Betrayal in Khaled Hossieni’s The Kite Runner

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In The Kite Runner, there is only one sin: betrayal. Betrayal can only exist when trust is present. The characters in the novel experience various forms of trust and subsequent betrayal. Family and close friends all experience betrayal. Baba, Ali, Hassan, and Amir all play a role in developing the theme of betrayal. The betrayal initiates when Amir abandons Hassan while he is being raped by Assef. Later, Rahim reveals to Amir that Hassan is actually his half-brother. Further betrayal unfolds when Amir discovers that his highly respected father had engaged in adultery with Ali’s wife.

By taking this action, Baba also demonstrates a betrayal towards his own son, as he steals away his knowledge of having a brother. The connection between Amir and Hassan went beyond being just best friends. In the words of Amir himself, “Hassan and I were nursed by the same women. We took our first steps on the same lawn, in the same yard. And under the same roof, we uttered our first words” (Hosseni 12). Despite their closeness, there was an unequal balance in their friendship. Hassan wholeheartedly trusted Amir and always watched out for him, not solely because he was his servant but because he genuinely cared for him.

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I convinced Hassan to shoot walnuts at the neighbor’s one-eyed German shepherd with his slingshot. Although Hassan didn’t want to, he wouldn’t refuse if I asked him persistently…. Hassan’s father, Ali, used to catch us and would become angry, or as angry as someone as gentle as Ali could ever be. He would point his finger at us and motion for us to come down from the tree. He would take the mirror and share his mother’s advice, which warned that the devil also used mirrors to distract Muslims during prayer….. “Yes, Father,” Hassan would mutter, looking down at his feet. However, he never betrayed me.

According to Hosseini (4), the mirror being my idea was never disclosed, just like shooting walnuts at the neighbor’s dog. Amir would always shift the blame onto Hassan, whether it was for shooting walnuts or using mirrors to bother the neighbors. However, when Amir had the opportunity to save Hassan, he failed to do so. Upon witnessing Assef raping Hassan from a distance, Amir could have followed Hassan’s example of putting himself in harm’s way to defend him. Aware that Hassan would always support him, Amir became overwhelmed with panic. Assef’s rapid, rhythmic grunts echoed from just around the corner as Amir confronted a critical decision. He could step into the alley and stand up for Hassan as Hassan had done for him countless times in the past… or he could flee. Ultimately, he chose to run (Hosseini 137). This act left Hassan feeling betrayed and bereft of trust, as Amir turned his back on him and left him to suffer. The irony lies in Amir betraying the one person who would willingly sacrifice his own life for him, an act that others had also committed — such as Baba and Ali, who shared a friendship mirroring that of Amir and Hassan.

Both Baba and Amir held positions of power, but there was always a divide between them as friends and as master and servant. “Ali and Baba grew up together in childhood… But in none of his stories did Baba ever refer to Ali as his friend” (Hosseini 27). Similarly, like Amir and Hassan, the servant showed more loyalty and trustworthiness, leading to their eventual betrayal. However, Baba’s betrayal of Ali was unexpected and more profound. While it was known that Amir was not as strong or lacking in aggression, Baba was seen as an honorable man. At the beginning of the novel, Baba is portrayed as faultless.

Described as a commanding presence, he had a knack for captivating attention wherever he went. As Hosseini writes, “At parties, when all six-foot-five of him thundered into the room, attention shifted to him like sunflowers turning to the sun” (14). This proud Pushtun, standing at 6 foot 5, owned a coveted Mustang that was the envy of the neighborhood. Notably, Baba garnered respect not only from his peers but also from himself. Viewing Baba through Amir’s eyes allows readers to gain insight into his moral compass. Amir reveals that Baba holds strong values of “Nang” and “Namoos,” translating to “honor” and “pride.” Given this, it becomes inconceivable to imagine Baba betraying a close family member.

Baba committed a betrayal against Ali that, according to the Taliban, would have resulted in his stoning to death. Baba had a sexual relationship with Ali’s wife, which led to her bearing a child named Hassan. Baba and Ali kept this secret, with Ali raising Hassan as his own son. Later in Amir’s life, Rahim informed him of Baba’s betrayal towards Ali. Rahim explained that they kept this secret to spare Baba from embarrassment since a man’s honor and reputation were everything in those times.

Amir, much like Hassan, felt betrayed and robbed of trust. This betrayal not only affected their friendship but also their brotherly bond. The reader gains a deep understanding of Baba and Amir’s relationship as the story is narrated from Amir’s perspective. It is evident that Amir idolized and had unwavering trust in Baba, desperately seeking his approval. Throughout Amir’s childhood, he constantly strived for Baba’s validation, diligently learning to live by his morals and lessons.

In this scene, Hosseni illustrates Amir’s longing for a connection with his father and desire for approval. Baba educates Amir about what he considers to be the ultimate sin, emphasizing its consequences. According to Baba, when someone takes another person’s life, it not only ends their life but also leaves their spouse without a husband and their children without a father. Additionally, Baba equates lying with stealing someone’s right to know the truth and cheating with stealing someone’s right to fairness. By highlighting Amir’s intense fear of disappointing his father again, Hosseni demonstrates how much Amir wants to make Baba happy.

The text highlights Baba’s belief in the importance of truth and his firm stance against lying, which he considers to be a violation of someone’s right to the truth. However, ironically, Baba himself stole the truth from both Amir and Hassan on a daily basis. Despite Amir constantly seeking his father’s approval, Baba betrayed him by lying about his own family and depriving him of a brother. When Amir discovers that Hassan is his brother, he contemplates whether he would have acted differently when he left Hassan in Assef’s hands. This revelation prompts Amir to re-evaluate his entire life and question why Baba kept the truth from him.

Discovering that my entire life has been a deceitful charade feels like a devastating blow. This revelation comes from Amir’s realization of his father Baba’s betrayal and the shocking extent of the secrets that had been kept from him. This form of betrayal stands out as the most profound in the novel because it causes Amir to undergo immense personal transformation upon learning the truth. Despite being deeply distressed by these revelations, Amir tirelessly searches for a way to rectify the situation. Hosseini effectively portrays the theme of betrayal throughout The Kite Runner by showcasing the experiences of key characters such as Amir, Baba, Hassan, and Ali.

The author establishes trust between characters to develop a profound sense of betrayal in the novel. These betrayals are crucial in creating conflicts within the story. The betrayal of Amir towards Hassan greatly contributes to Amir’s internal struggle, which persists throughout the book. Baba’s betrayal of Ali and Amir results in Amir finding out about his orphaned nephew and his subsequent efforts to rescue him. These betrayals are impactful and drive the conflicts in The Kite Runner.

Work Cited:
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. Anchor Canada, 2004, print.

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Betrayal in Khaled Hossieni’s The Kite Runner. (2016, Nov 08). Retrieved from

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