When pride is prioritized, morality is compromised at the expense of others. Despite this being a desparingly unfortunate scenario, this case appears more often than one would think. As shown in the bildungsroman The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, pride becomes an obstacle when one’s reputation is threatened. For this reason, the characters mirror the way of human nature, often sacrificing the quality of life for others for the sake of his or her pride.
Family approval is essential in Afghanistan culture in order to feel proud. Throughout the novel, Amir strives for reverence from his bigger-than-life Baba, who always said the only sin was theft. To Amir, gaining his father’s acceptance was the only way for him to obtain pride and self-worth. As Amir contemplates Baba’s words, he concludes that “Baba hated me [Amir] a little…I [Amir] had killed his beloved wife, his beautiful princess” (Hosseini 19). Amir believes he cost Baba a wife, and he could never live up to the standards Baba had set. Amir views Baba as a role model, whom he wished would be proud of him. Attempting to gain Baba’s respect, Amir wins the kite tournament and allows Hassan to get raped in order to protect a kite. He justifies his actions by reasoning, “Hassan was the price I [Amir] had to pay, the lamb I [Amir] had to slay, to win Baba. Was it a fair price?” (77). Torn between two choices, Amir contemplates whether being loyal to his friend or attaining recognition from Baba is more important. Amir’s desire for Baba’s approval causes him to betray his best friend. Hassan is compared to a lamb, alluding to the holiday Eid al-Qurban, when animals are sacrificed for a higher power. In this case, Hassan is the sacrifice Amir makes for his father’s approval. As Amir struggles to become a child Baba could be proud of, he destroys his friendships along the way.
In a different way, Hosseini shows pride to be an impediment when Baba willingly forfeits truth for the sake of his honor. In the story, Baba willingly withholds the truth from others because he does not want others to view him as an adulteress. When Rahim Khan tells Amir that Hassan was his half-brother, Amir realizes Baba was, “a thief of the worst kind, because the things he’d stolen had been sacred: from me [Amir] the right to know I [Amir] had a brother, from Hassan his identity, and from Ali his honor. His nang. His namoos” (225). Because Baba was ashamed of his sins, he kept them secret, costing others their right to the truth. After Amir’s fight with Assef, he learns how Baba saw him, “Amir, the socially legitimate half, the half that represented the riches he [Baba] had inherited and the sin-with-impunity privileges that came with them” (301). Baba took his anger out on Amir because Amir represented what he could have but did not give Hassan. Although Baba had the potential to change Hassan’s life for the better, he was too afraid of tarnishing his reputation. Instead, Hassan was born into a Hazara life filled with violence, discrimination, and injustice. Baba ultimately chooses his ego over his children. Baba’s attempt to maintain his pride robs Hassan and Amir of a better quality of life.
Although virtually everyone strives to be prideful, it tends to corrupt. As seen in The Kite Runner, when Amir becomes devoted to making Baba proud, he also wrecks his friendship. Similarly, Baba chooses to spare his image, robbing Hassan of the opportunities that came with being on the favored end of the social pyramid. Not only did both Amir and Baba deprive happiness from their loved ones, but they also endured years of guilt. The inclusion of the Amir and Baba’s faults imply that prioritizing pride comes with a price.
Significantly, Khaled Hosseini includes this story largely because it mirrors the nature of society. Although not always as high stakes as the stakes of the characters in the story, people all over the world act selfishly, without realizing its detrimental effects on others. Using the backdrop of war, rape, and death, Hosseini emphasizes how one’s individual actions not only affect him or herself but also others, often more severely. Hosseini teaches his audience that despite the tempting urge to take the easier path in front of him or her, he or she needs to think about the consequences to his or her actions. To do this, though not an easy thing, provides not only the victim, but also the perpetrator a better quality of life, free of unnecessary guilt.