Friday, May 26, 2006

Mirror, Mirror is that me?

At the beginning of Chapter 2, Amir and Hassan used to reflect sunlight into the their neighbours' houses from a poplar tree with a shard of mirror.

It is interesting how the relationship between Amir and Hassan is a reflection of Baba and Ali's, as Amir mentioned in Chap 4 - "Ali and Baba grew up together as childhood playmates - at least until polio crippled Ali's leg - just like Hassan and I grew up a generation later". There are also similarities between the fathers and the sons.
  • Hassan would never tell on Amir for the mischief; Ali said to Baba "But, Agha sahib, tell them who was the architect of mischief and who the poor labourer?"
  • Ali suffers from polio and walks with a limp; Hassan was born with a cleft lip
  • Both Amir and Hassan lost their mothers
  • Both Baba and Ali's marriages surprised their society (one married a descendent of a royal family; the other married one a dishonourable woman) and ended up raising sons by themselves

That being said, there are actually more contradictions and differences than similarities in the 4 chapters. Just like how a mirror accurately reflects an image on its reverse side, a mirror also distorts it. (Remember those funny mirrors you pass by in a carnival or in the Singapore Science Centre which made you look different from how you really are - short, tall, fat or just, well, out of shape)

The differences between Amir and Hassan are obvious - their physical attributes and caste and social system. One thing though - although they both lost their mothers at birth, one lost due to a great loss of blood and the other due to his mother's defiled nature which was more shameful than death at childbirth, Hassan's father treated him as the antidote to his misery while Amir felt that his father disdained him.

Baba deems that there is only one form of sin in the world - theft. "When you kill a man, you steal a life ... when you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness". As Amir's mother had died at childbirth, Amir feels that he has killed his mother and robbed his father of a wife's love. The cycle doesn't end, for Baba feels robbed of his wife and in turn robs Amir of fatherly love and acceptance, resulting in Amir feeling responsible for his own situation. Although Amir worships Baba, he wishes to slit his veins and drain his cursed blood from his body. On the other hand, Ali sees his son as a gift from his wife, though his loss of a wife was not a dignified one, instead of being robbed of a wife who brought him only shame.

Amir found his mother's book on Hazara history and it said that the Pastuns (Baba and Amir's caste) had quenched the Hazaras (Ali and Hassan's caste) with 'unspeakable violence'. Baba was described as 'Mr Hurricane', who had hands that looked capable of uprooting a willow tree ... etc, in all, a true Pastun. His son, however, is a creative writer who gets shoved around during games in the neighbourhood. Ali, the gentle Hazara who married an infamous wife of promiscuity for the sake of regaining honour to restore his uncle's blemished name, who tolerated his taunting tormentors, who takes care of the two boys lovingly, has a protective and loyal son - Hassan fights off the bullies who attacked the passive and weakly Amir. It seems like an exchange of offsprings between the two fathers - Hassan has gotten the aggressive streak from Baba/Pastuns, the character/caste that protects his/their territory and possessions. On the same note, Amir quietly allows bullies to step over him due to his lack of confidence, power, bravery and thus became helpless, like the gentle Ali/Hazaras. Not only is there an opposition of hereditary traits, it is also noteworthy that the opposite of 'unspeakable violence' would be 'gentleness, grace and mercy'.

One opposition I picked out was how Amir felt that all fathers must have harboured a secret longing to kill their sons. It is different from what Freud stated about the well-known Oedipus Complex, that sons desire to kill their fathers in a battle for their mother's affections. The part narrated about Amir and Hassan's favourite story did not state what the father and son were battling over, but it was a man-to-man affair, which encompassed the one-sided pain and vain attempt from the son. This significant portion which mirrors the tragedy in Amir's relationship with Baba seems to also potray what Amir yearns to say,

"If thou art indeed my father, then hast thou stained thy sword in the life-blood of thy son. And thou didst it of thine obstinacy. For I sought to turn thee unto love, and I implored of thee thy name, for I thought to behold in thee the tokens recounted of my mother. But I appealed unto thy heart in vain..."

The indifference and matter-of-factly opinion that fathers always wanted to kill their sons (Don't worry Logan, we know how you love Reuben to bits!) given by Amir was quite disturbing. Here, we see that Baba has robbed Amir of a true understanding of the notion of what characterises a father, the ability to empathise, and most of all, the love and life that every little boy should have.

Something noteworthy - Amir wondered if Hassan was tearing for the regretful father who unknowingly mortally-wounded his son, or for the son who longed for his father's love. What do you reckon?

I can't think of any reply to this question at 2am knowing that I am getting up early for gym and a full day of individual meeting with 35 people.


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