The Kite Runner
How we cite our quotes:
We chased the Kochi, the nomads who passed through Kabul on their way to the mountains of the north. We would hear their caravans approaching our neighborhood, the mewling of their sheep, the baaing of their goats, the jingle of bells around their camels' necks. We'd run outside to watch the caravan plod through our street, men with dusty, weather-beaten faces and women dressed in long, colorful shawls, beads, and silver bracelets around their wrists and ankles. We hurled pebbles at their goats. We squirted water on their mules. I'd make Hassan sit on the Wall of Ailing Corn and fire pebbles with his slingshot at the camels' rears. (4.7)
Is this from the movie My Girl or is it in a novel about betrayal and redemption? There's so much innocence: cute little animals, magical caravans, and playful violence without any real consequences. (Compare the violence here with the later blinding of Assef.) There is, however, an emerging violence. Soon, Baba will sacrifice a lamb (notice the livestock here) for a Muslim holy day and Amir will watch as Assef rapes Hassan. In that passage, Amir even compares Hassan's resignation to a lamb's. For now, though, everything is peachy.
Every winter, districts in Kabul held a kite-fighting tournament. And if you were a boy living in Kabul, the day of the tournament was undeniably the highlight of the cold season. I never slept the night before the tournament. I'd roll from side to side, make shadow animals on the wall, even sit on the balcony in the dark, a blanket wrapped around me. I felt like a soldier trying to sleep in the trenches the night before a major battle. And that wasn't so far off. In Kabul, fighting kites was a little like going to war. (6.7)
There's an innocence to Amir's insomnia here. Although Hosseini doesn't spend a lot of time talking about Amir's sleeplessness, he does mention it a few times. Amir starts to have trouble sleeping after he betrays Hassan – and Amir never really resolves his sleeplessness in the novel. At this point, though, Amir stays up during the night because nervous energy prevents him from falling asleep. Later guilt, anxiety, and all the darker forces of the brain will torment Amir.
Assef knelt behind Hassan, put his hands on Hassan's hips and lifted his bare buttocks. He kept one hand on Hassan's back and undid his own belt buckle with his free hand. He unzipped his jeans. Dropped his underwear. He positioned himself behind Hassan. Hassan didn't struggle. Didn't even whimper. He moved his head slightly and I caught a glimpse of his face. Saw the resignation in it. It was a look I had seen before. It was the look of the lamb. (7.133)
We're especially frightened by this passage because Assef is only a boy, too. Can Assef even know the repercussions of his act? Does Assef, too, despite his cruelty, retain a type of innocence? When children are cruel to each other are they still innocent even in their cruelty? Don't forget, either, about Amir who's watching the event. In fact, you might be able to say that Amir's abandonment and betrayal of Hassan affects Amir more than it affects Hassan. Hassan retains – or at least returns to – some measure of innocence. But Amir is irrevocably changed.