University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Kite Runner: Role of fathers
The relationship between Baba and Amir is a complex one as Baba reveals his role as a father, friend, and foe. Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner explores this rollercoaster between Baba and his son Amir. As the novel unfolds, the lives of the characters unravel –as do their relationships and their sense of identity. Baba serves as an important link that connects each of the characters and also bridges the uncertain with the certain, lie with truth, pain with pleasure, servant with master, dark with light and then ultimately death with life. Each of these connections triggers strong emotions in Amir about feelings towards his father and how he feels about himself. This mixture of negative and positive feelings towards his father causes him much pain, but it also brings him closer to discovering him self and how in many ways he is truly his father’s son. Amir’s relationship with his father Baba starts off at a very rocky stage. Amir felt as though his father resented him since the day that he was born when his mother died while giving birth to him. Amir constantly felt as though he had to make up for killing the love of his father’s life, Sofia Akrami. However, this became a problem since there wasn’t much that Amir could do to impress Baba as they did not have much in common; the two had very different interests. Baba was more athletic, brave, and adventurous whereas Amir is the opposite. The contrast between the two was so large that Baba even said, “If I hadn’t seen the doctor pull him out of my wife with my own eyes, I’d not believe he’s my son.”
Amir overheard this scarring quote and became more determined than ever to win his father’s love and affection. Amir began trying so hard to impress his father that Amir even started sports. It was evident however, that it wasn’t one of his strengths. Baba’s lack of affection drove Amir into an imaginary competition between Hassan-his Hazara servant- and himself. Amir felt as though Baba was more affectionate to Hassan and he began to envy him. This led Amir to have a secret resentment towards Hassan, though he knew how much Hassan loved him. This bitterness played out in a terrible way on the day after the kite tournament. Amir witnessed Hassan get raped by the town bully Aseff- and he did nothing to help. He abandoned him in his most desperate moment. All Amir thought about was going home with the kite that Hassan had in his hand. The kite that Amir believed would make Baba love him even more now that he had won the kite tournament. That is why Amir said, “Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba.”
Even though he got the kite he wanted, Amir’s abandonment of Hassan in this tragic moment was a secret torment he had to live with for many years. Though Amir’s guilt meant living a life with a heavy weight on his shoulder, his life seemed to be looking up, since his relationship with his father Baba seemed to be improving. Ever since Amir won the kite tournament, Baba had been putting more of an effort into his relationship with Amir. Instead of ignoring Amir and not sharing any moments with him, Baba and Amir begun going out more. Baba agreed to do everything that Amir wanted to do and to Amir’s surprise, he even initiated some of their plans. The two did have their few bumps in the road however. For instance, when Amir was unable to deal with the guilt of seeing Hassan every day, he asked his father if he ever considered getting new servants. This made Baba furious. He told Amir, “I’ve never laid a hand on you Amir, but you every say that again…”
This is the moment, that the reader first gets sense that the connection between Baba and Hassan and his father Ali was much more than loyalty of years spent together. We learn that Baba grew up with Ali like a brother. The reader gets a deeper insight into their relationship later on in the novel. The reader finds out that Baba’s emotional response to Amir’s request is because Hassan is actually his son. From there on the relationship between Baba and Amir changed and went downhill. Amir realized that discussing that idea with Baba was a big mistake; however his desire to get rid of Hassan did not diminish. Amir took a decision to engage in a masterful act of deception and framed Hassan for stealing his watch and birthday money. This of course led to a confrontation between Baba, Amir, Hassan, and Ali. Hassan confessed to stealing the watch even though he didn’t and Baba instantly forgave him. Despite Baba’s act of forgiveness, the shame or perhaps the suspicion changed things in the household. Ali informed Baba that he and Hassan were leaving and would no longer be working for him. This was the first time that Amir saw Baba cry. Hassan was a good boy and Baba knew him well. He must have known in his heart that Hassan would not steal and that this predicament was all Amir’s doing. Of course this would put an even stronger strain on Baba and Amir’s relationship, but this wasn’t able to be expressed since Afghanistan soon underwent immense changes after Hassan and Ali’s leaving. After Hassan and Ali left Baba’s house in Kabul, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Baba and Amir fled Kabul and headed towards Pakistan; later on the moved to America. These traumatic events that occurred strengthened the complex relationship between Baba and Amir. When the two began life in America, their relationship was stronger than ever. Baba and Amir really started bonding and connected as father and son should. Baba began taking an interest in Amir’s studies, supported him as he pursued his dreams to become a writer. They often joked with one another and Amir began helping out Baba a lot with everything and even took care of Baba while he was ill,. When it was time for marriage, Baba got permission for Amir to marry Soraya- an Afghan he met in America- and he paid for the entire wedding. The relationship was at a very good place when Amir witnessed his father die a happy, proud man. When Amir first found out that Baba was ill and was dying, Baba told Amir, “What’s going to happen to you, you say? All those years, that’s what I was trying to teach you, how to never have to ask that question.”
