Amir And Hassan: Character Development Through Times Of Conflict

Introduction:

Everybody goes through conflict in his or her life, but how a person responds to this conflict reveals his or her true morals. The idea of adversity and one’s response to it is heavily prevalent in The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini. Within the novel, many key events take place that shape the lives of all the characters. Some characters rise to the challenge during these times, mostly the ones most true to their morals, while others crumble. These events can lead to beneficial results, but often times can also lead to regrettable consequences. In The Kite Runner, Hosseini uses times of conflict in order to convey a major shift in character development or a major trait of a character.

Amir’s Evolution: From Cowardice to Heroism:

Amir, the main character of the novel, is depicted as a coward during times of crisis, causing lasting damage to his relationships, and thus spends his life trying to fix what he has broken. As a young child, Amir faces a pivotal situation in which he shrinks, leading to a long-lasting feeling of guilt. After standing witness to the rape of Hassan, instead of intervening, Amir reflects, “In the end, I ran. I ran because I was a coward.” Amir instantly regrets his actions and seems to acknowledge that he should have meddled with the assault. In contrast, later in his life, Amir faces a test in which he redeems himself. After talking to Rahim Khan about his true relationship with Hassan, Amir realizes there is “A way to end the cycle. With a little boy. An orphan. Hassan’s son.” Amir has the ability to repair a broken relationship he had with Hassan by rising to the occasion and taking in Hassan’s son. Amir has come full circle and has shown a massive shift from an untrustworthy backstabber as a child into a responsible and mature adult, just like Hassan was. Amir’s decision to take in Hassan’s son shows a major development in Amir and displays what Amir always wanted to be: a responsible and mature person.

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Hassan’s Unwavering Loyalty: A Flawed Trait:

Hassan is the antithesis of Amir, as he seemingly always stands up to a challenge. However, this becomes more of a flaw as time progresses, eventually leading to his death. When Amir and Hassan play and get in trouble, Hassan always stands up for Amir and takes the blame, but the lack of punishment leads to his future fatal flaw. Amir describes that as a child, Hassan “never told on me. Never told that the mirror, like shooting walnuts at the neighbor’s dog, was always my idea.” Hassan, even as a little kid, always takes the blame for issues, but he never is punished for them. As Hassan grows up, he continues to take the blame for issues, eventually resulting in serious consequences. When Hassan is trapped by Assef, Assef says, “‘Last chance, Hazara.’ Hassan’s answer was to cock the arm that held the rock.” Hassan’s unwavering loyalty comes as a fault in this scenario, and his inability to choose himself over Amir ends with terrible events, such as his rape. Hassan spends the majority of the book defending Amir, thus showing Hassan intends to be a loyal friend.

Assef: The Abrasive Antagonist:

Like Hassan, Assef seems to react the same way in times of conflict. However, Assef is often the antagonist in these situations, showing his major trait of abrasiveness throughout the novel. When Assef is young, he always causes issues between himself and others. Amir explains that Assef’s “word was law, and if you needed a little legal education, then those brass knuckles were just the right teaching tool.” Assef is relentless on her fellow children. He only allows kids to follow his view on laws. As the book progresses, Assef is not to be seen, but as soon as Amir returns to Kabul, he is reminded of the person Assef is. Assef tells Amir, “Like pride in your people, your customs, your language. Afghanistan is like a beautiful mansion littered with garbage, and someone has to take out the garbage.” Assef relates Hazaras to garbage at a house, revealing that he is still the same person who decides who is worthy of punishment. Assef spends the whole book employing his own laws, showing his true character as an abrasive sociopath.

Baba’s Integrity: Standing Strong in Adversity:

Baba is very experienced in times of conflict, which explains why he shows a constant strong attitude towards disputes no matter what situation he is in throughout the book. When Amir is young, Baba is in a position of power as Baba has money and a good reputation. Thus, he is expected to stand up in situations and try to teach that to his children. Baba says, “A boy who won’t stand up for He becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.” Baba tries to instill his strong values into Amir in order for Amir to show others the family’s value of sticking to their morals. This attitude continues when Baba loses his wealth and status, showing that this is an important value to Baba. After a Russian soldier threatens to shoot Baba for standing up for a woman, he says, “he’d better kill me well with that first shot. Because if I don’t go down, I’m tearing him to pieces.” Baba defends this woman even though he is a person of lower power and can be harmed easily. Baba’s commitment to his morals in all types of conflict reveals his defining trait of integrity.

Conclusion:

Times of conflict are used by Hosseini in order to convey a complete change in character development. Throughout The Kite Runner, Amir’s character transforms as he leaves behind cowardice in favor of heroism. At the same time, various secondary characters within the narrative, such as Hassan, change as they allow their personal flaws to manifest. This importance placed on morals and values by Hosseini explains exactly how he believes people change during troubling times. Hosseini tries to instill in the reader the importance of sticking to your values no matter what the circumstances are. Hopefully, next time you are faced with a conflict, you stay true to yourself.

Works Cited

  1. Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018. 

