Monday, May 08, 2006


Not a Happy Ending; Just a Realistic One

Khaled Hosseini’s, The Kite Runner, has to be one of the best books that we’ve read this semester because it was the only one that took me only a few hours to read. As far as the ending being a “happy ending,” I would do well to conclude that it is not. My reasoning for this conclusion stems from the realization that The Kite Runner is as close to the reality of the true tragedy in Afghanistan that I or any other American college student will ever get. It is truer than any news account than I have ever read or seen in America. It explores much more than the surface of the raging war in Afghanistan, but it digs deep in order to expose how deep the war has scared the lives of innocent people and the true reign of terror of the Taliban. Life is not fair and in the end, one will find that the majority of human beings never find that “happy ending.” Why? Everyone’s definition of a happy ending is not the same, furthermore, the coined phrase “happy ending,” is seldom used in the real world, and is oftentimes seen or heard about only in fairytales, storybooks, television, movies, dreams, and the world of fantasy. Although the ending was not to be considered exactly happy and I was not altogether satisfied by it and it was a tolerable one in which I learned to finally accept.

Throughout The Kite Runner, the inhumane acts are committed against the innocent and the most humane people that society could ever produce. Hassan’s execution style death, the slaughter of his wife, and the inner slaying of his son through kidnapping and sexual molestation are moments in which the reader gives up all hope that this book could ever produce a happy ending. From the very moment that Rahim Khan tells Amir “I want to tell you about him. I want to tell you everything” (202), there was hope in my mind that the relationship between Hassan and Amir can be mended and the flame of friendship can somehow be rekindled in. I felt as though it was injustice for Hassan, a virtuous and righteous man to end up slain along with his wife. He remained a loyal and devoted friend until the end to Amir. And for what I asked myself? I guess it was so that Hassan could die with peace of mind. I figured this because when it comes down to “payback time” or revenge, the bible says that the Lord says that “vengeance is mine.” Internally, I think that Hassan knew that whatever a man sows, he will reap. This is exemplified when Rahim Khan told of how Hassan and his wife “did all of the cooking, all the cleaning, etc” (208) and also in Hassan's "final sacrifice" (105) for Amir. Although Hassan always did what was right, and didn’t gain much in life, he did have some bit of happiness during his lifetime. And although his rewards here on earth could not be seen, I believe that he had true happiness and was able to partake in the afterlife with their God Allah. It was unexpected for the character Hassan to die along with his wife and for his son to endure what he had to endure. I felt that although Amir’s guilt ate away at his heart, it did not for long because he was able to go on about his life and begin a new one. Unlike Hassan, his father didn’t die from stepping on a land mind but in the privacy of his own home. On another note, Hassan was one character that I hoped to see again, prospering in life as Amir was. This, I never saw because of how truly tragic life can really be. I’m not disgusted or angry with Hosseini for giving us the truth. I think as readers, we’re so used to happy endings, that when a tragic one comes along, it’s a shocking experience. It's true that the damage done in childhood that have produced inner scars can never magically be healed or reversed. Although there is no typical sunset ending, the reader is left with some glimpse of hope, despite the sadness and irreversable destruction that surrounds it.

In the end, as Amir is running the kite there is a final passage that says“It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make anything all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it” (371). As Sohrab and Amir are flying the kite together, it's almost as if at that very moment, we are taken back into time on that day when Amir won the Kite Race and Hassan finished running his kite for him. There is no coincidence that the novel ends in the same manner in which the crumbling of Hassan and Amir's unique friendship began. It's almost as if Amir has to pick up the fragmented pieces of his love for Hassan where he left them, so many years ago, at the kite race. One of the last passages as stated above describes my true feelings towards the novel's ending. One can only smile slightly after so much pain and hurt. Although the ending wasn't what one would call a "happy ending," I'll take it considering the sorrowful past of the lives of many of the Afghan's. The last genuine smile that I recall reading about was the same smile that Hassan gave as a child and in that Polaroid picture. For little Sohrab to produce a smile, well, I think as far as happiness goes, that's a start.

I would have to agree with Dria that this is one of the best books we've read this semester. I read this book last summer and after reading it again (after books such as Midnight's Children) I appreciated it even more. Like Dria said, the ending puts a whole new spin on "a happy ending". It is true, as she says, that happy endings can't happen for everyone and that this ending leaves the reader feeling hope for the future. I would have to say that this is probably the best ending of the semester because the novel is able to tie up all the lose ends that occured in the novel, which leaves the leader feeling a sense of completeness. This is an ending for the 21st century, one that involves violence and war, but one that leaves hope for our futures.

I personally feel that this novel possesses the happiest ending that we have encountered this semester. In your post, you wrote, “Hassan’s execution style death, the slaughter of his wife, and the inner slaying of his son through kidnapping and sexual molestation are moments in which the reader gives up all hope that this book could ever produce a happy ending.” These events in the novel are, indeed, very horrific, yet I do not think that they make the possibility of a happy ending, well, impossible. The ending would be unhappy if the novel concluded with the deaths of Hassan and his wife, or if Sohrab were left to grow up in the war-torn country of Afghanistan and be molested by Assef. But this does not happen. I feel that Amir redeems his relationship with Hassan by saving Sohrab from Assef and ensures that Sohrab will no longer endure such despicable treatment.

