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 characters face 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 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 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 implies 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 when Baba states “a boy who can’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up for anything.” Rahim tries to defend Amir; however, Baba continues to say how terrible his son is. This example implies how Amir is criticized because of Baba’s inner guilt. Baba’s guilt for not being a good, loving father to his biological son, Hassan, led him to give preferential treatment for 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 legitimate son. An example from the text is in chapter 8 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 legitimate son, Hassan, forced him to commit the only sin that mattered to him, demonstrating guilt’s powerful impact on one’s self.
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 Baba’s biological son, it indicates that Sanubar and Baba committed infidelity. Sanubar’s guilt forced her to leave her son as she feared the consequences of others knowing the truth that Baba and she committed adultery. As a result, Sanubar’s guilt forces her to leave her son. 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 witnesses 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 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 carried felt for a lifetime. Finally, Hosseini uses the main character, Amir, to illustrate 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 life. Guilt has a detrimental impact on one’s self; it can completely change someone from the inside out.