“The Open Boat” Theme: Nature’s Indifference And The Struggle Of Humankind

Introduction:

Stranded at sea and at the mercy of nature, many realizations can be made about the relationship between nature and mankind. “The Open Boat,” a short story by Stephen Crane, is a very symbolic piece of writing that is full of details that are still relevant today. One of the many themes that stands out throughout the story is the theme that nature appears to be indifferent to mankind. This theme is the backbone of the story as the men struggle to get to shore. This theme is still relevant in today’s world as we struggle with global challenges such as climate change. Crane uses many literary devices throughout the story that add fascinating details that lie below the surface of the story. The struggle between humankind and nature is definitely the most substantial and important theme of the story “The Open Boat,” which can be seen through Crane’s use of symbolism, foreshadowing, and imagery.

Symbolism of the Boat: Metaphor for Humanity’s Struggle:

There are many aspects of the story that show the struggle against nature. For instance, the boat in the story is representative of the lifeline of the sailors. The boat is first introduced to the reader as very small. In fact, Crane compares the size of the boat to the size of a bathtub, “Many a man ought to have a bathtub larger than the boat.” The size of the boat is notably important because there are four men in this boat of this size. Crane adds this detail because it shows that there is not much room left for hope. The size of the boat is also important as it is a symbol of the size of mankind compared to the size of nature. “In a ten-foot dinghy, one can get an idea of the resources of the sea,” compares the size of their boat to the expanse amount of resources that nature holds. These are a few of the foundational details of the story that lead to the men’s realizations of nature’s ways.

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Seagulls: A Glimpse of Hope and Patience:

The next obstacle that the men must face from nature is the seagulls that are constantly flying around them and landing on them. The birds are irritating to the men at the moment because they do not see the real meaning in the birds; the men still possess fundamental skills in life. The men are so focused on trying to be rescued that they do not focus on the significance of the birds. One significance of the birds is that the men are within close proximity to land, as the birds would not be in the middle of the ocean where there is no land. The men don’t really realize that the birds signal an end to their hardships. Another positive thing about the birds is that they truly show the men’s patience. One of the gulls landed on the captain’s head, and he had to be careful not to shoo it away too quickly and flip the boat. The captain does wait, signifying that the men still have the patience for whatever hardships may come their way. The birds are a significant symbol in the story as they show that the men still have indispensable skills such as patience.

Nature’s True Self: The Shark’s Harsh Reality:

One of the turning points in the story and when the men figure out nature’s true self is when nature sends a shark for the men. At the moment, the Correspondent is rowing the boat, and everyone else is sleeping. At this point in the story, the men are worn out, tired, and clinging to their last hopes of survival. The shark begins to circle the boat, and the Correspondent begins to think about how nature is cruel. “…If I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come this far and contemplate sand and trees?” This is the thought running through the Correspondent’s head as the shark circles the boat. He begins to comprehend that nature is indifferent to man and does not have a conscience. He realizes that nature has no reason to care for humans, nor does it have rhyme or reason for what it does. This is one of the turning points in the story as the men begin to realize that nature can do what it wants with no reason to care for how it will affect humans. On the contrary, humans must respect nature if they want to live a prosperous life.

An additional symbol that appears is one of the most interesting symbols in the story. While approaching land, the Correspondent removes eight cigars from his pocket, four of which were dry; he then finds three dry matches. This may be the most foreshadowing element of the story. He originally had eight cigars for the eight men who were on the original voyage; he then only found four dry ones for the four men who survived and made it on a lifeboat. However, he only finds three dry matches, which are a foreshadowing for what is later to come: the fact that only three men will survive the journey. Whether nature played a factor in this is unclear; however, Crane does a fantastic job of using foreshadowing here at this point of the story.

In addition to the symbolism and foreshadowing that Crane uses, he also uses imagery to show the men’s struggles against nature. Crane uses imagery when describing the oar of the boat. “It was a thin little oar, and it seemed often ready to snap” shows that their lifeline is running low and that the men do not have much of a chance to survive their surroundings. Furthermore, Crane uses imagery when describing the lighthouse to the reader, “It was precisely like the point of a pin. It took an anxious eye to find a lighthouse so tiny.” Crane describes that the lighthouse was really barely visible as it was merely a shadow in the distance. This shows how much hope the men had, as even a speck in the distance to them looks promising. Crane’s imagery adds an element to the story that lets the reader feel like they can see what the characters are seeing.

When the men finally have the chance to reach the shore and receive help, they are completely changed. They now have learned their lesson about nature and its unruly style. After the Oiler’s death, the men have seen the worst of what nature can do to them. They now respect nature and its own ways. They respect nature so much in the end that they consider themselves “interpreters.” 

Conclusion:

Stephen Crane’s story “The Open Boat” is an eye-opening story as it forces humans to realize that nature is indifferent to humans. Nature is not forced to be nice to mankind; in fact, nature is free to do what it wants. On the contrary, humans must respect nature as humans rely on nature to survive. The global challenges that face our world today put this relationship at risk. As the readers experience through Crane’s amazing symbolism, foreshadowing, and imagery, mankind is at the mercy of nature; nature is at the mercy of no one.  

References:

  1. Crane, Stephen. “The Open Boat.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature, edited by Nina Baym, 8th ed., vol. C, W. W. Norton & Company, 2012, pp. 210-228.

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