Morality finds voice through minor characters. This is observable in case of both Les Miserables and The Kite Runner. The main theme of redemption is similar in both the concert Les Miserables and the novel The Kite Runner. Morality presides through the presence of minor characters – animate or inanimate.
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In case of the musical and the novel, it is reflected through minor, nondescript characters. Both Les Miserables and Kite Runner narrate the process of redemption, and that is through human deed (Llosa 101; Hayes 95). In this story of redemption, there is a constant presence of two characters, which stay away from the hubbub of the main plot and remain as a constant remainder of morality or conscience.
These characters almost act as guiding angels who keep the mind of the main characters on the path to redemption. These characters are Bishop Myriel in Les Miserables and Rahim Khan in The Kite Runner. This essay discusses the way these two characters shaped the path to redemption for the other, more vital characters, and the way they became the moral voices.
Bishop Myriel and Rahim Khan are minor but essential part in both the musical and the novel. The candlesticks given to Valjean by Bishop Myriel are symbolic of the transgression of a hardened convict to a life of good. The Bishop’s act of mercy and sympathy transforms the life of a treacherous and conniving convict.
The Bishop welcomes the tired and starving convict under his shelter in the musical, and gives him food and “bed to rest till morning” (Hugo Act 1, On Parole). In the solo sung by the Bishop in the musical (Valjean Arrested, Valjean Forgiven) the Bishop helps in saving Valjean by misleading the policemen stating that he had given the candlesticks to Valjean as gifts and given two more to sell them. This act ensures freedom for Valjean from both the authorities and the symbolic freedom from evil, as is expressed by the Bishop:
And remember this, my brother,
See in this some high plan.
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs,
By the passion and the blood,
God has raised you out of darkness:
I have bought your soul for God. (Hugo Act 1, Valjean Arrested/Valjean Forgiven)
Thus, Myriel becomes the moral force who that changes the course of Vajean’s life. This act teaches us that mercy done to others will save a soul. He becomes the symbol of goodness, a symbol that is shown to Valjean and changes the course of the musical. He shows Valjean the road to redemption, and obliges his mind to follow the path of goodness.
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Rahim Khan is the moral voice in the story The Kite Runner. However, a minor character, and one that has not been developed fully, Rahim Khan plays a vital role in the novel. He was the best friend of Baba (Amir’s father) and a father figure to Amir. Amir often wished that Rahim Khan were his father instead of Baba: “When they left, I sat on my bed and wished Rahim Khan had been my father.” (Hosseini 28)
Rahim Khan is a character that stays away from the main plot or the main character. He is also different from them – from the good characters of Hassan and Ali, and the complete devilish character of Assef, and Baba and Amir lying somewhere in-between. Rahim Khan cannot be categorized in any of these character types. He is almost a celestial figure standing beyond the bounds of moral questioning.
He becomes the guiding light for Amir in his journey to redemption (like Bishop Myriel in Les Miserables). From the very beginning of the story, Rahim Khan had helped Amir and boosted his self-confidence. The note he wrote to Amir showed the character’s support to Amir: “My door is always open to you, Amir jan. I shall hear nay story you have to tell. Bravo.” (Hosseini 28) Rahim Khan told Amir his deepest secret in order to ascertain what was going through his mind.
He told Amir that he could tell him anything he wanted to: “You know, you can tell me anything you want, Amir jan. Anytime.” (Hosseini 87) Amir almost told him his betrayal of friendship towards Hassan but stopped as he thought that Rahim Khan would hate him for this, as he related “For a moment, I almost did tell him. Almost told him everything, but then what would he think of me? He’d hate me and rightfully.” (Hosseini 87) Though Amir did not tell his story to Rahim Khan then, he already knew.
Rahim Khan calls Amir to Pakistan from America and asks him to rescue Hassan and his family from Afghanistan. He is the one who reveal to Amir that Hassan is actually his half-brother. He asked Amir to rescue Sohrab from Afghanistan. When Amir said, “I can’t go to Kabul,” Rahim Khan simply said, “There is a way to be good again.” (198) Rahim Khan showed Amir the “way to end the cycle” (198) and showed the path to redemption.
Bishop Myriel and Rahim Khan are nondescript characters. However, they are the catalyst of the main theme. They become the wind that changes the course of the life of the main characters in the musical as well as in the novel. The right direction that can be found for redemption can be found from simple and non descript characters, rather than the more elaborate and complex characters.
In both Les Miserable and Kite Runner, the direction towards salvation has been clearly etched by two characters who are minor, but are strong in their own accord. Thus, it teaches us that a guiding light may be small, yet is significant in moulding the course of action.
Hayes, Judi. In search of The Kite Runner. Danvers, MA: Chalice Press, 2007. Print.
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2003. Print.
Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert. By Victor Hugo. Royal Albert Hall Concert , New York. 1995. Concert.
Llosa, Mario Vargas. The temptation of the impossible: Victor Hugo and Les Misérables. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004. Print.