In addition, you wrote, “I felt that although Amir’s guilt ate away at his heart, it did not for long because he was able to go on about his life and begin a new one.” Yes, Amir begins a new life in America, but I don’t think he ever truly got over what he did (or what he didn’t do) to Hassan. Amir may move away, but he doesn’t move on. When he receives the call from Rahim Khan to come home, Amir sees the return to his homeland as “A way to be good again,” showing that he is still affected by events from his childhood (192). If I’m wrong and Amir actually doesn’t feel guilty, then why would he risk his life to save Hassan’s son?

I agree that the novel is both sad and tragic in that Afghanistan is still at war with itself. But I also feel that the ending is happy because the characters that Hosseini presents us with are able to change their lives for the better. Amir is able to put what happened during his childhood behind him and achieves peace of mind by doing so. Readers can only hope that Sohrab’s smile at the end indicates that he has walked the first step on his journey to inner peace as well.
I really enjoyed reading your post, Dria. Your reading of the novel is very close to my own. Because the novel is based upon events that seem very real to me, it seemed perfectly natural that the ending would be realistic, and I agree with you that it is a realistic ending. It did come as a little bit of a surprise, however. Before I started reading the book, I expected a story with a happy ending for the Afghan people, a politically correct fairy tale. I’m glad it isn’t a fairy tale. It does have all the exciting twists and turns that one expects from a bestseller, but it also had a surprising depth of feeling and emotion. It was so realistic – and sometimes sad – that it brought tears to my eyes more than once. The characters were well developed, and Hosseini does an excellent job making his readers connect with them. Although the plot was somewhat cyclical and became sort of predictable, at the same time it kept me reading and wanting to know exactly what would happen next. The Kite Runner was by far the most enjoyable and interesting book this semester. I’m glad we read it.
Dria and Jamie's comments about the novel tying up in a way that's not really happy, but "I'll take it" happy reminded me about the discussion we had in class about this being the first Afghani novel. The Kite Runner struggles to give us a happy ending, because it is for a western audience. As Americans, we're used to happy endings where the good guys win, like in the old westerns that Hassand and Amir liked so much. However, in a war-torn country like Afghanistan, a happy ending is hard to find. So maybe Hosseini's ending with a smile that "was only a smile, nothing more" is his way of giving us both.
I don't know Mealea, I feel as though, even though Amir was only a child when he betrayed Hassan and treated him wrong, those feelings, emotions, thoughts, and actions came straight from his heart. If he was truly sorrowful about the past events, I believed he would have sought out Hassan to try to make amends a LONG time ago. I sincerely do not believe that the burden upon Amir's heart was heavy enough, or else things would have worked out differently. Sure, Amir risked his life to save Sohrab but, if he wanted true redemption, his first thought would have been to adopt the boy himself, not send him to a "good family." I saw this as pure selfishness. It was pretty obvious that he should take the boy with him, considering the fact that his wife was barren. I firmly disagree that the ending was takes years for the scars that both Amir and Sohrab have acquired to heal. These are not your everyday "fall off your bike and skin your knee scars" but these cut into the depths of the soul and burden the heart with grief and sorrow. I wouldn't dare call the ending happy, sure, there is a glimpse of hope, hope FOR happiness, but only time will tell how long it will be before a happy ending for both Amir and Sohrab will be reached.
I to felt the book was not re typical happy ending but a real one. The book itself was shear terror in my opinion. To think of the violence is simply unimagionable. That room beating with brass knuckles, the rapings. Its all really tragic. However, it is a view of what life was like and is like their, so its valuable for sure to have read. The fact that the family membership of Hassan is revealed I thought was interesting as well. But, his execution was just terrible.
Throughout the semester, if I have learned one thing from reading these novels, it was not to look for a "happy" ending, but rather an ending that is better than the beginning. By this I mean that the situations of the characters are somewhat improved from when they started; this would at least show some progession, or as we have been saying, "hope". When I think of a tragic ending, I immediately think of Tess of the D'Urbervilles (last semester), in which her situation was only worsened throughout the novel. Thankfully, all of the novels read so far have had at least some glimmer of hope at the end for the characters, Kite Runner included. Although Sohrab has lived a tragic life, his new life in America will be much better than had he stayed in Afghanistan. Therefore, there is a glimmer of hope, and his situation has improved. So even though it may not be a sterotypical happy ending, it ends up "better than what could have happened".
I have to agree with Dria and Jamie. This is the best book that we have read all sememster, but I would not say it is a "happy ending". I could not agree more with Dria when she said that the only time that we have truly "happy endings" is in fairytales, Hollywood or our dreams. With that said, this is still the closest novel to a "happy ending" in my opinion. If we took at all of the horrid details that Hosseini gave us, this may be a happy ending, but there would be no substance, which is what gave us the touching account of what it was and is like to live in an area like this and deal with the Taliban. I found it interesting that Jamie said that she appreciated the book much more the second time reading it. I would like to read it again, later, to see if the same would happen. It is hard to appreciate the "happiness" at the end of the novel after reading books such as Midnights Children and Remains of the Day, or any of the others that were lacking the "happy ending".
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