Amir from "The Kite Runner" Character Analysis

The main character and narrator of "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini is a boy named Amir, who becomes a man during the time span of the novel. He is a Pashtun Afghan boy from Kabul who later escapes to America when Kabul becomes dangerous after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. "The Kite Runner" itself is a wonderful novel that has received enough praise and criticism to make it one of the most popular novels of the past ten years. The story is fraught with political and emotion upheaval. However, it is the characters that make the novel the masterpiece that it is and Amir is the character who ties them all together.

At first glance, Amir's life is privileged. He lives in a big house, has servants and does not lack for essentials and material things. However, as the reader gets to know Amir, it becomes clear that those things do not make his life easier, but only serve to make his complicated young life even more difficult. His mother died giving birth to him and he seems to be more like his mother than his father, who appears ashamed and dismissive of Amir. Amir develops relationships with a young servant boy Hassan, Hassan's father and his own father's business partner to make up for his lack of connection to a parent. However, none of these things fill the void in his life. He becomes somewhat bitter and tests his most important relationship -- that with Hassan -- often.

Amir sees things in Hassan that he does not see in himself -- all traits that his father possesses. Hassan is unerringly brave and loyal. Amir is not as confident in himself and tests Hassan's loyalty, seemingly testing his own loyalty to Hassan at the same time. He frequently makes mention of the difference in status between himself and Hassan and seems to ponder what this really means. In the end, the difference is made clear to him and he is forced to make a choice. It is a choice that many boys would make out of fear, but Amir is ashamed of himself and allows a tragedy to change the course of his friendship with Hassan. Much of the novel is centered on Amir's shame for not being the son his father wanted and for not being the friend Hassan deserved.

The question that "The Kite Runner" poses to the reader concerning Amir is whether he is inherently selfish, cowardly and sometimes mean. Snippets of his inner dialogue reveal otherwise. Amir is wracked with shame, but does nothing to change his behavior or remedy his mistakes. Yes, he is something of a coward. However, he feels empathy for Hassan. He feels ashamed of himself. As one character in the book points out, those who are truly bad do not feel shame. So what makes Amir behave in a way that goes against his own nature?

It seems that Amir's life and actions are strongly influenced by a sense of inferiority he feels when compared to his brave and generous father. He feels a lack of affection from that outstanding man and comes to assume the superficial difference between himself and his father, such as Amir's love of writing and his father's love of sports, is evidence that he is a bad person while his father is a good person. In a way, it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. I am not as strong as him, so I cannot be strong. I am not as brave as he is, so I am not brave at all. Yes, there is one point where Amir's actions seem driven solely by fear, but his later reactions clearly stem from a need to cover up "the bad person" inside. It takes learning that his father was not perfect for Amir to find his own type of strength.

It is easy to harbor disdain for Amir in the first half of "The Kite Runner." However, it would appear that Khaled does not want the reader to hate Amir, but rather to hate the true evil in the world that did not give Amir enough time to find himself before presenting itself to him. Khaled shows that Amir's mistakes are the forgivable kind. He is just an average boy and then an average man. However, even in redemption, his guilt never leaves him.

Shelly Barclay

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