The use of Archetypes in literature is highly prevalent.
A common archetype is the saviour archetype, also known as the messianic or Christ-like figure. Usually the protagonist, the Christ-like figure exhibits qualities that parallel that of the biblical Jesus, through characterization, and symbolic actions. There are a few common traits exhibited by this character, including, but not limited to, being self-sacrificing and loyal, manifestations of divine qualities, displaying kindness or forgiveness. With the advent of postmodern literature, authors tend to avoid the theme of resurrection, but rather focus on a symbolic martyr; sacrificing himself for the greater good. Authors frequently and consistently make use of this archetypal figure in order to draw allusions between their characters and the biblical Jesus Christ, in order to present strong character development and allow the author to provide a more profound meaning to symbolic actions, setting, symbols and overall push forward a stronger, and more refined and meaningful theme. The essay seeks to explore the literary techniques employed by Hosseini in the character development of Hassan, and to argue that Hassan is an archetypal Christ-like figure.
In conjunction, this essay will also explore how the plot, structure, and action contributed to the character development of Hassan, as well as other influencing factor, including symbolic actions, cultural conventions, and the unspoken bond between Hassan and Amir. To facilitate significant exploration and development of ideas, source material will not be limited to only the literary text The Kite Runner, will it will make use of secondary research material that supplements my understanding of the work, including interviews with the author, literary commentaries, the historical significance of the time period the book is set in, as well the religious fundamentalism and cultural discrimination that not only is a constant factor underlying the development of the primary character, Hassan, but also plays an important role in understanding the abuse and social persecution of Hassan; providing important context for the pertaining analysis. The novel The Kite Runner is a work of art, worthy of investigation and analysis, not only due to the use of the archetypal savior figure in advising the theme of the novel, but also due to the interesting literary techniques employed by Hosseini, in developing this archetypal figure. The research question allows me to have a greater understanding of the conventional archetypal characters, which opens me up to a new perspective and lens, when viewing all forms of literature. Hosseini incorporation of cultural conventions and hierarchy introduces the complex relationship between Hassan and Amir. Hassan was a member of the Hazara caste; a historically socially, politically and economically oppressed group. In contrast, Amir was a Pashtun, a historically dominant, richer and overall higher caste. The conflict between Hazaras and Pashtuns stems from a difference in religious beliefs.
The Hazaras were Shi’a Muslims, whereas Pashtuns were Sunni Muslims. Their conflict regarding the successor to Prophet Muhammed, translated into social, and economic oppression and persecution. “Throughout Afghan History, the Pashtuns held the highest influential rank above other ethnic groups, specifically the Hazaras”. Hosseini directly infuses this historical context into the text when Amir found a history book, wherein he learned that “…the Pashtuns…had persecuted and oppressed the Hazaras”. Through the early establishment of the division between Amir and Hassan, Hosseini foreshadows the kind of unspoken relationship and sense of superiority that Amir has. Using a representation in a microcosm to embody the ethnic differences of the two boys, Hosseini suggests that their relationship is limited and cannot move past the historical conflict that occurred in the violent tragedies between Pashtuns and Hazaras. Their relationship is fated for interminable inequality in social class and role, and the personalities of the boys themselves, which the boys have been unfortunately categorized into, at birth. The ethnic separation, along with the knowledge of the Hazara genocide, Hosseini is characterizing Hassan as a member of an oppressed class, who has to serve Amir, but their relationship transcends historical and cultural conventions and traditions.
Hosseini’s use of biblical allusion, through his characterization of Hassan and Amir, and the parallel situations they faced, develops Hassan as an archetypal Saviour character. The true character of Hassan is displayed, through the physical and sexual abuse he faced by Assef. Hosseini characterizes Assef as a foil character to Hassan, describing them as polar opposites: Hassan is “incapable of hurting anyone” while Assef earns a “reputation for savagery” as a “sociopath”.
Hassan, mostly due to his job as a servant, and his “Hazara Mongoloid features”. He faced such abuse from both adults, like the soldier proclaiming that “They knew his mother” and that they “took her behind the creek” and continuing the abuse by stating that “what a tight sugary cunt she had”. Although Hassan kept walking and ignoring these remarks, however he could not hide the emotional trauma forever, and “later in the dark” “tears slid down his cheek”. Perhaps the most traumatic and consistent abuse Hassan faced was form Assef and his gang of friends. They took advantage of their size and age, and assaulted and abused both Hassan and Amir repeatedly, motivated by their nationalist and racist view of “Afghanistan being the land of the Pashtuns” and how “flat-nosed” people like Hassan “pollute our homeland” and “dirty our blood”. Hassan was quick to come to the verbal and physical defence of Amir, “fending them off”, whereas Amir never did anything. Assef teased Amir, a Pashtun, for being friends with Hassan, a Hazara, but Amir did not defend Hassan, and instead said that “Hassan was not his friend” but rather “his servant”. In contrast, Hassan used his slingshot to defend Amir, threatening Assef with losing his eye.
