War does not only have a direct impact on those taking part in the fighting, but also upon those who are left at home to suffer both during war and in its aftermath.
Hosseini and Samuels both present the impact of war towards civilians and how it changes their lives. They also present how war can drastically change the lives of individuals from peaceful, happy lives to ones of turmoil and trauma. This is especially witnessed in the children in both texts, although war can sometimes have a positive impact on those not directly involved in it. Had it not been for the Kindertransport, Jewish children like Eva/Evelyn would be left to suffer in concentration camps or massacred; they would not experience a normal childhood in Nazi Germany as they would in England. In the same way, had it not been for the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, Amir would never get a chance to find redemption for his cowardice through Sohrab and the latter would continue to suffer. In Baba’s words: ‘there is only one sin, only one.
And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft.’ and that is exactly what both wars in the texts do. It steals from people in different ways. For example, it robs children of their parents, childhood and innocence, which what Sohrab experienced. It also robs people of their heritage and makes them ashamed of it. One way that Hosseini and Samuels present the suffering of those not directly involved in war is the trauma they faced. Sohrab’s rape traumatised him physically and psychologically and it rendered him mute and unable to form close relationships.
The trauma he faced is shown through his aversion to physical contact: ‘I put my hand on his arm, gingerly, but he flinched.’ Sohrab has been so deeply affected that he can no longer differentiate between sexual contact or if it is done out of affection. This is shown through the use of the word ‘gingerly’, which highlights Amir’s intention to comfort the child. However, every form of physical contact reminds Sohrab of what Assef did.
This is further shown when Sohrab expresses his feelings of worthlessness and discomfort in his own skin; he feels that he is ‘so dirty and full of sin.’ The emotional language that Hosseini uses makes the character’s pain so vivid and the reader empathetic to his trauma and to those who suffered in the same way. Identically, Samuels presents Evelyn’s emotional trauma because of discrimination throughout her life. A number of characters have treated her with disdain and discriminated her, such as the Postman’s ‘frog marching, making a Hitler moustache on his upper lip’ and the Nazi Officer’s patronising of ‘Don’t want you to forget who you are now, do we?’ These incidents reminded Eva of the reason she was in England; she was alienated even when she was in a safe place. She was bullied and humiliated in Germany by the other girls (Girls in school in Hamburg say I smell) and the Officer in the Kindertransport train ‘opens and searches the case, throwing everything on the floor.’ She goes through the same humiliation and invasion of privacy in England –because of common stereotypes.
This constant labelling and has affected her mentally, thus her feelings of alienation from society and being “less British” than her peers as an adult (What have people been saying?). Similarly, Sohrab feels alienated from the other children because of Assef and ‘the other two… they did things… did things to me.’ He lost the innocence that children his age should have and he still lacks self-worth because he is a Hazara and was treated in such a way because of this: ‘But he knew that when the bandages were removed and the hospital garments removed, he was just another homeless Hazara orphan.’ To a certain extent, Evelyn has lost her innocence due to the feelings of uncertainty that people will stay and a weak sense of security when children should be certain that they will be safe and cared for at all times.
A lot of children who were evacuated to England or had the luck of being adopted like Sohrab continued to feel different than everyone around them due to experience. Both characters in the two texts are reminded of their hurtful past when they are forced to recount their experiences to people, in Evelyn’s case it is Faith’s questions and Sohrab tells Amir of his abuse because he feels defeated and as though he has no choice but to tell. Furthermore, they do not ‘feel lighter’ after sharing their pain, but the memories are still vivid as though they experience it when they speak. John le Carre’s quote about childhood fears describes it as: ‘The monsters of our childhood do not fade away, neither are they ever wholly monstrous.’ While it is true that Sohrab and Evelyn’s childhood monsters never fade away, their traumas still remain wholly monstrous to them; they can still picture it vividly even when they have moved on to a safer place.The suffering from those not directly involved in war is also shown through the fear of abandonment. For Evelyn, this fear is embodied as the Ratcatcher and for Sohrab, being left in orphanages and Assef are his fears. The Ratcatcher represents her fear of abandonment and authority figures, as she fears that they will take her away when she is left alone.
Throughout her life, she expresses this fear through her panicked cries of: ‘Frau Lil! Frau Lil! Don’t leave me!’ and her pleading: ‘Please don’t make me go’ and ‘Mummy Miller…’ when those who are supposed to care for her ‘leave’ and when she is forced to separate from Lil. Sohrab faces an identical situation when Amir tells him that he will go to ‘a home for kids for a while’, to which the child responds with apprehension and panic: “Please! Please, no!” he croaked. “I’m scared of that place. They’ll hurt me! I don’t want to go.
” In Evelyn’s case, it presents her fear of being left alone to the authorities, which she sees as the Ratcatcher in different forms. A critic described the shadow of Evelyn’s fears as ‘a shape-shifter who …slips into becoming all the people in uniforms who may send her away or bring down the forces of officialdom on her for being an alien.’ This is further shown when she is reluctant to get rid of her documents:EVELYN: How could I get rid of them? There are documents in there that prove I have a right to be here. Papers that will stop them from sending me away.
