetitions confound us, confuse us and yet we can’t help finding ourselves in the same situations over and over again. The ghosts of our pasts do not leave us until they are faced. However, as life unfolds, it inevitably brings possibilities of change and growth, which if seized can help us break-through those repetitions.
Amir’s story is one of a deeply flawed protagonist who is unable to do the right thing, who is scared and insecure. The strongest feature of this book is that it doesn’t polarise the good and bad but shows the difficulty of being good while conveying that it is still possible. It highlights the turmoil that an individual has to go through, the mistakes one has to make, the weaknesses one has to accept, the suffering one has to endure sometimes. We might not be the perfect, ideal person that we would like to be. The person Amir wanted to be in front of his father, the person maybe he thought his father was, the necessary ideal that each one of us carries in our aspirations. However, each one of us takes a journey to reach there. The journey to reach that ideal might be full of imperfections, failures, and mishappenings. However, there is always a possibility and hope of redemption, growth and joy.