Amir’s lack of bravery manifested a strong feeling of guilt, resulting in Amir “snapping at Hassan”, using his own anger and frustration to hide the guild and weakness he harbours, as deep down he knows that “A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up for anything”. Assef is used as an empty cipher to cloud Amir’s sinful thoughts, fears and weaknesses, such that Amir does not have to face the painful consequences of his actions on his own, thereby suggesting that Amir is too cowardly and ashamed to stand up and defend Hassan. Amir doesn’t erase his unresolved guilt, he suppresses it. Therefore Amir cannot truly be at rest as it “hurts to breathe”; he can’t “breathe” easy or let go of his sins and corresponding guild. Hosseini underscores this idea near the end of the novel, when Assef and Amir meet, as adults, hinting that Assef as this representation and physical manifestation of evil has not faded, parallel to how Amir and Hassan’s betrayal and is never forgotten. This is demonstrated through the last chapter constant repetition of Hassan telling Amir “For you a thousand times over”. Assed accomplished many violent feats, through which he holds a high rank amongst the terrorist group, the Taliban.
As Assef reached the zenith of his violent career, so has Amir’s cipher of fear and evil, having grown and found substance in the form of Assef. Because of the Amir’s cowardice, his problems have only exacerbated to the point where atonement may never be possible.The characterization of Hassan and Amir during the Kite competition and the horrific rape that occurred further the notion of Hassan as a christ-like figure and Amir as a Judas Iscariot. “Every winter districts in Kabul help a kite-flying tournament”, and this tournament held great social significance and was the “highlight of the cold season”. Hassan and Amir would spend their own money to buy parts and build their own Kites. In Kabul, Kite and the action of Kite running was a symbol of freedom. It united children and adults of all ages, people of all religious beliefs and even united the pashtuns and the Hazaras. Hassan and Amir have to work together, seamlessly as a team, in order to fly the kite and be completely synchronised to defeat the other boys.
Hence, running the kite is also representative of the high level of trust and strength of the bond between Hassan and Amir. This is further illustrated when they win, Amir proclaims that “We won! We won!”. The use of the word ‘we’ is highly significant as it publicly admits that they are friends and that the win was not only his win, but it’s a win for the both of them. However, the kite is also the main reason for Hassan’s rape.
After Amir cut the final competitor’s kite and essentially won the tournament, Hassan, just like he did with all other cut kites, ran forth to go and retrieve the kite back for him. The cut kite is a prize for the person who cut it, and it is tradition that the cut kite be brought to him as a spoil of war and no one else is entitled to it. This characterization parallels the initial relationship between Jesus and one of his apostles, namely Judas. He had a very special relationship with Jesus, considered by many as one of the most spiritual apostles, and due to this relationship of honesty, trust and friendship, “Judas found himself being entrusted with larger sums of money”. The kite is later used to create seperation and betrayal between Hassan and Amir, and the kite transforms from a symbol of unity and freedom to a symbol of betrayal and represents guilt. When retrieving the kite for Amir, Hassan is raped by Assef and his gang. Hassan is unwilling to give up the kite which rightfully belongs to Amir.
Even when he is teased for being a “loyal dog”, nothing more than a servant fetching something for his master, Hassan holds his ground and his faith and love for Amir allow him to ignore the harsh comments of Assef. Assef laughed when Hassan said that “Amir agha and I are friends” and continues harassing Hassan, pointing out that “Why Amir only plays with you when no one else is around?. Assef says that Hassan is nothing more than “an ugly pet” and that Hassan shouldn’t “fool himself into thinking hewas something more”. Assef rapes Hassan, while his gang hold Hassan down, to “teach him a lesson”.
While this was happening Amir watched from afar, heard and saw everything that happened, but did not say anything. When Hassan finally returns with the kite, Amir doesn’t view the kite as a trophy or a symbol of their victory, but rather as a symbol of guilt. Amir is reminded of what happened to Hassan, but more significantly the guild and his betrayal form not trying to intervene.
This guild and ultimate betrayal is further highlighted by the fact that Hassan knew all along that Amir watched the rape and sexual assault but never mentioned or held it against Amir for not doing anything about it. This shows Hassan’s selflessness, and parallels greatly to the Jesus christ. Hassan suffered, much like Jesus, due to the betrayal of Amir. In this perspective, Amir is further characterized as Judas.
Judas betrayed Christ by “disclosing Jesus’ whereabouts to the chief priests and elders for 30 pieces of silver” and “identifiing Jesus” from the other 11 apostles by “a kiss” and “addressing him as master”. Christ forgave Judas for his betrayal and even kissed him, just like Hassan forgiving Amir and not talking about the rape. An important symbol that furthers the characterization and representation of Hassan as a Christ-like figure is the sacrifice of the lamb. In Islam, during Eid, traditionally the best goat one can buy is killed as a symbolic sacrifice to illustrate the covenant and loyalty between humans and god. During the rape, Hassan is described to be