Many individuals often feel guilty for a choice they
make in life. This guilt that exists in one’s self can have a tremendous impact
on their entire life. Guilt has the incredible power to change an individual’s
perspective and cause them to make irrational decisions. The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini, is a world-renowned
novel published in 2003 that tells the story of a young boy named Amir who
finds himself guilty of having failed to fight a boy who raped his friend. One
of the main themes Hosseini emphasizes in the novel is the powerful effect that
guilt has on one’s self. Throughout the novel, different characters such as
Baba, Sanubar, and Amir found themselves guilty of making a choice they
considered to be wrong. Hosseini portrays two different types of guilt in the Kite Runner; the first being misplaced
guilt in which individuals feel guilty when they aren’t responsible for the
events they feel guilty for, and the second is guilt that individuals rightly
feel because of their own actions or inactions that they are responsible for.
These three characters exhibit these forms of guilt. The guilt expressed by
these characters affected their future decisions and the entirety of the
plot. The Kite Runner demonstrates that guilt can have a detrimental effect
on one’s self.
A character in Hosseini’s Kite Runner that demonstrates the negative effect of guilt on one’s
self is Baba. Baba’s own sense of guilt affects many of his decisions. Contrary
to his actions in the novel, Baba believed that lying was sinful because “when
someone lied, they stole away someone’s right to the truth.” (Hosseini, 2003,
223) This quote illustrates one of Baba’s most important sins, lying. However, as the novel progressed, Baba lies
to many characters such as Amir and Hassan demonstrating how Baba’s guilt
forced him to go against his morals.
Near the conclusion of the novel, the reader realizes that Amir is
Hassan’s half-brother and that Hassan is Baba’s biological father. However,
Baba never reveals that information to neither Amir nor Hassan, rather keeping
it secret, committing the only sin that mattered to him, which was lying.
Baba’s guilt of not having the ability to love Hassan openly forced him to take
his guilt out on Amir since he was his illegitimate son. Baba stated, “There’s
always something missing with him” (Hosseini, 2003, 19) This indicates that
Baba always felt something wrong with Amir, thus always criticizing him. An
example is when Amir secretly eavesdrops on a conversation between Baba and
Rahim Khan when Baba states “a boy who can’t stand up for himself becomes a man
who can’t stand up for anything.” (Hosseini, 2003, 22) Rahim Khan tries to
defend Amir; however, Baba continues to state how terrible his son is. This
example implies how Baba continually takes his guilt out on Amir by
demoralizing him. Baba’s guilt for not being a good, loving father to his
biological son, Hassan, led him to give preferential treatment to Hassan while
still having the appearance as a man with one son. Baba did not want to feel
remorse for giving Amir the luxurious life over his legitimate son, Hassan.
There are many examples in the text that demonstrates how Baba’s guilt forces
him towards lying to his biological son, Hassan. An example from the text is
when Hassan steals Amir’s birthday money and Baba lies by forgiving Hassan,
even though Baba acknowledged the fact that Hassan stole Amir’s money. This
illustrates how Baba’s guilt of not being able to love Hassan as a father,
forced him to lie and forgive Hassan thus give him the benefit of the doubt.
Baba had to live with the guilt of not telling neither Amir nor Hassan the
truth for his entire life. Baba’s guilt of lying to his illegitimate son, Amir,
and hiding the truth from his biological son, Hassan, forced him to commit the
only sin that mattered to him, demonstrating guilt’s detrimental impact on
Another character affected by guilt is Sanubar.
Sanubar’s guilt affects many of her decisions and is the driving force of
nearly all her actions. After giving birth to Hassan, Sanubar left her family
to join a group of singers, leaving her family in the dust. When the characters
in the story find out that Hassan is Sanubar’s biological son, it indicates
that Sanubar and Baba committed infidelity, as Ali and Sanubar were originally
married. Sanubar’s guilt forced her to leave her son as she feared the
consequences of others knowing the truth that she and Baba committed adultery.
A quote states “She left Hassan soon after she was done giving birth.”
(Hosseini, 2003, 18) This quote implies that Sanubar’s guilt affected her
decision to quickly leave her family. Thirty years later, Sanubar is in her old
age with several physical injuries. She decides to go to Hassan’s house and beg
for forgiveness for the decision she made of leaving him, “(I) beg forgiveness.
(I) made a mistake when I left you.” (Hosseini, 2003, 270) This quote indicates
how regretful and guilty Sanubar felt after leaving Hassan, even begging Allah
– the god she followed, for forgiveness, demonstrating guilt’s power over one’s
thoughts. Sanubar’s guilt for leaving Hassan forced her to come back to
Hassan’s life so she could be a good mother. The guilt that stemmed from one
decision that Sanubar made of leaving Hassan affected nearly all her actions
and decisions she made throughout the novel.
The Kite Runner
illustrates the theme of guilt through the main character, Amir, as well. One
decision affected his actions for the rest of his life: in the beginning of the
story, Amir witnessed his close friend, Hassan, getting bullied by an older boy
named Assef. Amir was hesitant about making the decision of running away or
intervening. In the end, Amir decided to run and not stand up for Hassan.
Amir’s guilt developed from the moment he decided to run away from the alley.
However, the hidden message that Hosseini implies throughout the novel is
misplaced guilt; even if Amir intervened and stood up for Hassan, he would
stand no chance against the older boy, Assef. As a result, Amir unnecessarily
feels guilty about what he did without realizing that he wouldn’t have made a
difference in the first place. This one
decision left a burden on Amir’s shoulders for the next thirty years. As Amir
expresses, “I wish someone would wake me up, so I wouldn’t have to live with
this lie anymore.” (Hosseini, 2003, 88) This quote demonstrates the guilt that
existed within Amir after seeing what happened to Hassan. Throughout the text,
Amir finds himself seeking opportunities to redeem himself of his guilt for his
decision of not intervening in the situation when Hassan was getting bullied.
An example is when Amir tries throwing pomegranates at Hassan, as an attempt to
get Hassan to fight back and punish Amir. However, Hassan refused to throw any
pomegranates at Amir. Another quote states “I wanted Hassan to fight me back
for the way I failed him.” (Hosseini, 2003, 94) Amir wanted Hassan to fight him
back so he could have the “punishment he craved” (Hosseini, 2003, 93). Amir
wanted Hassan to hit him with pomegranates because of his guilt that wouldn’t
go away. Amir wanted to feel the act of being punished for his wrongdoing,
similar to how Hassan was punished due to Amir’s mistake. This shows how Amir’s
guilt causes him to make irrational decisions throughout the novel. The guilt
carried on with Amir into his adulthood as he embarked on different journeys to
seek redemption for the one decision he made as a kid. An example is when Amir
travels to Afghanistan to rescue Hassan’s orphaned son from the harsh
circumstances he was forced to face in Kabul. This is one example of many of
how Amir made many attempts to pursue different opportunities to free himself
of his own guilt for the decision he made 20 years ago. Amir’s guilt plagued
his entire life and many of his future actions which revolved around his guilt
from one decision.
The Kite Runner
illustrated guilt’s powerful effect on one’s actions. Hosseini uses Baba to
demonstrate how guilt can even cause individuals to break bonds between their
loved ones. Minor characters such as Sanubar show how the guilt of a major
decision can be felt for a lifetime. Finally, Hosseini uses the main character,
Amir, to demonstrate how the one decision he made of leaving his closest friend
get bullied, affected him throughout his life.
As the novel progressed, readers realized how one choice could affect
someone’s entire life. Guilt has a detrimental impact on one’s self; it can
completely change someone from the inside out.