The Kite Runner Analysis - Amir
Amir is the protagonist of "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. Being so well developed, there are endless points to be made about him, however, the most notable are below.
Constants Throughout The Novel
Throughout both childhood and adulthood, Amir lived with the insecurities of what Baba thought about him, whether or not he was ashamed of him and whether or not Baba wanted him to be more like Hassan.
In his childhood, this manifests in a mean side of Amir which sees him exerting his social dominance over Hassan, asking him to do things that otherwise he wouldn't have liked to do (shooting dogs with slingshots, the 'eat dirt' discussion etc.) as well as abuse his lack of education by teaching him wrong definitions for words.
This childhood insecurity, fueled by the knowledge that Baba had also won in his childhood, lead Amir to betray Hassan and not tell Baba what had happened, basking in the glory of returning with the kite, for himself. After the rape, Amir also tells Baba that Hassan is sick and so is unable to go with them on a trip, wanting to go with Baba alone.
In adulthood, Amir is seen still resenting the love Baba has for Hassan when Baba says "I wish Hassan was here" on his graduation day. However, near the end of the novel, he accepts that Baba loved Hassan and says that it no longer hurts to think about it. This is after he finds out that Hassan is Baba's child too, and that Baba also lived like Amir, hating himself for what he did, and who he didn't tell about it.
Amir saw Hassan get raped by Assef and neither tried to help (due to fear) nor acknowledge that he was there, not telling anyone about it afterwards, so that he would not further lose the respect of Baba and everyone else. Many references are made to Amir showing the negative effects of his actions with the very thought of Hassan bringing pain and feeling like he was being suffocated.
In almost every situation that Amir has found himself until the very end, Amir finds himself doing the most cowardly option possible. He never argues or defends himself neither physically nor mentally; Hassan protecting him physically from neighbourhood bullies, Rahim Khan protecting him from Baba's criticisms.
Amir's cowardice results in hatred for himself and in the end, this leads him to overcome the cowardice, resolving itself in a brutal beating by Assef, wherein despite the pain, Amir laughs hysterically, having the weight of the guilt lifted off of him, feeling that he got what he deserved. The cut down "the middle of his lip" that he got from the fight links to the cleft lip Hassan had, and symbolises Amir finally sacrificing something for Hassan, and becoming more like him, bringing him peace, and saving Sohrab.
Amir had the privilege of receiving education in his childhood in Kabul, and as a result is bilingual, using references like "laaf", "pu" and "bas", and speaks with a higher, more typically intelligent vocabulary than other characters such as Ali and Hassan (not educated), with Hassan asking for the definition of words that Amir had used or that he didn't know from books.
After his life in Kabul, he also receives college education in America and so his vocabulary remains diverse throughout the latter half of the story.
Having an interest in writing and reading many fictional books also explains why Amir's vocabulary is far more sophisticated than those around him. It may also explain why he is so descriptive in explaining what happened, picking up on the smallest details of events (though the real reason may be because a story seems more interesting this way)
Despite his education, Amir remains polite throughout, using politeness strategies such as using Afghan terms like "agha", "jan" and "sahib" when referring to older people or being formal.
Although when addressing other people - most likely to not further embarrass baba's name - he tries to act confident and polite, Amir's low self esteem shows in his speech and he always seems withdrawn and reluctant to speak to people (the biggest example being at his last birthday party in Kabul) because of his past with Hassan, and how he thought Baba felt about him.
Related to this is Amir's unforgiving nature, where he neither forgives himself for:
- Causing his mother's death (at childbirth)
- Disappointing Baba
- Taking his anger out on Hassan and abusing Hassan's loyalty
- Not helping Hassan when he was abused
- Not resolving it with Hassan or Ali
- Framing Hassan, (who admits to doing it out of loyalty making it hurt more)
During his childhood, on account of his upbringing, Amir worries about his status and how others view him, particularly Baba, but also the neighbourhood children with both Assef and Amir himself stating that when others are around, he pretends like Hassan is not his friend, and plays with other children when he has the option. This is all because of Hassan's status as a servant's son and Hazara (considered a lower race by some Pashtuns - the majority of Kabul-).
Excerpts from the Text
Insecurity - The need for Baba's approval, and the resentment for Hassan getting it.
"Baba took me [Amir] Ghargha Lake, a few miles north of Kabul. He asked me to fetch Hassan, too but I lied and told him Hassan had the runs. I wanted Baba all to myself and besides, one time at Ghargha Lake, Hassan and I were skimming stones and Hassan made his stone skip eight times. The most I managed was five. Baba was there, watching, and he patted Hassan on the back. Even put his arm around his shoulder."
We sat at a picnic table on the banks of the lake, just Baba and me, eating boiled eggs with kofta sandwiches - meatballs and pickles wrapped in naan. The water was a deep blue and sunlight glittered on its looking glass-clear surface. On Fridays, the lake was bustling with families out for a day in the sun. But it was midweek and there was only Baba and me."
Mean Streak - Abusing Hassan
"One time, I was reading him a Mullah Nasruddin story and he stopped me.
"What does that word mean?"
"You don't know what it means?" I said, grinning.
"Nay, Amir agha"
"But it's such a common word!"
"Still, I don't know it." If he felt the sting of my tease, his smiling face didn't show it.
"Well everyone in my school knows what it means," I said. "let's see. 'imbecile.' it means smart, intelligent. I'll use it in a sentence for you. 'When it comes to words, Hassan is an imbecile.'"
"Aaah," he said, nodding.
I would always feel guilty about it later. So I'd try to make up for it by giving him one of my old shirts or a broken toy. I would tell myself that was amends enough for a harmless prank.
After Hassan pointed out a plot hole in Amir's second story, Amir had thought:
"A voice, cold and dark, suddenly whispered in my ear, What does he know, that illiterate Hazara? He'll never be anything but a cook. How dare he criticize you?"
Amir, being the protagonist and an ever evolving character, started off as a cowardly and sad boy, knowing that he lead to his mother's death and Baba's disappointment in him, and growing into a braver, less self centered adult, taking Sohrab back to America to live with him and risking his life in the process, proving himself to Baba, Rahim Khan, Hassan, Ali, and most of all, to himself. The novel ending with Amir running the kite that he had cut for Sohrab marks the start of a happy life for Amir, battling with the reservedness of the long abused Sohrab. Marking the end of Amir's maturation and the start of Sohrab's.