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Knowing one has broken someone’s trust or his/her own moral code of behavior often leads to remorse or guilt. Khaled Hosseini wrote the moving novel, The Kite Runner, which unfolds a series of unfortunate events, caused by characters’ unethical decisions or actions. It tells the story of Amir, a boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who is haunted by the guilt of betraying his childhood friend, Hassan, by abandoning him to be abused. Similarly, Baba deceives his entire family from sharing Hassan’s true identity. Furthermore, Sanubar selfishly abandons her son after giving birth to pursue her own goals. Hosseini’s novel reveals guilt’s power to control lives as it influences people’s decisions and pushes them to seek redemption as seen in the characters of Amir, Baba, and Sanubar.
In The Kite Runner, Amir’s guilt drives just about all of his decisions he makes throughout the novel until he obtains redemption. In the beginning of the novel, Amir witnesses his best and only friend, Hassan being raped. He realizes that in that moment he has two choices. He nervously thinks, “I could step into the alley and stand up for Hassan, the way he’d stood up for me all those times in the past and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run.” (Hosseini, 82) Unfortunately, he makes the decision to run. Amir’s guilt develops from the very moment he runs away from the alley, leaving Hassan to be raped. Hassan has always stood up for Amir throughout their entire lives as he believes that it was what friends did for each other, and the one time Hassan needed Amir most, Amir disappoints him. The guilt of leaving his friend follows Amir for the rest of his life. Soon after the event happens, he whispers into the darkness that he has watched Hassan get sexually attacked. He desperately hopes that “someone would wake up and hear, so he wouldn’t have to live with the lie anymore.” (Hosseini, 91) He feels horribly guilty after watching Hassan and desperately desires for someone to find out the truth so that he could overcome his guilt, but he refuses to actually tell anyone the truth. Amir’s guilt also drives him to provoke Hassan to desire revenge. For instance, when they go out to read stories together, Amir annoys Hassan by throwing things at him, as an attempt to get Hassan irritated and to fight back and punish him for leaving Hassan to be harmfully attacked. Though, Hassan, feeling confused, refuses to throw anything at Amir. Amir wants Hassan to fight back saying, “I wished he would. I wished he’d give me the punishment I craved, so maybe I’d finally sleep at night.” (Hosseini, 98) Amir’s guilt causes him to desire to be punished in hope that it would bring peace in mind. Many years later, Amir’s guilt is still driving his decisions and actions. Having moved to the United States of America, he returns to Kabul to gain redemption through good deeds. Amir’s guilt leads him to make the risky decision to return to Afghanistan to rescue Hassan’s orphaned son, Sohrab, from the harsh conditions he has been left to face. His most important acknowledgement in his redemption is to trust and believe that he can redeem himself for what he has done to Hassan. On the road to redemption, when he faces Assef who had raped Hassan, he confronts the bully and fights him in defense for Sohrab. Guilt gives him the power to do what he should had done twenty years earlier. One of the following thoughts to get over guilt is, “We must fully recognize that we’ve done wrong; fully accept responsibility for having done it; determine never to do it again; apologize to those we’ve done it to; and resolve to aim at improving ourselves in the general direction of good.” (Likerman)3 Amir does not run or back down, freeing himself from his guilt. Therefore, nearly all of Amir’s decisions and actions throughout the novel evolve from his guilt of not standing up for Hassan when he had the chance and when he needed his only friend most.
