“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light” (Helen Keller). It is true what they say about friendship and how important it is in one’s life during depressing times. In the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, the main characters in these novels explore the path of friendship and learn how important it can be for one and other. In The Kite Runner, Amir, the main individual learns that his mistakes in the past have caused him pain for over 20 years and that if he had been a good friend he would have not lost his childhood friend and furthermore, gained respect from his father more than ever. The women Mariam, in A Thousand Splendid Suns, goes through many abuses from her husband but with the help of a friend, she eliminates her miseries from the past and present and creates a better future for her. In both the novels, Khaled Hosseini uses loyalty, sacrifice, and honor to portray the struggle that one puts in to maintain a friendship. Even though A Thousand Splendid Suns places a greater focus on two-way communication in a friendship, in comparison, to how The Kite Runner focuses more on one-way communication, both novels explore the love relationship between two main characters.
For a friendship to remain indestructible and genuine both members have to be loyal and sincere to each other, otherwise the friendship becomes full of lies and will start to decompose. To become friends and make a friendship; there must be a connection between the two that joins them together to form a friendship bond. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Aziza, Laila’s daughter was the bridge that connected Laila and Mariam together and forged their friendship. Before Laila and Mariam were friends, they were enemies. When Mariam was walking by the kitchen during the night she saw Aziza crying, picked her up, and put her back to sleep again. The next day Mariam and Laila are having a cup of tea outside when they heard Aziza wake up and “A look passed between Laila and Mariam. An unguarded, knowing look. And in this fleeting, wordless exchange with Mariam, Laila knew that they were not enemies any longer” (Hosseini 224). Since Mariam never had a baby of her own and did not get to experience a motherhood, she was fond of Aziza and Laila appreciated that Mariam was helping take care of Aziza. This, taking care of Aziza bonded Mariam and Laila together. Mariam has become a new individual after this because from being a unwanted women in the house that got abused, to a happy women who has company. This is the start of a true friendship for both characters and it is the turning point for Laila and Mariam’s misery. After the friendship rocket took off “Mariam had started teaching Aziza verses from the Koran… ‘It’s all I have to give her, this knowledge, and these prayers. They’re the only true possessions I’ve ever had’” (Hosseini 265). Mariam takes responsibility, teaches Aziza because Laila is too exhausted to teach sometimes, and is always tired from staying up night because of Aziza. Mariam is a true friend who thinks about others, even as a child she would think about others too. Even if Laila does not ask of help, Mariam still lends a hand in daily chores and cooking. Laila trusts Mariam more than anyone and knows that when she is busy cooking food or doing laundry, Mariam is taking good care of Aziza. A friendship should always be full of trust; it is what keeps it genuine.
Unlike Mariam, Amir, in The Kite Runner, does not care about others and does not help anyone besides himself whereas like Mariam, Hassan is always is willing to help especially Amir. Amir and Hassan are the best of friends from birth but an unforgettable mistake shatters the friendship. Amir and Hassan are the sultans of Kabul, they would go to their pomegranate tree every now and then and sit there and read books. One day while sitting under the pomegranate tree Amir asked Hassan if he would eat dirt if he told him too, to toy with him and test his loyalty. Hassan replied and told him: “‘If you asked, I would’ … looking right at me. I dropped my eyes. To this day, I find it hard to gaze directly at people like Hassan, people who mean every word they say” (Hosseini, 27). Amir drops his head because he would not eat dirt if he was told too by Hassan but if someone else that was more powerful than he was, like Assef told him too, then he might eat the dirt. Hassan was willing to do anything for Amir but Amir was not and this is the solely reason why their friendship broke into pieces. Hassan is doing what a true friend would but Amir on the other hand was doing nothing to keep the relation going. Maybe Hassan does what Amir says because he is his servant, and because he is weak against Amir, a Pashtun, where Hassan a Hazara. During kite fighting tournaments, Amir and Hassan were always partners and during the winter of the kite tournament Amir had won to impress Baba. Hassan who was an excellent kite runner went to run the kite for Amir and as he ran for the kite, he screamed out to Amir, “For you, a thousand times over!” (Hosseini 67). Hassan is expressing his loyalty and devotion towards Amir but Amir never repays back his loyalty because if it were Amir he would not do this a thousand times over. Amir later repeats this phrase to Sohrab, Hassan’s son when he goes and runs down a kite for him to show is gratitude. Amir does this to make up for what he had done to Hassan and for how poorly he had treated Hassan as a friend. Hassan shows a great amount of respect towards Amir when he says these words, he shows the readers the type of relation he had with Amir. If you show respect to someone first, than he or she will return the respect back but sometimes that respect my take some time to arrive back at you.
