Road to Redemption “There is a way to be good again” (2) is not only a relapsed statement in Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, The Kite Runner, but also a reoccurring theme in his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Through the comparison of his two novels, the characters ultimately struggle to find their personal road to redemption. The protagonist of The Kite Runner, Amir returns to Afghanistan to redeem himself of a memory that has been haunting him for the past twenty-six years by saving his half-nephew, Sohrab.
In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam’s endeavors to be redeemed are achieved through self-sacrifice – and having a reason to die for. Throughout the course of each of the characters’ lives, their ultimate goal is deliverance from past encounters. However, this does not come easily. They must endure hardships and somehow be hopeful that they will be redeemed. Redemption does not come to an individual; one must act upon this urge. Rahim Khan knows of Amir’s guilt, and assures him that there is a way to attain redemption, and that is through Sohrab.
Rahim goes on to say “I believe…true redemption is when guilt leads to good” (The Kite Runner 326) Amir had been feeling guilty for the past twenty-six years, and it was time for him to act upon his guilt. When Amir first arrives in Rahim Khan’s home in Afghanistan, he attempts to redeem himself by providing money for Sohrab’s salvation. However, Amir knows full well that he cannot merely buyout his salvation because it is not about the money – it is about the achievement of his redemption and freedom from the guilt that was taunting him.
Although Mariam had a hard life, she never initiated a plan for salvation, which is why it was not until she took initiative and killed Rasheed that she finally felt like she had a purpose. Essentially, she remained at home, did what she was told and blamed her surroundings for her fate. While most of the situations in her life she was faced with were not her fault, Mariam did not make an effort to want salvation. However, when someone she loved was in danger, Mariam took initiative and defended the people she loved most in the world.
By killing Rasheed and setting Laila free from his torment she essentially gained the redemption she was long yearning for. While Mariam’s redemption was not the most obvious, it was clear that she died a happier woman than she was alive. In order to truly feel relieved and saved, one must endure – not only physically, but mentally as well. Amir had to endure a lot to finally attain the freedom from his guilty conscience that he was longing for. Amir had to fight long and hard for a boy he did not even know.
Talking with Assef, the same person that had raped Hassan, was emotionally draining for Amir. Amir was nearly beaten to death by Assef; he would have died if it had not been for Sohrab who shot Assef in the eye. Despite all the pain and brokenness in his body, Amir came out of the room with Assef feeling peace: “What was funny was that, for the first time since the winter of 1975, I felt at peace. I laughed because I saw that, in some hidden nook in the corner of my mind, I’d even been looking forward to this…my body was broken… but I felt healed. Healed at last.
I laughed” (The Kite Runner 312) Amir spent twenty-six years attempting to forget about what had happened, but it was not until he was nearly beaten to death and given what he truly deserved that he was relieved of his guilt. “There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life…And it’s this: tahamul Endure It’s out lot in life, Mariam. Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have”(A Thousand Splendid Suns 18-19) – Nana’s words to Mariam could not have applied to Mariam’s life more than they did. They paved the way for what the rest of life would look like: endurance. Mariam lived in fear everyday.
However, when she and Laila became close, and shared the joy of raising Aziza, Mariam had an outlet for her pain – a reason to live for. Mariam realized the meaning of the wise words Mullah Faizullah once told her, “Behind every trial and every sorrow that he makes us shoulder, God has a reason”. (38) Her reason was to allow for Aziza and Laila to have a safe life to live – which ultimately redeemed Mariam before she died. A predominant theme that shows throughout both novels is hope specifically through hardships and oppression. Unfortunately, hope is just as easily taken away as it is given.
Characters tend to have high hopes, and they are easily shattered. When Sohrab is saved from being Assef’s sex slave, he is reluctant to trusting Amir. However, to gain his trust, Amir promised Sohrab that he would never send him to an orphanage again. Sohrab began to adjust to Amir. However, due to circumstances, Amir told Sohrab he might have to go to an orphanage for a little while. When he finally puts trust into Amir, he is quickly betrayed. Which led to Sohrab’s attempt in suicide. Amir, at that moment, had not felt true redemption because he felt like he betrayed Sohrab.
He would have to work hard to gain Sohrab’s trust again. It would not be until they got back to America that Amir would get a mere smile from Sohrab. As a child, Mariam had high hopes in her dad. In essence, she contributed in her mother’s death due to the fact that her dad was too arrogant to be seen in public with his harami: bastard daughter. He made her feel like she was a disgrace to the family which was also how she viewed herself. When Mariam is leaving Herat to move to Kabul with Rasheed, her last words to her father were “I used to worship you” meaning she put so much faith in him, and he completely disregarded her.
Needless to say, Laila and Mariam have hope in each other – they are dependent on each other when times get hard and find hope in each other in the hardest situations. When they devise a plan to escape from Rasheed, they are quickly turned into the police, and brought back home to a severe beating. However, Mariam spends the rest of her life ensuring Zalmai, Aziza and Laila are always safe. She sacrificed herself to save the people she loved the most. For Mariam, “This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings” (A Thousand Splendid Sun 370) and that she was proud of.
God works in mysterious ways. The typical redemption that the characters were seeking was not at all what they achieved. Amir had high hopes of forgetting and being redeemed when he moved to America; little did he know that he would have to return to the very place it happened until he truly felt redeemed. He endured physical and mental pain on the account of saving Sohrab. Redemption is especially emphasized in The Kite Runner through guilt and sin. Hosseini opens the novel with Amir’s confession of his sin and its impact on his life; however, he does not specify what this sin was.
He then goes on to say, “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. ” (2) It is not until later on in the novel that the reader discovers the sin that Amir committed. Hosseini keeps the reader and in suspense by not revealing what Amir actually did – or did not do. Hosseini also emphasizes the impact of guilt, and how one insignificant moment in one’s life may alter the course of his or her fate. What happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime”. (142) Amir chose to remain silent when he was a young boy, and this decision filled him with guilt for the next twenty-six years. From the reader’s perspective, Mariam’s form of redemption was exactly not the happiest. However, Mariam died a lot happier than she was alive. Alive, Mariam lived in rejection and chaos. As a child she was forced to accept that she was a bastard by her mother. The only person in the world she wished to have love her was her father whom abandoned and rejected her.
In the next stage in her life she was forced to live with a brute for a husband who constantly abused her. Laila and Aziza were the lights in her life that gave her hope. Through her self-sacrifice, Mariam gave Laila and her children a chance to live a new life free from suffering. “…as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, and unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back.
She was leaving I as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. it was not so bad, Mariam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad. This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings. (370) By killing Rasheed, saving Laila from him, taking responsibility for Rasheed’s death and turning herself into the Taliban, Mariam finally accomplished something in her life, and created a purpose for herself. She outlived everyone’s expectations as well as her own for herself. The protagonists in Hosseini’s novels ultimately go through a journey for their search for redemption.
While the roads they choose and perceptions of redemption may be different, they are essentially working towards the same goal. After many years of attempting to forget his past, Amir realizes that the only way to be truly redeemed is through Sohrab. Mariam’s attempt at redeeming herself is taken differently, yet still effective. She spent most of her life rejected, and he self-sacrifice allowed her to truly feel wanted. To her, that was true redemption. Throughout the characters’ lives, their goal is deliverance from their past experiences; this does not come easily they must endure and still have hope.