East of Eden vs the Kite Runner
The desire for love and the need for acceptance can create more than a feeling of rejection. In East of Eden and The Kite Runner, many characters find the task of love daunting and insufficient to their expectations. Love presents itself in every aspect of both novels and therefore is a major theme. Whether it was love from family or lovers, both novels explore the idea of unrequited love and its consequences on the characters lifelong journeys.
The theme of love is a major underlying cause of many problems within East of Eden for it creates a feeling of rejection by family and lovers. The idea that love is blind becomes the center of revolution for the feelings between Adam Trask and his wife, Cathy. Steinbeck “explores the conflict…between self-imposed blindness and the human need to attain full knowledge” (Owens 4). Adam suffered from the first of the two conflicting traits through the blindness of his love for Cathy. Adam “loved [her] better than anything in the world” whilst “Cathy was a monster” (Steinbeck 323,182).
Adam’s love blinded him from seeing the true and fully real Cathy as opposed to the one in the dreams he created. This creates problems when Adam is unable to let go of the woman he thought he loved, and refused to fully embrace life. As consequence to Adam’s actions, his twin son’s, Aron and Caleb, grew up virtually parentless relying on their servant for care and nurturing. As John Steinbeck plays on love as a creator of problems in East of Eden, Khaled Hosseini also uses love as a complication in his society in The Kite Runner.
Amir grew up motherless and without understanding from his father, so when it came time for him to find a woman of his own, he automatically gravitated towards one who understood his passion for writing, which went against his father’s hopes of what Amir would become. Even in America, the “Afghans manage to keep alive their ancient standards of honor and pride” through the rituals in their society, including that between a young man and woman (Hower 1).
Love conquered all when it came to Amir’s feelings for Soraya, but Soraya had previously been incapable of managing to keep her family’s honor and pride for she thought she was in love and ran off with a man before marriage or blessing. Amir’s “past shame continue[d] to haunt him” and therefore Soraya’s mishap hardly affected him (Hower 1). Love brought shame to these two people, but in their own ways. Soraya confessed whereas Amir felt that love would be lost if his secret became known, “[he] envied her” and her “courage” (Hosseini 165).
Both East of Eden and The Kite Runner use love as both a blessing and a curse. Adam, though love caused him great grief, became blessed with two children that would one day mean a lot to him. Amir’s love was real and pure, but his shame became a greater burden than before because of that love. A second similarity between East of Eden and The Kite Runner is that the feeling of rejection from unrequited love can cause wicked actions from the spurned lovers. When Caleb feels his father loves him less than he loves his brother Aron, Caleb unintentionally causes the death of his brother.
Steinbeck uses “the story of jealousy and strife between siblings” as a basis for all familial relationships throughout the novel (Aubrey 1). Caleb “did a thing in anger…because he thought [his father] had rejected him. The result of his anger is that his brother…is dead” (Steinbeck 600). Caleb’s belief that he was secondary to Aron caused him to reveal the hurtful truth of his mother’s prostitution to innocent Aron. This caused Aron to spiral downward, join the army, and die in the war. Amir of The Kite Runner shares anguish with Caleb in that both boys felt rejection from their fathers and took their anger out on those closest to them.
Amir’s shame brought on by his marriage to honest Soraya was his poor treatment of his closest childhood friend, and later understood half brother, Hassan. Amir questions what would have happened “had he not as a child lied monstrously about Hassan” “which resulted in Hassan and Ali leaving the service of Baba” (Graves 1). These feelings of inadequacy arose when Amir overheard his father say “’I’d never believe he’s my son’” (Hosseini 23). Amir and Caleb both indirectly caused the death of their brothers because of their jealousy.
Both believed the other sibling was loved more, when all actuality the only reason it seemed this way is because there was more in common between Adam and Aron and Baba and Hassan which led to a stronger bond but not greater love. Finally, Steinbeck and Hosseini both include the trials and tribulations of childhood and its affects on the boys’ later lives. In East of Eden, the difference between Aron and Caleb was the same as the “opposites of good and evil, strength and weakness, love and hate, beauty and ugliness” (Aubrey 1).
Aron was all that symbolized angelic whereas Caleb was everything you would find evil. Caleb would tease and purposefully hurt Aron out of pure joy in his actions, “nothing could hurt him, and nothing could stop him” (Steinbeck 335). In the end, Caleb tries to compare himself to the devilish woman that was his mother, and in the end chose good over evil. Nevertheless, by this time it was too late to take back his actions against Aron. The Kite Runner is a story of two boys who “grew up as inseparable playmates despite their difference in caste” (Graves 1).
Amir is affected by their relationship more than he thinks when Hassan’s son becomes his own. He feels he could never “make anything all right” again but the love he had for Hassan became a new love for his nephew. The childhood friendship lasted, even through the generations. We see this in the way a kite tradition that Hassan and Amir used to practice, is now a way for Amir to connect to his nephew. Little by little, Amir tries to reconcile the loss he caused the last time he flew kites. East of Eden and The Kite Runner share many similarities in both plot and theme.
It is evident that the greatest similarity between the two is the idea that love is imperishable and must be cherished, for without love the consequences can be disastrous. Works Cited Aubrey, Bryan. “Critical Essay on ‘East of Eden’. ” Novels for Students. Ed. Jennifer Smith. Vol. 19. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 Mar. 2010. Graves, Nancy Barclay. “Two Perspectives on Afghanistan. ” Army 56. 6 (June 2006): 84. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 254. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 Mar. 2010. Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner.
New York: The Penguin Group, 2005. Hower, Edward. “The Servant. ” The New York Times Book Review 3 Aug. 2003: 4. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 Mar. 2010. Owens, Louis. “The Story of a Writing: Narrative Structure in East of Eden. ” Rediscovering Steinbeck: Revisionist Views of His Art, Politics, and Intellect. Ed. Cliff Lewis and Carroll Britch. Edwin Mellen Press, 1989. 60-76. Rpt. In Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 124. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 Mar. 2010. Steinbeck, John. East of Eden. New York: The Penguin Group, 2002.