Childhood is formed not by the child, but the ones who raise the child. The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini and, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, written by Maya Angelou, are two major novels that prove this statement to be true. The protagonist in both novels is betrayed by their loved ones, leaving them to become stronger as they grow old. Marguerite was not only betrayed by her own parents but as well as someone she looked up to as a father figure. She was left to feeling alone and stripped of something valuable to her. Amir from The Kite Runner had something that he longed for something that could never be unconditionally given, but as well as lied to about something that would have changed his entire life. These characters are betrayed by the people closest to them, that they trust. Though this made them scared children, it created a thick layer before their emotions for them because a child betrayed young or raised off of betrayal results in a strong-willed persona as they mature.
The autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, shows readers the mind inside of a traumatized child, who was deceived young. Marguerite and her brother, Bailey were left to fend for themselves emotionally. They were given to their grandmother to take care of them because their parents had sent them away. This was the start of Marguerite’s betrayal filled life, “When I was three and Bailey four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed ‘To Whom It May Concern’ that we were Marguerite and Bailey Johnson Jr., from Long Beach, California, en route to Stamps, Arkansas, c/o Mrs. Annie Henderson.” (Angelou 1). They were sent away, with no one to look up to or be cherished by. Marguerite lived her life questioning what they did wrong, and how they will ever make it up to their parents. Luckily enough, they would get gifts every Christmas from them, but that wasn’t such a joyful moment for Marguerite. “The gifts opened the door to questions that neither of us wanted to ask. Why did they send us away and What did we do so wrong? So Wrong? Why at three and four, did we have tags put on our arms to be sent by train alone from Long Beach, California, to Stamps, Arkansas, with only the porter to look after us?” (Angelou 53). Soon Marguerite felt resentment for her parents, feeling a sense of betrayal and abandonment. This misadventure wasn’t the only event that caused the young girl mental strain and a feeling of betrayal. Marguerite’s rape was the beginning of a new chapter of her life. As an 8-year-old she is faced with an incident that is mentally and physically wicked but shapes the woman that she soon becomes. Unfortunately, she turns from child to woman sooner than she wished for, “I couldn’t sit long on the hard seats in the library (they had been constructed for children)” (Angelou 79).
Marguerite physically could not sit in the library chairs due to the pain that was stricken through her 8-year-old body during the rape. After the rape she tells Mr. Freeman that she wants to go in bed to rest, but to cover up his devious act, he forces her to head to the library, and act as though nothing happened. This quote also represents the ending of her childhood. She states how the seats were made for children and hints at the fact that she is no longer a child because she cannot sit in the library seats. It can be assumed that she is telling the reader that the rape had stripped her of her innocence and childhood. She no longer could act like the 8-year-old child that she is seen to be because of such a traumatic act that has concurred upon her. This is the beginning of her maturing and realizing how grown she has become. The rape sets the tone for the rest of her personal growth journey and allows the readers to follow along. She represents the blooming of a child that comes from harsh backgrounds to the flourishment of a strong, independent woman. She still felt she was taken of something and was no longer herself. “…the doctor said I was healed. That meant that I should be back on the sidewalks playing handball or enjoying the games I had been given when I was sick. When I refused to be the child they knew and accepted me to be, I was called impudent and my muteness sullenness. For a while I was punished for being so uppity that I wouldn’t speak; and then came the thrashing, given by any relative who felt himself offended.” (Angelou 88). This scene is after her rape, where she is hospitalized, and her rapist (Mr. Freeman), is murdered for his sinful act.
Though she should start her life again, and act as a regular 8-year-old as she once did. She no longer feels the child in herself. Marguerite has matured from a regular child to a girl who has gained knowledge that she is unsure what to do with. As her family members want to erase this horrific incident in her life, by pushing her to be the child she is, she cannot. Instead, she takes the beatings, and stayed quiet, in the case her voice will hurt another because when she said Mr. Freeman raped her, he got killed. She knows her actions have consequences, and unlike most 8-year-olds, she takes that rule word by word. So instead of acting, she stays silent and hidden behind the adults that serve to protect her, but yet harm her.
Unconditional love is all he craved from his father, even though his life was filled with every other luxury he could ever ask for. Amir, from the novel, The Kite Runner, was much different from his father. Baba, Amir’s father, was never seen to be proud or appreciate Amir unless it was something he had done as a child. They seemed to live in two different worlds and were polar opposites. He even went to the extent of saying, “If I hadn’t seen the doctor pull him out of my wife with my own eyes, I’d never believe he’s my son.” (Hosseini 18). Amir was betrayed by his own father, he took away something that was so essential to every child, affection. This leads to Amir isolating himself, and living his life in a question of what was wrong with him. Amir looked up to Baba as a role model and was taught many things from him. When Amir explained what he learned at school one day, Baba reassured him what he learned was wrong, “’Good,’ Baba said, but his eyes wondered. ‘Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that?’”(Hosseini 13). Amir soon lived by this, yet he was betrayed by the same words. Amir’s father had stolen something from him, a brother. “’How could you hide this from me? From him?’ I bellowed.” (Hosseini 190), Amir had said after hearing the news. He felt as if he had been deceived his entire life, he had a brother who he had treated as a servant. He finally understood why Baba had enjoyed Hassan’a company more, and why they were so much alike, Hassan was his son. Baba had sinned and was a thief of Amir’s childhood, he hid the fact Hassan was his half brother, and never gave the fatherly affection that Amir had longed for.
- Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. Riverhead Books, 2003.
- Angelou, Maya. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 1969.