From this, one can tell that even though Mariam and Laila had a rough start to their friendship they have a stronger bond between them than the bond between Amir and Hassan who have been friends from birth. Mariam and Hassan are both similar characters, they both emphasize their loyalty towards their friend. However, when Mariam gives respect to Laila she returns it back whenever she gets the opportunity but on the other hand, Amir does not do that towards Hassan. Amir only loves receiving loyalty not giving it. Laila and Mariam are always there for each other, to take care of each other in harsh times but Amir is not there for Hassan during his bad times, Hassan is always doing things for Amir. Hassan may try how much he wants to keep the knot on the friendship tight but it will come loose one day or the other because Hassan is the only one putting effort into the relation. Mariam and Laila have become friends and are keeping their knot tight because Mariam and Laila are working together because they have a purpose for keeping their friendship and that is to keep themselves both safe from harm.
Sometimes sacrifice can strengthen the bond in a friendship, while other times it can only hurt you. In The Kite Runner, the first sacrifice that Hassan made was to save himself and Amir from Assef and it was worth it but if Amir had shown courage and helped then it would have been revolutionary. Furthermore, if Amir had helped, than his father would have been proud. Amir was thriving for this father-son affection, but he did not think of this because he was a coward to stand up for himself. Amir and Hassan are walking home from the movies when Assef and his boys stop them, after many pleading to let them go Hassan takes out his slingshot and tells Assef that, “You are right Agha. But perhaps you didn’t notice that I’m the one holding the slingshot” (Hosseini 42). Assef had surrounded Amir and Hassan but Hassan sacrifices himself, pulls out his slingshot, and points it at Assef’s eye. Hassan knowing that he only has one shot and if he did make it, it would not inflict much damage and if it did, they were still surrounded by Assef’s boys. However, the odds were in there favor and Hassan and Amir walked away from Assef without getting beat up. Hassan always does for others with little concern for himself. His childhood decisions show this clearly. The second and biggest, plot changing sacrifice that Hassan makes for Amir is when he goes and runs the losers kite for Amir, but that kite was Assef’s and he wanted to trade Hassan for his freedom to return back home, but Hassan choose the kite because “Amir agha won the tournament and I ran this kite for him. I ran it fairly. This is his kite” (Hosseini 72). Hassan agreed to be raped by Assef just so that Amir can have the kite, so Amir can show his victory to Baba. However, Amir could have stopped Hassan’s sacrifice and been a good friend to help Hassan get out the sticky situation with Assef but he did not. The worst part was that Amir stood standing there watching while Hassan was suffering. Amir was selfish and wanted the kite just so he can please his dad but he would have pleased his dad even if he had rescued Hassan and shown bravery. His dad is a brave man himself and he honors brave people. Hassan may have sacrificed himself but Amir did nothing to help Hassan heal from that attack by Assef and never talked to him afterwards because Amir was so full of guilt that he was having a war with himself. From this point the friendship between Amir and Hassan broke.
The sacrifices that Laila and Mariam make are for the benefit of the other not themselves. Laila shows the first sign of sacrifice to protect Mariam from Rasheed’s beatings. Laila interferes and tries to stop Rasheed from whipping Mariam with a belt for no reason, “Rasheed raised the belt again and this time came at Mariam. Then an astonishing thing happened: The girl lunged at him. She grabbed his arm with both hands and tried to drag him down” (Hosseini 216). Laila stood up to Rasheed for the first time and Mariam was astonished by this because no one has ever stood up for her and she herself has not stood up to Rasheed. Since Laila was raised in a household with respect for each other and to stand up for what is right, she could not let Mariam be punished for what she has not done. Laila shows the first sign of starting a friendship with Mariam and later when Mariam thanks Laila for standing up for her by giving her daughter some clothes that she knitted, they become friends. Mariam makes the biggest sacrifice and that is take the punishment for killing Rasheed, their husband by hitting him with a shovel on the temples to save Laila from being chocked by Rasheed. After Rasheed was dead, Laila insisted that she, Mariam, and the kids escape the country and flea to Pakistan but Mariam refused and said, “For me it ends here. There’s nothing more I want. Everything I’d ever wished for as a little girl you’ve already given me. You and your children have made me so very happy. It’s all right, Laila jo. This is all right. Don’t be sad” (Hosseini 319). Laila insists that it is not fair for Mariam to stay and face punishment for Rasheed’s death, but Mariam tells her it is. She says she has killed their husband and deprived Zalmai, Laila’s son of a father. She will never escape Zalmai’s grief. This is Mariam’s justification for killing Rasheed and staying behind and accepting the punishment. Mariam could have easily gone along with Laila but if she went than her guilt will get to her. Mariam shows bravery and makes her ending has happy as it could be by thinking of the good times that she had spent with Lila and Aziza because she knows that prison is not going to be pleasant. She wants Laila to have a better life than she did because Laila is still young and can have a bright future.
Sacrifices have been made in both novels and have affected the plot but it is clear that the sacrifices made in A Thousand Splendid Suns had more positive reactions towards the characters than the sacrifices made in The Kite Runner. Laila made a sacrifice to save Mariam and vice versa to save each other. While Hassan made all the sacrifices and it did not help himself nor did it help Amir because the sacrifice that he made only made Amir feel guilty. Furthermore, Amir has not been the character that most readers expected but in his journey to be good again he does make a sacrifice to return back to Kabul and face Assef for Sohrab, Hassan’s son. In both the novels Hosseini has integrated, such sacrifices that one character is forced to take to save another character to show the meaning of friendship. One can say that Mariam and Laila have made sacrifices that were worth making whereas Hassan and Amir made sacrifices that were not worth it for each other. One can also say that Hassan has struggled the most out of all four sacrifices made. Make sacrifices for those who would do the same for you, not for the ones that just use you as a benefit or a bodyguard.
