In The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini, there are several symbols throughout the text such as kites, the hairelip, and the pomegranate tree. These symbols represent the central concern of guilt and redemption which make up much of the novel’s plot. More specifically, the pomegranate tree is significant because it reveals the true nature of Hassan and Amir’s relationship. The changing depiction of the tree represents the changing connection between them throughout the novel.
Pomegranates are traditionally seen as symbols of friendship in Islamic tradition. It was first introduced early on in the book when the boys visit the cemetery and carve into the tree’s bark “Amir and Hassan, Sultans of Kabul”. They claim the tree as their own and it becomes a place full of friendship as well as fruit. The pomegranate tree was where Amir would read stories to Hassan and where they would share their hopes and dreams. At this point in the novel, we see the two boys as equals. Their strong partnership can be linked to the fact that this was the one spot that they shared. Ultimately, the true nature of their relationship cannot be described as friendship. Hassan is Amir’s servant and of a lower social status which is why he could not bring himself to say that they were friends. Even so, their racial differences couldn’t take away from the fact that these boys had a lifelong bond and that the pomegranate tree represented all that was good in their relationship at the time.
The second visit to the pomegranate tree occurs after Hassan has been raped and this time the tree no longer holds the same meaning for the both of them. Amir can only deal with his guilt by shouting the word ‘coward’ at Hassan and throwing pomegranates at him until they fell apart. Here Amir is really angry at himself for not intervening in the rape, he believes that if he makes Hassan hurt him it will make up for not stopping Assef. Instead, Hassan breaks the pomegranate on his own head and it becomes a metaphor for their broken relationship. All Amir wanted was Hassan to hold him accountable for the rape and accuse him of betrayal, but he remains loyal and continues to bear the burden of the rape on his own. Visiting the pomegranate tree after that just wasn’t the same, and it became a site filled with Amir’s guilt and pent up anger.
Finally we see the pomegranate tree at the close end of the novel when Amir returns to Kabul to rescue Sohrab. Aware that Hassan had passed away, he returns to the tree to find it shriveled and nearly dead. Even so, it was still labeled with the words he and Hassan had carved into it twenty-six years before. This symbolizes the survival of their relationship and the start of Amir’s redemption. It plots their journey from its strongest to its weakest points and the overripe fruit itself represents the guilt Amir felt by leaving Hassan’s pain alone for too long. Coming back to the tree with its faded carving left Amir with some sign of hope. After so many years, the pomegranate tree offered him a way to atone for his sins and redeem himself from the guilt that has been weighing down on him for so long.
The depiction of the pomegranate tree as it changes through the novel portrays the complexity of Amir and Hassan’s relationship. There is no denying that they have created a lifelong bond since childhood but it can only be described as a one sided friendship. We first see the tree as a safe place for these boys to read stories for countless hours. Next it became the place where Amir destroyed their relationship. And finally, it appears as a nearly dead and barren tree that represented the faded memory of a long lost friendship. With Amir’s last effort to rescue Hassan’s son, he attempts redemption for the wrongs he committed to his half brother, Hassan.