Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is a novel that explores many important themes. Three such themes are violence, friendship, and the quest for redemption. Although Hosseini uses many techniques to depict these themes, one technique that stands out is his use of symbolism and imagery. Some of the symbolism and imagery he uses are key factors in the story. The pomegranate tree and the sacrifice of the sheep are effective forms of symbolism and imagery that enrich the themes of violence, friendship, and the quest for redemption.
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Although Hosseini reminds people of a peaceful Afghanistan, he also reveals the agony the nation faces after the Taliban came to power. Violence spreads throughout the story, everything from a harmless activity of kite flying to the rape of Hassan. The pomegranate tree reveals the violence occurring in the novel. The entire story circles around on an action of violence, Hassan’s rape, and Amir’s pretending that Hassan’s rape never happened. In the novel, Amir wants Hassan to hit him with pomegranates to inflict pain and lessen his guilt; instead, Hassan smashes the pomegranates over his own head. This indicates that violence is the key to lessen the guilt; Amir believes a physical punishment will make Hassan release his pain and get rid of Amir’s guilt. In the Qur’an, the pomegranate tree is spoken of as a fruit in the garden of paradise. At first it appears that way in the novel, but later as more violence occurs, the tree is barren and dead, meaning that paradise has fallen when the Taliban took over. Afghanistan started to get destroyed and the Taliban kill whoever they like. This violence reflects today’s world where people witness violence but walk away knowing they could have stopped it. There are many aspects of this theme many people can relate to everyday.
Friendship in the novel is a recurring theme. Both the pomegranate tree and the sheep reveal the changes in the friendship throughout the novel. The friendship between Amir and Hassan is a key factor in the novel. While Amir and Hassan are young they carve their names into the pomegranate tree. Hassan says, “One summer day, I used one of Ali’s kitchen knives to carve our names on it: ‘Amir and Hassan, the sultans of Kabul.’ Those words made it formal: the tree was ours” ( ). The tree symbolizes their relationship. Before the Taliban came to power there was less violence and the relationship was strong, but after the Taliban came to power, Afghanistan became more violent, and the healthy, green tree became dead and ruined, just like Amir and Hassan’s relationship. The social inequality in Afghanistan plays a key role as Amir begins to think of Hassan as a servant rather than a friend after the rape. Another example of the changes in friendship is shown by the sheep. In Muslims culture, the sacrifice of a sheep is meant to celebrate the faith of the prophet Ibrahim. This is similar to when Hassan, a ‘pure boy’ is raped by Assef. The sheep symbolized the rape of Hassan because just like the sheep he was ‘slain’ for the kite that Amir won. This made Amir feel guilty, which made him lose his connection with Hassan. Their friendship desecrated and Amir started to treat Hassan as a Hazara.
Redemption is an essential part of the novel, since many sins are endured. When Hassan gets raped, Amir pretends nothing happened and starts feeling guilty. As children, Amir commits many sins, but Hassan takes the blame. The pomegranate tree was healthy and growing, but years later when Amir returns to Afghanistan, the tree is barren and dead, like their relationship. Amir feels guilty because he can’t apologize for the rape of Hassan. He feels to redeem himself; he has to take care of Hassan’s son, Sohrab. Amir goes to great lengths to redeem himself; he gets beaten by the same bully that raped Hassan. This lessens his guilt, and makes him more committed towards taking care of Sohrab. In the story, Rahim Khan writes a letter to Amir; in the letter it says, “I know that in the end, God will forgive… Forgive your father if you can. Forgive me if you wish. But most important, forgive yourself”( ). This is what pushes Amir to risk his life and go back to Afghanistan. He wants to be like his father, so he sets out to help Hassan’s son. This is like today’s world, people make mistakes they go and try redeeming themselves. Anyone in the world can be placed in Amir’s situation.
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In conclusion, the imagery and symbolism used in the novel effectively. The pomegranate tree showes the readers the change in Amir and Hassan`s relationship, whereas the sacrifice of the sheep showes the sins of Amir and how he tries to redeem himself. It enriches the novel and gives the readers a better understanding of the novel. The themes of violence, friendship, and the quest for redemption stands out, due to these techniques; of imagery and symbolism.
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