Lil: Who for God’s sake!Evelyn: The authorities.Evelyn’s paranoia is so evident in this scene that she admits her fear of people in uniforms, which she initially denies. She insists on keeping documents that no longer apply. This fear of being sent out was a worry among many children who settled in England after escaping Germany; they did not want to go back to the country that ‘spat me out. England took me in’ as said in the words of Evelyn. To Evelyn, and all the Jewish children, England was their safe haven’, a place they found solace in when their own country turned their back on them. In a similar way, Sohrab’s safe havens are Amir, his promises and the prospect of living in America with a kind family, when the adults in his life failed to protect him as an orphan.
His happy thought of a new life crashes down when Amir falters in his promise: ‘You promised you’d never put me in one of those places, Amir agha.’ This causes him to suffer immensely as he begins to panic at being abandoned to an orphanage again and refuses to even say the word ‘orphanage’ when it is evident that Amir intended to send him there. He referred to the orphanage as ‘that place. This shows the sufferings of children in politically unstable countries, who do not know how to describe the pain inflicted on them during war. The only knowledge they have is that it hurts them, scares them and that they no longer trust adults to remain constant and truthful. Another interpretation of the sufferings of abandonment is: ‘In cultures, one of the most important factors is the cohesion of the family and community, and the degree of nurture and support that the children receive. Indeed, one of the most significant war traumas of all, particularly younger children, is separation from parents – often more distressing than the war activities themselves.’ UNICEF 1996.
In both Eva and Sohrab’s situations, they were forced apart from their parents, yet their communities failed to give then nurture and support when the circumstances called for it. For Evelyn and all the Jewish children, Germany and to some extent, the British community, failed to give them any form of recovery from their treatment by the Nazis. Instead, Eva was received with stereotypes and harsh words such as ‘(Barking as if to a dog) Sit!’ as said by the Organiser. It is possible to suggest that she was also ostracized by the community, except Lil, hence the fear of separation from her foster mother. Sohrab is also abandoned by Zaman at the orphanage, who sold him to a man whom he knew was a rapist (He would usually take a girl) The child did not receive any form of support by Zaman but was simply sold off.
Both Evelyn and Sohrab were abandoned on more than one occasion, causing them to be detached from the world through their respective coping mechanisms: Evelyn’s desire for perfection and cleanliness: (polishing madly) and Sohrab’s silence ‘was the silence of one who has taken cover in a dark place, curled up all the edges and tucked them under.’ The suffering of loss was very common among those who were not fighting in war and it is noted several times in the Kite Runner and Kindertransport. Hosseini focuses on personal and material loss because of war, while Samuels focuses on the loss of relationship between mother and daughter. An example of personal loss is Amir’s loss of Hassan and the opportunity to apologise to him for his cowardice. This affected him deeply as he longed to reconcile with Hassan and be as close to him and his family like in childhood; he thought of Hassan very often and wonders of his life since he left. His reaction to Hassan’s death was one of shock: ‘But all I could manage was to whisper “No.
No. No” all over again’ and later of denial: ‘struggled to find the right words. I’d barely had time to deal with the fact that Hassan was dead.’ Hosseini’s style of writing brings Amir’s feelings to life and it expresses the pain and hardship that comes with loss for those who suffered it during war. Many still believe for several years after war that their loved ones are still alive even when they received the news of their death. This is shown throughout this quote and in regards to suffering in the whole novel. This connects well with the loss of hope Eva faces as she grows up in Britain.
As she grows up, she makes several efforts to bring her parents to live and work in Britain with her and Lil, she advertises them on newspapers and went as far as going door to door in ‘Big houses. Rich people’, earning a scolding by Lil. She also goes through a stage of denial about her loss; she was not ready to believe that she will never see her parents again. She responds in the same way Amir handles Hassan’s death: ‘Maybe they’re in London’ ‘No! No! No! No! No!’ which later becomes defeat: ‘EVA takes off two rings, a charm bracelet, a watch and a chain with the Star of David on it’ and no longer wants to associate herself with her natural parents and their German- Jewish influence: ‘I don’t want to see them anymore.’ This quote may have a double meaning; it could mean that Eva does not want to identify as Jewish anymore, nor does she want to see Helga and her father again. In contrast to Amir, Eva accepts that she will never see them and takes immediate action after accepting this fact, while Amir needed to be talked out of his cowardice to save Sohrab and needed more time to come to terms with Hassan’s death. Furthermore, he still keeps his memories of Hassan and even sees his childhood friend in Sohrab when he adopts him into his family, despite his initial attempts to forget him and to run away from his responsibility as a half-brother and half-uncle.
Despite this difference in acceptance, both suffered a tremendous loss on an emotional level, as Amir lost his chance to be close friends with Hassan again. Eva lost her parents emotionally and the hope that they will return, becoming more attached to Lil and calls her ‘Mummy Miller’ and later ‘Mum’, cutting Helga off from her life.Therefore, Hosseini and Samuels both present the sufferings of those not directly involved in war in numerous ways, with race and identity being the reason for their suffering.
Sohrab and Eva/Evelyn both suffered because they were discriminated against for their ethnicity and religion and both went through a period of slow recovery. Yet, the knowledge of whether they have fully recovered from the sufferings of war is not mentioned, as both seem to go through a period and detachment and the rest of their fate is unknown.