When one is going to talk about redemption it appears to be fairly logical to start with a brief pre-history; that is to explain what actually made a character to seek for redemption. Redemption basically means that an individual improved himself or herself sometimes even making a sacrifice for it. Therefore some mistake that was made in the past always precedes the redemption. The wrong choice that led to horrible consequences usually results in great moral sufferings of the one who had made it. Due to the fact that anyone in the world can make a mistake, and thousands of people have experienced such a situation by this time it is no wonder that redemption remains a popular theme in literature. It is worth mentioning however that not every story about redemption is the same. That is why it appears to be more interesting when one is to discuss two different cases of redemption. The two characters whose stories are going to be discussed in this essay are Amir from the novel “The Kite Runner” written by Khaled Hosseini and Severus Snape from the Harry Potter book series written by Joanne Rowling.
The life circumstances which first had led these two characters to make the mistake that they regretted for the rest of their lives were definitely different. Amir was the son of a well-to-do father whom the boy affectionately called Baba. Amir’s best friend was Hassan, the son of Baba’s servant. Hassan was a Hazara boy, which meant that he was considered inferior to Pashtun people to whom Amir in his turn belonged. However, as one sees from the story Hassan was by no means worse than Amir. In fact he was constantly showing braver and nobler character than Amir remaining altogether a loyal friend who never envied Amir’s life circumstances even though they were much more fortunate than his own. Hassan’s great personal qualities provided him with respect and affection of Baba which made Amir feel jealousy and hostility towards his friend. Jealousy and lack of bravery were the flaws of Amir’s character that led him to make the biggest mistake of his life: he did nothing to help his friend when Hassan was caught by Assef, the boy who was the worst enemy of Amir and Hassan. Amir ran away and Assef anally raped Hassan. The most torturing for the adult Amir was to realize that he betrayed his friend not only owing to his cowardice but due to his jealousy, for he remembered what came to his mind when he witnessed the cruel scene hiding behind the corner: “Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay to win Baba”. (Hosseini, 68)
The story of Severus Snape is rather different, and it may appear to be doubtful that one should talk about redemption in this case since all the best and noble deeds in his life he did in the name of his lifelong love for Lily Evans and it was never mentioned in the book that he had striven to improve his character or to make amends for something. Still one is not to forget that Severus Snape is not the main character of the book and in fact the reader is provided only with brief succession of the episodes from his life in one of the final chapters of the book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. When one abstracts from the atmosphere of fantasy which is rather associated with books for children and starts to analyze just life circumstances it even appears to be that Snape’s situation is more complicated than that of Amir. The latter one was ashamed of how he treated his best friend but in the end of the novel he at least knew how he felt about Hassan and Hassan’s son. The last challenge for him was to overcome his cowardice and to protect Sohrab who for Amir was a personification of Hassan in everything. Severus Snape had to make a difficult choice from the very first moment he got acquainted with Lily Evans. The child had a firm prejudice against people whose parents were not wizards and he had to decide what was more important for him: Lily’s favour or what he was told by his mother – for it must have been his mother who gave the child such a worldview. He had to make many difficult choices in his further life being torn apart between love towards Lily and hatred and jealousy towards her husband and her son Harry, who for Snape was a personification of James Potter. Therefore in the course of the book in contrast to Amir Severus Snape had to protect a boy who evoked in him jealousy and hatred. Along with that the mother of this boy was the woman whom he had loved all his life.
This difference between Amir and Severus Snape leads to the perplexity when it comes to talk about redemption. In the case of Amir it certainly took place: he finally faced almost the same situation as the one that took place in his childhood. Therefore he was provided a second chance to make a choice and this time he knew which the right one was. He stood up for the boy who personified Hassan and this time Amir was cruelly beated by Assef. Even though he suffered physical pain Amir must have felt relief as this suffering was for him making amends for his betrayal. At that point he knew that he changed and had enough spirit to do what was right. Unlike him Severus Snape hardly found reconciliation in having to protect Harry Potter, for this boy was not only the son of his beloved Lily Evans, but also the son of his rival and enemy James Potter. What is more outwardly Harry was a copy of his father which made Snape feel towards the boy the same way he felt towards James. Snape certainly redeemed himself in the eyes of the readers and in the eyes of Albus Dambldore, who told him: “You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon”(Rowling, 680), meaning that the bravery and courage that Snape showed while being a double agent could have assured him getting into Gryffindor. Maybe Snape would find peace with himself if he would have seen in Harry only Lily’s son. However he could not forget all the unhappiness which Harry’s father brought in his life. Therefore his deeds were motivated by the desire to take revenge on the man who killed Lily and wish not to let the sacrifice that she made when she gave her life for her son to be in vain. This man hardly realized that he was redeeming his guilt: he dedicated his life to the woman who had died and probably found peace only when he died as well.
As it comes from this essay, redemption can be different. Sometimes a person redeems oneself in one’s own eyes and finds relief from that and sometimes he or she redeems oneself in the eyes of others not even having it as a goal. Nonetheless it can hardly be doubted that it takes a person strong spirit to do that.
Hosseini Khaled. The Kite Runner. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008. Print
Rowling, Joanne. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007