Theme of Betrayal in the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

  • Category: Books, Literature,
  • Words: 790 Pages: 3
  • Published: 11 May 2021
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In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, betrayal is demonstrated in many forms through the characters feelings of guilt, cowardice and narcissism. A seemingly minor act of betrayal can lead to significant changes over the course of life. 

To begin, Amir feels guilty for betraying his friend Hassan while he was getting raped by Assef. Instead of intervening, he stood there and did nothing. “There is only what you do and what you don’t do, I said” (Hosseini 202). Amir explains that his actions stem from what he does and does not do. His guilt stems from the inability to act on the event where he could have saved his friend and avoid betrayal. Furthermore, when he is framing Hassan for stealing his birthday money and watch, he wants to redo himself, but instead, his guilt increases. “To move on, to forget, to start with a clean slate” (105). When Amir frames Hassan, he states that although he has done bad things in the past, he wants to redo himself, but this makes him feel more guilty about his past actions by letting him know that there will always be subconscious pain. Additionally, this guilt gives him intense thoughts about himself and his relationship with Hassan. “What am I going to do with you, Hassan? What am I going to do with you?” (93). Moments before Amir said this, the infamous pomegranate incident happened where Amir was pelting pomegranates at Hassan. This is his first realization that there is a problem and one that needs to be fixed. Guilt is an important factor in betrayal. 

Betrayal is also demonstrated through the characters feelings of cowardice. When Hassan was getting raped by Assaf,  Amir showed his cowardice as a result of his inaction and running away. “In the end, I ran. I ran because I was a coward” (77). Amir knew he was betraying Hassan and that something negative will occur in the future. Furthermore, his cowardice allows him to subconsciously listen to Assef (his enemy), telling him orders which control his actions and thoughts. “I actually aspired to be a cowardice, because the alternative, the real reason I was running, was that Assef was right: Nothing was free in this world. Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay.” (77). Amir listens to Assef control his thoughts and actions while making him seem like a “wise man” by telling him “Hey, it’s alright, you paid the price, now run free” while in reality, Amir made a life altering, cowardly move. Correspondingly, he was afraid of getting hurt and unwilling to risk it for his friend. “I was afraid of Assef and what he would do to me” (77).  Amir should have risked it for his friend and jumped in and tried to help, but instead, he decided to be cowardly and run away because he did not want to risk serious injury and the consequences of encountering Assef and his gang. Cowardice is an important factor in betrayal. 

The final way betrayal is demonstrated is through the characters display of narcissism.  Baba shows his narcissism through betrayal by sleeping with Ali’s wife even though he used to always preach that theft is the biggest sin and that nang and namoos is always needed. “How could he have lied to me all those years?... I was learning Baba had been a thief. And a thief of the worst kind” (225). Ever since Amir was a child, Baba used to always say to him that theft is the only and biggest sin supposedly keeping to his “words of wisdom”, but later on he makes a narcissistic approach to his words and commits the biggest sin, while not thinking about what he used to always preach. Baba also makes use of his nang and namoos to object his sinning and make him invincible to everyone. “Knowing that he has been dishonored by his master in the single worst way an Afghan man can be dishonored” (225). Nang and namoos means “honour and dignity”. Baba destroyed the meaning of it by not utilising it for his lifelong companion Ali, and instead using it for himself. Therefore, his narcissism created a negative new image of Baba for Amir. “And how was I going to reconcile this new image of Baba with the one that had been imprinted on my mind for so long” (226). Amir perceived Baba as a helpful man who always has nang and namoos on his side and NEVER a sinner, but the big sin that Baba committed makes Amir change his opinion showing that the person who he once perceived as a very helpful man just committed the biggest sin in the books that he used to preach to people (especially Amir) to never do. Narcissism is an important factor in betrayal

To conclude, betrayal shows up in many forms, such as feeling guilt from a past action, cowardice for not taking action on an event, and being narcissistic. One thing that must be remembered is that even the smallest use of betrayal can lead to a “domino effect” for many people.


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