Similar to his son, Amir’s father, Baba is plagued by guilt from the start of the novel. Baba has a clear concept of what is sin. He always says that, “there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. When you lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.” (19) He truly believes that every other sin is a form of theft. Towards the end of the novel, it is revealed by Rahim Khan, Baba’s good friend, that Baba is Hassan’s biological father. Baba becomes a thief by hiding this truth from the people he loves. From Amir, he steals the fact that he has a brother. He robs Hassan from his true identity as his son and not his servant. He takes from Ali, Hassan’s thought to be father, his family, his only son. Baba has been living with the guilt of betraying everyone who took part in his life and committing what he believed was the only sin on the world to his loved ones. When the truth is revealed, Baba’s actions towards Hassan builds a clear understanding. However, guilt also encourages him to seek redemption for keeping such secrets from his whole family. Nonetheless, guilt also causes him mistreat his other biological son harshly. Instead of acknowledging Amir, Baba uses all his time to build an orphanage and to treat Hassan extremely well. For instance, he provides them a shelter to live in and any necessities needed for Hassan and Ali. Throughout the story, Baba acted as if the guilt is nonexistent, instead taking it out on Amir by criticizing the way Amir acted, disappointed that he was more into writing than sports. Baba’s guilt causes him to be ashamed of himself. Just like his son, Amir, he betrays people that would sacrifice their lives for him. He wanted Amir to be the perfect son, so he did not have to feel remorse for giving Amir the luxurious life over his other son, Hassan, who had to live in a small shed with Ali in the backyard. His guilt for not being able to be a father to Hassan led him to do everything he could for Hassan. Since the truth could not be revealed, Hassan and Ali works as servant for him and Amir because of their low social class, cooking food, ironing their clothes, and many other housekeeping chores. The guilt and anger was put on Amir, as he was always kind towards Hassan. For example, when Amir purposely accused Hassan of stealing his birthday presents, as he knew it was the sin that mattered the most to Baba, Baba forgives him. Throughout the entire novel, Baba’s kind actions toward Hassan and Ali are caused by his guilt, hoping to seek redemption for his wrongdoings. Just like the scientist, Art Markman claimed, ” Because guilt is painful, people often find ways to soothe their feelings by making up for their actions in some way. These repairs are also useful, because they help to re-strengthen people’s ties to the community that they have damaged.” (Markman)4 Although he never dared to confess the truth, he did everything he could to provide and protect Hassan and Ali, and finally accepts Amir for who he wants to be as a final act of redemption. Clearly, guilt is a driving force in Baba’s life.
Furthermore, the character, Sanubar, who is rarely mentioned throughout the novel, is also affected by guilt which shapes her decisions and her attempt to achieve redemption. Sanubar is Hassan’s mother. Shortly after giving birth to Hassan, it is known that they “lost her to a fate more Afghans consider far worse than death; she ran off with a group of singers and dancers.” (Hosseini, 6) Sanubar has completely abandoned her son, never looking back. Her decision is influenced by guilt. It is later revealed in the novel that Baba is actually Hassan’s father, meaning Sanubar committed a sinful act. Sanubar fears the aftermath if the truth ever comes out, making the regretful decision of leaving her son. However, like Baba, guilt plagues her until she seeks redemption. Near the end of novel, Sanubar suddenly shows up at Hassan’s front lawn in Kabul. Her old age is evident and it seems as if she’s been beaten and has gone through a rough patch in her life. She is described as, “… a toothless woman with stringy graying hair and scores on her arms. She looked like had not eaten for days. But the worst of it by far was her face. Someone had taken a knife to it ” (Hosseini, 221) When she arrives she asks Hassan’s wife to see him and begs for his forgiveness. She cries saying that she regrets her decisions and actions deeply. Sanubar’s guilt for abandoning Hassan drives her right to make the right choice to make an effort to be a part of his life. Guilt, therefore strengthens her to return to Kabul to get a final look at her beautiful son and to obtain redemption for her sinful past. Surprisingly, Hassan welcomes her into his life, allowing her to care for him. Unfortunately, she passes in her sleep and Hassan takes her death hard. However, she is able to redeem herself so that when she dies, “…she looked calm, at peace, like she did not mind dying now.” (Hosseini, 223) Her past decision for leaving her son and her husband shapes her decisions and actions until she makes peace with her conscience by seeking forgiveness. Thus, she regains her dignity.
Hosseini develops an important message about guilt’s role in people’s lives through the novel. Amir’s guilt was the main focus to shake up the plot and to illustrate how his betrayal towards his best friend affects his entire life until Amir seeks and obtains redemption. Moreover, Baba’s character illustrates that guilt can destroy a person so that it distorts and ruins their relationships, as represented by his connection with his sons until he attempts redemption. In addition, Sanubar shows that guilt can follow a person even if they run away from the situations. Hosseini wants his readers to realize that guilt has more power than most people realize. Evidently, guilt is painful, people often find ways by making up for their actions in some way. Guilt can influence people’s decisions and actions. Only by seeking and obtaining redemption can people finally relieve and free themselves from the constant thought of guilt.

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Knowing one has broken someone's trust or his/her own moral code of behavior often leads to remorse or guilt. (2019, May 19). Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://midwestcri.org/knowing-one-has-broken-someones-trust-or-his-her-own-moral-code-of-behavior-often-leads-to-remorse-or-guilt/

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