Honoring one and other is important in a friendship because if there is no honor than the friendship can change into and enmity. Laila and her parents are getting ready to move out the country before they are killed in the war that is happening in Kabul. While packing Laila remembers two lines from a poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi, which stated, “One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid sins that hide behind her walls” (Hosseini 172). These words do not only make the title of the novel but also reappear later towards the end of the story. These two lines have a deep meaning and they talk about the lives of women in Afghanistan. Women are restricted in Afghanistan but they keep their hopes high and honor every women in Afghan because they all know that their lives are similar to one and other. Women in Afghanistan have been restricted for centuries by the men in their lives. However, beneath all the confinement, women continue to see the splendid and beauty in their lives through the little daily joys that they can find. After Laila and Tariq return back to Kabul with their kids, Laila is going to have another baby and Laila has asked the family to think of a name. Laila tells the rules for the game to the family that, “The game involves only male names. Because, it it’s a girl, Laila has already named her” (Hosseini 367). Laila only wants male names because if it is a girl than she will name her Mariam, after her friend Mariam who sacrificed her freedom for Laila’s freedom. This is the last sentence of the novel and it shows that Laila is honoring a woman who has come to mean so much to her. No matter where Lila is Mariam will always be there with her.
In the Kite Runner, Hassan is always honoring Amir but Amir starts to honor Hassan when he goes back to save Soharab. Ali would often remind Amir and Hassan “There was brotherhood between people who had fed from the same breast, a kinship that not even time could not break” (Hosseini 11) so they would always remember to honor themselves and maintain their friendship. Amir unfortunately breaks this friendship to get Baba’s fatherly affection but makes up for it when he goes on his quest to be good again. To be fed from the same breast would mean that Hassan and Amir were brothers. Unfortunaly Amir and Hassan do not know this, when Amir return to meet Rahim Khan he is told by him that they were brothers. Therefore, the honor for one and other was always there but not expressed, the only difference was the Hassan was like Baba who showed it without fear and hesitation whereas Amir was the opposite of Baba who did not show honor, bravery and loyalty. Amir after 20 years is not able to live a happy life because of his past, so he heads back to Kabul on request of Rahim Khan who tells him that he can be good again, upon arrival Amir is told what to do to become good again. He must search and rescue Sohrab from a Talib official who turns out to be none other than Assef. After fixing a meeting with Assef and discussing that he must take Sohrab with him, Assef makes a deal that if he comes out victorious in the fight between them than he can walk out with Sohrab. However, if he loses than he and Sohrab stay and become slaves. Amir who was not a fighter, sacrifices himself and takes all the beatings from Assef and gets severely beaten, “My body was broken – just how badly I wouldn’t find out until later” (Hosseini 289). Amir is showing regret towards Hassan through Sohrab who is very similar to Hassan in many ways and one is that they both are excellent sling shot users. Amir is honoring what Hassan did for him by doing the same for Sohrab, saving each other lives. After fighting Assef, Amir feels at peace because he has gotten what he deserved for so many years and has achieved redemption. This is the start to a happy life for Amir; he is granted a new life full of no regrets after saving Sohrab and adopting him as a son.
Amir and Hassan honor each other and their friendship so do Mariam and Laila. This sets them par however, Amir and Hassan did not have a smooth flow of honor in their friendship. Whereas, Mariam and Laila had a smooth flow of all the indigents needed in a friendship. Hassan had a different way of honoring Amir and so did Amir but they both did honor one and other. Mariam honored Laila for standing up for her and Laila honored Mariam for saving her life. All characters had different reasons to honor each other but the point is that there was a two-way connection in the friendship than a one-way connection. Amir and Mariam gave their body up in honor of their friend. Amir took the broken bones and Mariam took the death, they both did it for someone they loved and honored.
Both of Khalid Hosseini’s novels The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns shed light on the significance of friendship and the struggles in maintaining it with one – way communications. By comparing the four protagonist, it is evident that the process in which a friendship is made and sustained becomes struggling and the people in the relation face a hardship in keeping it together if there is only one person involved in sustaining it. While Amir and Hassan face problems in their friendship, it is possible to imagine a poor child risking his life for the so-called friend that owns him and in return not even getting a thanks or any sympathy. When it comes to life challenges, Amir, Hassan, Mariam, and Laila demonstrate that the difficulty of the challenge does not matters; it is the person accompanying you in facing the challenge that matters because that person beside you will be your best friend, a friend that will be there for you every time a challenge arises. A friend that is there to support you in every battle against the odds. “It is only the great hearted who can be true friends. The mean and cowardly, Can never know what true friendship means” (Charles Kingsley).
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