Nate Wade

The Kite Runner Essay
By Nate Wade
UAB Staff

Action or inaction is of our own choosing. In any decision to act or remain inactive, there are consequences for both the person making the choice and the people whom the decision affects. In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, the main character, Amir, fails to intervene in the brutal rape of Hassan, Amir’s kite runner, family servant, and friend of convenience. The decision of Amir to remain silent and non-reactive while watching Hassan’s rape leads Amir through a natural evolution of feelings and emotions. From the occurrence of the incident until the conclusion of the novel, Amir progresses from cowardliness to shame, shame to regret, regret to understanding, understanding to acceptance, and acceptance to atonement for the action that he wished he had taken on that cold day in the winter of 1975. The story of Amir resonates within the reader and allows for a better understanding of what Baba stated, “It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.”

Fear is a beast that turns men who speak of nobility to boys who act as cowards. Amir’s primary reason for not attempting to stop Assef from raping Hassan was fear. Amir did not want to be physically attacked or emotionally ridiculed for protecting someone who was considered socially inferior to him, but in retrospect Amir would have likely stopped the rape if he knew the burden and pain that would consume much of his life for his inability to act on that one day. His fear resulted in a sudden paralysis of action leaving Hassan vulnerable and ultimately broken in both body and spirit. The underlying reason for allowing the event to occur is later explained in Amir’s actions and words. Fear intertwined with Amir’s jealousy of the relationship between Baba, his father, and Hassan resulted in the unwillingness of Amir to attempt to prevent the rape. Cowardly, Amir hid in silence and watched the boy, with whom he had shared the same breast as a baby, become a sexual victim. Shame was soon to follow his cowardly inaction.

Ashamed of knowing and seeing Hassan’s rape but not acting, Amir purposefully chose to sever all ties with Hassan. The shame felt soon turned to regret. In an attempt to bury and forget about the past, Amir chose actions of dishonesty, harshness, and even betrayal with the results forever affecting not only himself but Hassan, Ali, and Baba. In an attempt to remove Hassan from Baba’s good grace, Amir plants his own watch under Hassan’s bed. Thievery was, as known to Amir, the only action Baba would not forgive or tolerate. Although Baba did forgive Hassan and begged Ali and Hassan to stay, Amir’s antics paid off and both Ali and Hassan quit working and left Baba’s house and Amir’s life. Hassan became physically removed from Amir’s life, but the memory of Hassan and the rape would linger and haunt Amir for many years.

After leaving Afghanistan during the Russian invasion, Amir began to piece his life together as an adult in America along with Baba. Amir, like many young adults, began to understand why he chose certain actions during his years in Afghanistan but the acceptance and atonement would not occur until Amir had forgiven himself. The unspoken secret Amir kept still weighed heavy on his heart even after his marriage and Baba’s death. He lacked the internal, conscious acceptance and the retribution for the decision he made so long ago involving Hassan; however, that would change as he returned to Afghanistan.

Rahim Khan, an old friend of Baba’s, became sick and asked Amir to return to Pakistan. Upon his return to Pakistan, Amir learned of Hassan’s life as an adult from Rahim Khan. Several facts provided by Rahim about Hassan shattered the perception and reality around which Amir had built his life. Hassan and his wife, murdered by the Taliban, left behind a little boy, Sohrab, who was placed in an orphanage. Rahim asked Amir to get Sohrab and bring him back to him. The true life shattering information provided by Rahim to Amir was that Hassan was Baba’s child and therefore Amir’s half-brother. The picture painted by the information supplied by Rahim, although painful for Amir, ultimately led to his acceptance and atonement for his past betrayal of his half-brother, Hassan.

Returning to Kabul to get Sohrab from the orphanage, Amir learned of the selling of his half-nephew to the Taliban. Amir gathered information about the buyer and began his mission to rescue Sohrab. Assef, who raped Hassan, had purchased Sohrab and was torturing Sohrab as he had tortured his father. Wanting revenge for the past, Assef decided to allow Sohrab to leave with Amir if Amir could survive a fight with Assef. Ironically, it was Sohrab who won the battle by shooting Assef in the eye. The allusion of the “one-eyed Assef” made earlier by Hassan was finally enacted by his son, Sohrab. A severely injured Amir and Sohrab left together but issues followed quickly. Before bringing Sohrab back to the United States, Amir would have to prevent an attempted suicide by Sohrab and face a year of Sohrab being silent. On their return to the United States, the silence that had plagued Hassan after the rape now plagued his son after a traumatizing experience.

Acceptance, atonement, and redemption did not come easily for Amir after returning to the United States with Sohrab. At a party hosted by American Afghans, kite fighting was the event which began to resolve Sohrab’s silence and Amir’s guilt. By becoming the kite runner for Sohrab, Amir had finally found a way to begin to forgive himself for his past. Through kite running and giving Hassan’s son a home, Amir had found a way to accept his past actions and “become good again.”

In closing, I wanted to reflect about the emotions and experience that played in my head like a broken record as I read The Kite Runner. The book was phenomenal about making me see connections between my life and the different characters and events occurring within the book. As a young high school student, I was also affected by the action of one person during an event implemented by bullies.

The event occurred during an SAT test. Prior to the test the teacher left the room. Two guys stood up and decided to approach me. For no apparent reasons other than meanness and machismo, one grabbed my arms from behind making me unable to move my upper body. The other approached me from the front of the desk in which I was sitting. He told the class that they were about to see a neat trick. Frozen with fear, I could not move. As he placed two fingers, one on each side of my Adam’s apple, he began to press. All I could do was gasp and make a horrible wheezing sound. As my face changed colors, no one did anything. My hope was that the teacher would come in to see what was happening but that was wishful thinking. Finally, a popular girl who had never associated with or spoken to me, the dork, stood up and commanded them to stop. Holly - that was her name.

With fear of what the known gang member might do if I told on him, I sat in silence when the teacher returned. The blood bruises where my vessels had burst on my neck around my Adam’s apple looked like an upside down football goal post. I progressed throughout the day not saying anything while keeping my head down. Relieved that no teacher had seen my neck when the day had ended, I went home. A classmate--Jonathan was his name--told another teacher afterwards about the incident. The teacher informed the principal who then called my parents. Looking like a snitch was now out of the question. The person who demonstrated the neat trick on me to the class was expelled. However, I constantly wonder what if Holly or Jonathan had not acted. Would the person have continued to choke me until I passed out or my hyoid bone broke and punctured my trachea? Would that person still be around to harass other people who were weaker? All I know is that when I think back to that day, I am grateful to those two people who chose action over inaction. Hopefully, people who choose to read this will decide to take action when their time comes to act or run away.