Amir’s Courage in “The Kite Runner”
In “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Husseini, Amir, the main protagonist of the story undergoes a transformation. As a young boy in Kabul, Afghanistan, his homeland, he was a cowardly kid, always letting Hassan, his servant-friend, do everything for him. His lack of courage led to his best friend’s rape. This event would haunt him up to the shores of California. Haunted by his past, he mustered enough courage to go back to his troubled country to redeem himself.
From a cowardly rich boy, Amir became the brave uncle that saved Sohrab, Hassan’s son, from the Taliban.
Amir’s [lack of] Courage as a Boy
Being the rich young boy that Amir was, he felt he could get away with anything and that he is allowed to be mischievous. This isn’t true of course, when the boys were disturbing the neighbors, Hassan’s father, Ali, scolded Hassan. Hassan didn’t tell his father that it was Amir’s idea.
It was Amir who always gets them into trouble but Hassan always covers for him. Amir’s non-intimate relationship with his father didn’t help either in making Amir take responsibility for his actions. Another instance that showed Amir’s cowardice is when his father took him to a Buzkashi tournament. A man was trampled to death by horses and Amir cried on their way home. His father could only try to hide his disappointment. Once, a fanatic of Hitler boy named Assef, was about to hit Amir with his brass knuckles, as always Hassan was there to protect Amir. Hassan threatened to take out Assef’s eyes if he lays a finger on Amir. Assef and his posse retreated, but not before swearing revenge on the two boys.
We then move to the defining moment of the lives of the two boys. After winning a kite fighting tournament, Hassan as always, ran kites for Amir. After fetching the kite, Hassan was confronted by Assef and his crew. Assef wanted the kite but, of course, Hassan would not give it up. Assef insulted Hassan by saying that even Amir considered him worthless. Hassan would have none of it so he defended his and Amir’s honor. Outnumbered, Hassan was overpowered by Assef and his gang. Amir was there to witness it all. Assef ordered his friends to rape Hassan, but they were not as psychotic as Assef, they just held Hassan while Assef rapes him. Amir did nothing to help his friend. He ran away instead, fooling himself that he ran out of fear but he knew very well that he ran because he believed that Hassan had to be sacrificed in order to save him. Amir’s thought that Hassan was just a Hazara confirmed that he did not consider Hassan to be his true friend but as a servant-friend. Even if it was already established that Amir was a coward, it was still surprising to find out that a friend would ran away when you are in danger. As if Amir wasn’t coward enough, he did not mention the rape to anyone so that Assef and his friends could be punished. He even acted towards Hassan like he didn’t see his friend got raped by a “sociopath” Amir became bitter on Hassan, he barely talked to him after the incident and does not want to be anywhere near his “friend.” The sight of Hassan reminds Amir of his betrayal, and it made him sick. As a desperate attempt to get rid of the guilt, or at least the person that would remind him of his sin, he hid his wristwatch and some money that he got as birthday gift, under Hassan’s bed. He blamed Hassan for stealing. Not surprisingly, Hassan admitted this crime he didn’t commit. To Amir’s shock, Baba forgave Amir, but the father and son had already decided that they would leave. It was the last time Amir saw Hassan. Amir was a coward running away from a friend in need, and he was a coward still for trying to get rid of his guilt. He would only learn to take real responsibility at the end of the story.
Amir’s Courage as an Adult
In contrast to his cowardly acts as boy, Amir eventually found his courage to confront his past. Or rather, the guilt of the past got a hold of him. As years pass, the guilt that he felt was seemingly overwhelmed by his life in America. He was able to study, earn a living, and marry. It was when his wife Soraya, told him about her secret that she ran away with a man once that the guilt reemerges. The guilt came back because he envied Soraya because she was free from hers. Not long after, Rahim Khan, a close family friend, contacted Amir offering retribution, as Rahim Khan puts it “a way to be good again.” It was then that Amir knew that Rahim Khan knows everything. He agreed to come visit Rahim Khan in Pakistan not knowing that this would be the beginning of his freedom. Rahim Khan wanted to see Amir because he had a favor to ask him. That favor was for Amir to bring Sohrab to Pakistan. Even at this point in the story, Amir was not yet ready to accept responsibility, he only agreed to take Sohrab to Pakistan after some recollection. He did take responsibility but he was acting out of guilt, not by his own free will. The fact that Sohrab is his half-nephew made him feel like it was his duty because Sohrab was family.
Amir eventually got himself to Afghanistan. In a brave move, he arranged a meeting with the Taliban leader that enslaved Sohrab. He proposed to buy Sohrab from the leader but he refused. The Taliban leader was Assef, now torturing Sohrab like he did his father. Assef countered Amir’s bid, stating that he would let Sohrab go if Amir can kill him. It was a no contest, Amir got beat up. Amir wanted to suffer, for Sohrab and Hassan, it was a way of cleansing himself from guilt. He embraced the idea of suffering for his sins, and he did. At a point he was even laughing while Assef beat him to pulp. This is Amir’s new found courage, he is willing to sacrifice himself just as Hassan sacrificed for him. All the years of hiding his guilt led to this moment, Amir finally becoming a man that can take responsibility, nullifying his father’s fear that he would become a man that would not stand up to anything.
From spoiled coward to a courageous and “true Afghan,” Amir eventually found his courage. As he matured, he learned to be responsible for his actions. He confronted his past and found freedom. Years of his guilt tormenting him and his sense of responsibility led to this change. In the end, he learned to be the “Kite Runner” just like Hassan.
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