Our past is something that has once happened, a memory or a nightmare that has gone away with time, however, no matter how hard we try to forget, it never seems to truly disappear. In the novel, The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini, it is evident that many characters throughout the book, are victims of not being able to escape their past. The novel is about a young boy named Amir who at the age of eleven, witnesses his servant and friend Hassan being raped, as a consequence of his loyalty to someone he presumed was his best friend. One of the key tensions in the book; is the troubled friendship between Amir, a upper class Pashtun, and Hassan, a lower class Hazara, who works as a servant for Amir’s family. Although the boys are best friends, Amir remains constantly troubled by the fact that the rest of society views Hassan as beneath him, which is the ultimate reason Amir betrays Hassan during the altercation in the alley during the winter of 1975; quickly destroying their friendship and causing Amir a sense of guilt and remorse for the rest of his life. Hosseini clearly portrays that it is possible for someone to be constantly reminded of their regret filled childhood by the events they are going through in the present. Khaled Hosseini’s unimaginable novel demonstrates through the characters, Amir, Assef and Sohrab, that it is unlikely that you will ever be able to escape your past. However, there are ways you can confront it, forgive yourself and move on with your life.
Whether it be good or bad, your past will always remain a part of you. This idea is developed very clearly through the character Amir, as he demonstrates countless examples of being troubled by his memory of Hassan’s rape. He gives the perception of being unhappy with who he has become, and is aware that it was caused by his own wrong-doing, ”that was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.” (Hosseini, 1) Shortly after the assault, we quickly notice behavior changes in Amir. He begins to isolate himself, avoiding Hassan at all costs and taking his anger out by throwing fruit at him, in hopes he would fight back. However, as time went on, because of his guilt and overwhelming shame, through lies and trickery; Amir soon forces Hassan out of Baba’s home, causing him to see his friend alive for the last time. In the moment, Amir thought it was the perfect solution to his problem, a way for the sin to be forgotten and fade away. Unfortunately for Amir, this would soon become the root of his regret, which hung over him his entire life. As the years went by, his memory and guilt never truly went away. All throughout his life, every event always seemed to lead back to Hassan, like his flee to America. Even when he was on the verge of perhaps dying, all he could think about was Hassan; where he had ended up and how his new life was treating him. Later, after his arrival to America, life began to get better for Amir. He believed it was a place where he could forget his sins, “for me, America was a place to bury my memories.”” (Hosseini, 136) However, soon after he married his wife Soraya, and they began trying to start a family, but were not able to, Amir strongly believed that it was a punishment for what he had done 25 years earlier, “when the tests were over, he explained that he couldn’t explain why we couldn’t have kids. And, apparently that wasn’t so unusual. It was called ”Unexplained Infertility”, ” (Hosseini, p.195). A few days later, Amir had received an unexpected phone call from a longtime family friend still living in Afghanistan. He shared with Amir the truth about his childhood, his family and the information that had been hidden from him all these years, “we couldn’t tell anyone, surely you can see that.” (Hosseini, 235). This was the moment that Amir had been told his father was a liar, that he had a nephew somewhere Afghanistan, and a half brother named Hassan. This began to set off the guilt all throughout Amir’s body. He could only imagine how things would have turned out differently if he had helped Hassan when he needed him the most. Rahim Khan had admitted to Amir that he knew about everything, the rape, the money, the watch, but encouraged him that “there is a way to be good again.” (Hosseini, 239). Even though Amir was never able to truly escape his past, the memory of Hassan lived on with the mission of finding and saving his nephew, with means of trying to make things right.
Similar to Amir, Assef was a character who was unable of escaping his past, not because of traumatic events he had gone through as a child, but because of the brutal and cruel ways he continued to treat others as a man. In the novel, Assef is described as the neighbourhood bully with brass knuckles, who physically intimidates other children to show his dominance. The first of many examples of Assef’s aggression and abuse; is during the kite flying tournament in the winter of 1975, when he, with the help of two other boys, sexually assaulted Hassan, “it’s just a Hazara”. (Hosseini, 81). We are later introduced to Assef’s idolization to Hitler, his beliefs that Hazara’s are a waste of space and that a genocide is needed in order to clean their homeland. This idea is illustrated when Assef remained in Afghanistan while the Taliban had begun to take over the country. It was evident that with the amount of hatred and discrimination towards a certain ethnic group, it gave free reign to someone like Assef to carry out his deepest, darkest desires, and of which he did. Later in the novel, it had been made clear that Assef’s childhood beliefs about sin and power were still strongly reinforced as an adult. Assef, who was now the Taliban official had begun to put on shows of him torturing and killing people for pleasure with the ultimate goal of demonstrating his power; “God says that every sinner must be punished in a manner befitting his sin”. (Hosseini, 283). The idea that there were no boundaries regarding Assef’s sexual violence behaviour is when we are introduced to Sohrab, Amir’s nephew, who has evidently been Assef’s puppet ever since he had been taken from the orphanage. He had forced the young Hazara boy to wear mascara, to dress up and dance for him. His actions towards Sohrab had the intentions of being sexual which undoubtedly resulted in him being repeatedly sexual abused. This caused him to be the very same man who raped his father 25 years earlier. As a child, Assef had no guidance, nor the right conscience to see that what he was doing was wrong. Unfortunately for Assef, and many others like him, they are known as animals who continue the vicious cycle of power.
Unfortunately for many Afghanistan children during the war, life is a never-ending battle. Several of them having to live their lives without a home, food on the table and in some cases, without parents. Sohrab, Hassan’s son, and Amir’s long-lost nephew; progressively becomes another character tortured by his past traumas. His first heartbreaking experience is the loss of both of his parents, Hassan and Farzana who were shot and killed by the Taliban. This was the beginning of his past continuously being hung over him, for the rest of his life. Not long after his parents had died, Sohrab was taken to an orphanage in Kabul, where he was supposedly told he’d be taken care of. However, Sohrab was soon taken away by the Taliban official, who turned out to be Assef. His character went from being a normal little boy to a traumatized victim of physical and sexual abuse, until Amir had shown up with the hopes of rescuing him. After the fight between the two men and their flee to safety, Sohrab was finally saved with the promise of never having to return to an orphanage. However, when the idea of adoption arose for Amir, “I’m not coming home alone. I’m bringing the little boy with me” I paused. ”I want us to adopt him.” (Hosseini, 341), he was told that the easiest way to adopt a child from Afghanistan, was to place them in an orphanage while everything was being sorted out. When Amir had shared this news with Sohrab, he felt betrayed and scared, “you promised you’d never put me in one of those places, Amir agha.” (Hosseini, 358). This shortly caused Sohrab to react irrationally, without knowing that he’d never half to step foot in an orphanage again. Ever since his attempt to kill himself, Sohrab went from speaking very little, to not at all. He became a child scarred by his past, with little hope of ever going back to the way he was before his life had changed forever.