Since he was twelve, Amir has been struggling with his sin against Hassan; the fact that he did not come to the rescue of his friend. Deep down Amir always feels like he should have done something and feels horrible because he had chosen not to.
Due to his nagging guilt, Amir is not able to live a peaceful life. Amir has an overwhelming need to be punished, to be redeemed from his sin, so that he does not have to live with his remorse. Amir’s feeling of guilt and his vital need for redemption are always a part of his life as he is growing up.
Amir resents his choice to be a coward when Hassan is raped. His guilt is immediate and it gnaws at him. A few days after Hassan was assaulted, Amir already feels guilt and resentment inside him.
“’I [Amir] watched Hassan get raped,’ I said to no one…A part of me was hoping someone would wake up and hear, so I wouldn’t have to live with this lie anymore…I understood the nature of my new curse: I was going to get away with it.” (Hosseini 86).
While Amir is lying in the dark, with nothing but his own thoughts, he feels that his guilt is taking over his life. He realizes that he is going to get away with his betrayal and yet he feels terrible. He decides that the only way he is going to live with his remorse is to ignore Hassan, blot him out, so he does not have to think about his sin.
Amir’s guilt is so great that he cannot bear to have Hassan under the same roof, so he commits another sin. He lies to his father and accuses Hassan of stealing. “…I took a couple of the envelopes of cash from the pile of gifts and my watch and tiptoed out…I lifted Hassan’s mattress and planted my new watch and a handful of Afghani bills under it…I knocked on Baba’s door and told what I hoped would be the last in a long line of shameful lies.” (104).
Amir needs to get Hassan out of his sight. The only way of doing so is to make it look like Hassan has committed a sin and stolen Amir’s property. Ali and Hassan cannot live in Baba’s house anymore with the thought that Hassan had been accused of stealing something from his master, so they decide to leave. Finally, Amir believes he can start his life over and not worry about the sin he committed against Hassan.
However, Amir’s burden does not get lighter. Later on in his life, he has a dream about Hassan’s death. “His [Hassan’s] hands are tied behind him with roughly woven rope…He is kneeling on the street…He lifts his face. I [Amir] see a faint scar above his upper lip…I see the barrel first. Then the man standing behind him. He is tall, dressed in a herringbone vest and a black turban…The rifle roars with a deafening crack. I follow the barrel on its upward arc…I am the man in the herringbone vest.” (240).
Amir doesn’t get over his guilt simply because Hassan is out of his house. His sin still haunts him in his adult years. In fact, his guilt becomes so great that he feels he was actually responsible for Hassan’s death.
After reading the novel and studying Amir’s guilt due to his betrayal of Hassan, the reader sees that guilt can worsen over time and can have a major impact on the decisions one makes. Guilt is a prevailing emotion that has the power to destroy one’s life if one does not confess his sins and ask for forgiveness. One’s life is defined by the emotions one portrays. If one’s emotions are guilt and remorse, the decisions one makes in his/her life will be greatly impacted.
Amir realizes that because he was able to get away with his sin, he needs to find some way of being punished for it. Only then will he feel redeemed. He wants so desperately to be rid of his burden. He even tries to get Hassan to throw pomegranates at him to give him the punishment he feels he deserves. “’Hit me back!’ I spat…I wished he would.
I wished he’d give me the punishment I craved, so maybe I’d finally sleep at night. Maybe then things could return to how they used to be between us.” (92). Amir is so consumed by his guilt that he is not able to sleep at night. He so desperately needs to be punished for his sin, so that he and Hassan can be friends again.
Since Hassan will not give him this punishment, Amir decides that he needs to forget about his sin since there seems to be nothing more he can do about it. A while later, he and Baba move to America because of the war in Afghanistan. It is a way that they can start their lives over. “For me, America was a place to bury my memories.” (129).
Amir is still trying to forget about Hassan and his life in Afghanistan. He attempts to rid himself of his burden of guilt that he still carries. It is not until several years later that Amir finds a way to redeem himself of his sin. “There is a way to be good again, he’d said. A way to end the cycle. With a little boy. An orphan. Hassan’s son.
Somewhere in Kabul…Hassan had loved me once, loved me in a way that no one ever had or ever would again. He was gone now, but a little part of him lived on…Waiting.” (226-227).
Amir knows that he needs to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab, to atone for his sin. He knows that he needs to risk his life for Hassan’s son and be the person that Hassan had always been to Amir. Amir is finally able to make a good decision; a decision that would change his character and his life.
By exploring Amir’s need for atonement, one learns that finding redemption and being forgiven can allow one to finally have freedom from one’s sins and feel better about oneself. We realize that personal sacrifice, no matter at what cost, has a lasting reward. Sharing burdens and helping others gives one a feeling of worth. That feeling of redemption allows one to forget about the past and look towards a brighter future.
Amir’s sense of guilt and the critical need for redemption were a constant part of his life when he was younger, and clung to him throughout adulthood. He knew soon after he betrayed Hassan that it would change their relationship forever. He willingly gives up a friendship to release himself, so he thought, from guilt.
However, living with this gnawing sin of betrayal for so many years, Amir finally finds a way to redeem himself even though the one he betrayed is no longer living. The matter of Amir’s guilt and the redemption he finds, later on, is an interesting and very important topic to explore. The reader learns about the power of guilt, and how it can take over one’s life if one does not seek atonement.
The reader also learns of redemption, and how free one feels after finally finding deliverance from a sin committed so many years ago. One appreciates what Amir did to find redemption, but also realizes that simply having the courage to stand up for Hassan earlier would have changed everything.
Despite his lack of action, in the beginning, Amir makes a decision that changes his life, as well as the life of Sohrab, and he finally feels he is the son his father always wanted him to be.
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: The Berkeley Group, 2005.