Here Baba reveals to Amir that his poor parenting skills actually had good intentions. What Amir saw as poor fatherly skills were in fact Baba’s way of instilling in Amir a sense of independence and manhood. It was upon reflecting upon these conversations, that Amir realized just how many sacrifices Baba truly made for him and finally concluded that Baba did in fact love him. Baba went to America purely for Amir’s education and future, and even though he hated it, Baba refused to leave. Baba was forced to take manual work and therefore degraded himself to earn money in a gas station to support Amir and his life in America. Most of Baba’s savings went to Amir’s wedding. These are ways in which Baba demonstrated his love and care for Amir. However, though Baba was dead, Amir and Baba’s rollercoaster was not yet over; there was one last hiccup in their relationship. This came about when Baba’s darkest secret was revealed by Rahim Khan. The secret was that Baba had slept with Ali’s wife Sanaubar and impregnated her, making Hassan his child. Amir went through a series of mixed emotions at this revelation. Initially the news made Amir furious. He thought of his father as a hypocrite due to all of the lessons he had thought him in his past. Baba once told Amir, ‘There is only one sin – ‘and that is theft…When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.’
Due to this lesson, Amir couldn’t help but think that Baba’s theft was the worst kind of stealing, since “the things he’d stolen had been sacred: from me the right to know I had a brother, from Hassan his identity, and from Ali his honor.”.
As Amir reflected on his father’s deception and betrayal, he started to see himself in a similar way. Amir realized that his father was more like him than he ever knew and this is when their relationship made the final shift. He saw how much they were one and the same. His feelings towards his father finally changed. “Baba and I were more alike than I’d ever known. We had both betrayed the people who would have given their lives for us.”
Amir finally realizes that Baba was a man who also made mistakes and lived with regret. He recognized that the negative behaviors he had witnessed from his father, came from the struggles he had while trying to deal with the guilt and failures of the past. In the same way Amir had also suffered from the terrible things he had done. The big difference is at the end of the day Baba was a better man than Amir was, but Amir knew he had time to change this. From here on, Amir took on the task of redeeming both his and Baba’s mistakes. He agreed to go on the search for Hassan’s orphaned son Sohrab and to take care of him and raise him like he was his own. Amir is at last reconciled to his father. Although he was already dead, he is able to get some closure through Rahim Khan’s sharing with him. The conflicts and contradictions are also erased. His pain eases, he is sorry for his abandonment of Hassan and he forgives his father. Baba’s life of secrecy had broken with Muslim tradition in many ways and his behaviours had caused a chain of events that had the effect of both breaking and hurting relationships. He spends the rest of life making up for his failings. His example leads his own son Amir to see himself in a new way. He recognizes his weaknesses and forgives himself. He creates a relationship as a fatherly figure to his half brother’s son Sohrab and turns his life around. His outlook is now positive. There is no longer the darkness of secrecy and shame. Instead there is truth and there is love. Amir’s feelings of resentment turn to love and truth.
Hosseini, Khaled. The kite runner. New York: Riverhead Books, 2003. Print.