Response to IB exam question (only in response with one novel):
Literature is often about crossing boundaries, both physically and mentally. In what ways, and to what extent, does the crossing boundaries contribute to The Kite Runner?
As you know, in IB when doing Paper 2 you answer the question regarding more than one prose or novel that you have read during the year and you are not allowed to have the works with you when you take the exam.
In The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, the characters are faced with many physcial and mental boundaries. The novels boundaries and the effect of those contribute to the growth of characters in regard to social context and personal attitudes. This is supported through the use of characterization and plot.
Amir is characterized in the novel as weak, arrogant, selfish, and very discriminatory. This characterization of Amir leads to Amir’s attempt to redeem himself of what he allowed to happen to Hassan. He was weak and could not stand up to Assef and his friends. This led to Hassan being raped, this was a physical boundary that was crossed. Hassan’s personal space was intruded on and left Amir with the boundary of guilt. This guilt led his actions throughout the novel, from the nearly immediate action of framing Hassan and getting him kicked out to leaving his new life and home in America in order to find “a way to be good again.” Amir allows this boundary to dictate much of his life, he never goes very long without thinking about Hassan and what could have happened to him. Amir being in America is a boundary in itself. The physical distance separates him from his home and his new home. This effects the novel because Amir has the ability to attempt to forget his wrongs and move on in a land where no one knows what he has done. The mental distance puts Amir between his past and his present. This ignites on internal struggle of Amir. It moves the plot along by intertwining old memories with new experiences. The constant relevance of Hassan also supports why Amir felt like he had to go back to Afghanistan, and why he had to redeem himself after all of the years spent away from that land.
Amir also shows weakness and discriminatory views when he allows social boundaries to constrict his actions. Amir feels that he does not have to contribute to their relationship because he is above Hassan and does not owe him anything. Due to Hassan’s social boundary, which is a mental aspect that turns physical, Amir uses Hassan’s lack of knowledge in order to be seen as better than him. Hassan however crosses this boundary and learns to read, this can be attributed to Hassan’s characterization which is strong and willing to stand up for those he finds necessary.
The physical and mental boundary of Amir and Baba’s relationship shows the effect that this boundary has on Amir’s other relationships (with Hassan.) Baba was characterized as strong willed, considerate, tough and (a metaphor) a bear. The father-son boundary was clear in the novel. the stress and lack of love in the relationship had an impact on Amir’s attitude towards others. Some of Amir’s hate was put on Hassan because Amir disliked when Hassan received affection from his father. This boundary was crossed after they arrived in America. This boundary being crossed at this time also affected the plot. It allowed Amir to meet his future wife and progress a relationship with her. This development of the plot leads to the physical boundary that Amir an dhis wife come face-to-face with. This boundary is that she can not have children. This boundary is not crossed until Amir is able to find the means to which he can redeem himself, which is to go to Afghanistan. When he finds out that he can save Sohrab he is conflicted with the danger of Afghanistan and the chance to make up for what he did. When Amir is on his journey to Sohrab he finds himself in the path of his past, a direct boundary that has been haunting him. Not only does he have to see the destruction of his home land but he has to encounter Assef, who he has unfinished business with. He is able to “defeat” this mark of past with the help of Sohrab. Sohrab brings his own set of obstacles and boundaries to Amir. The boundaries are both physical and mental. There is a lack of communication to start their relationship which turns to Sohrab’s inability to want to be touched and then the boundary of getting Sohrab back to America to live as Amir’s son, crossing the boundary of him not having children. The physical boundary of Sohrab not being able to immmediately leave created tension in the plot which leads to Sohrab’s attempted suicide.
In The Kite Runner the physical and mental boundaries provide a creation to the characteristics of the characters. The characters are able to grow due to these limitations and obstacles. The boundaries allow time and distance between characters for the plot to unfold and reveal itself to the reader. Without these boundaries The Kite Runner would not be a novel of redemption because there wouldn’t have been a build up of tension and heartache to overcome.