The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini, follows the narrator, Amir, and his memories from when he was a boy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The time of the novel is placed around the fall of the monarchy and ends around 2001 when the Taliban Regime collapsed. The story begins in 2001 with the narrator recalling an impactful, unnamed event that occurred in 1975. Amir living with his father he calls “Baba”, and his two servants Ali and Hassan, Ali’s son. The King of Afghanistan is recently overthrown causing polarization throughout the country as the monarchy falls and no stable government exists any longer. Amir remembers playing with Hassan, who was discriminated against for belonging to the Hazan ethnic minority and lives with his father Ali as Amir and Baba’s servants. Growing up, the two boys used to play a kite game where to win, players had to cut the strin of another’s kite. One of the boys would run after the kites that have been cut after each round; n this case it was Hassan. Amir’s friends Wali, Assef, and Kamel would constantly bully Amir for living with Hassan during these kite games. Amir did defend Hassan and ignored Assef’s insults but one day the kite escapes and Hassan runs after it. After chasing it, Amir witnesses Hassan, held by Kamel and Wali, being raped by Assef while the kite is on the ground. Amir, in shock, runs away and Hassan returns to the game with the kite and the two act as if nothing had happened. After some time Amir tries to get Hassan to leave the house and frames him by stealing Baba’s money and putting it in Hassan/s bed. Hassan admitted to stealing the money and that winter Ali and Hassan moved out of the house. The book then time skips to Amir finishing high school as WW2 is expected to start. The Soviets invade his home, and Baba and Amir migrate to Pakistan. Baba passes due to lung cancer after Amir meets the daughter of one of Baba’s friends, Soraya, and marries her. Amir gets a call from his old friend stating that the Soviets have left and an insurgent group known as the Taliban has taken over his hometown.
Amir decides to return to Kabul to look for Hassan and upon finding Hassan and his wife, Farzana, he found out they had a son named Sohrab. After Amir went home to Pakistan, he received a call from Sanubar, Sohrab’s grandmother, a year later saying that Hassan and Farzana had been killed and Sohrab would be sent to an orphanage. Amir wanted to bring Sohrab back to Pakistan with him and thus began searching for him. Arriving in Kabul, Amir discovered that Sohrab would be in a soccer stadium during a game. When Amir meets with the official he had set up an appointment with previously asking for Sohrab, the soldier bringing Sohrab was Assef. Sohrab is dressed like a woman with makeup and traditional clothing implying that Sohrab was sexually assaulted. Assef tells Amir that they have unfinished business and Assef begin to beat Amir with brass knuckles breaking his ribs. Sohrab interferes by shooting Assef in the eye with his slingshot to save Amir. In the hospital, Amir asks Sohrab to come to the U.S with him. And Sohrab seems to agree by remaining silent. Afterward, Amir takes Sohrab to the U.S Embassy where they reject the application as Amir has no solid evidence proving Sohrab’s parents to be dead. They called Sharif, Soraya’s Uncle, and Amir goes back to Pakistan with Sohrab to figure out a way to get Sohrab to the U.S through means of a petition. During this time Sohrab attempts to commit suicide by slitting his wrists in a bathtub when Amir comes home and finds him. After recovering, Sohrab stops speaking and Amir succeeds at bringing him to the U.S by petition. When Amir gets back to America, he reunites with his wife who is solemn about Sohrab’s chosen muteness. One day, they bring Sohrab to a park where kites were being flown, and Amir asks Sohrab if he’d like to play. Receiving no response, Amir goes on with flying the kite and Sohrab follows. The two are soon drawn into a game that Amir used to play as a child. They bond over this game, Sohrab smiles, and after winning Amir runs after the kite for Sohrab.
2. Character List
Amir is the protagonist of the story. He undergoes the most development in the book becoming more mature. He is very independent and treats others with dignity.
Baba is the father of Amir who is very responsible for Amir but believes in his own morality and trusts himself only.
Soraya is the wife of Amir. Her father is General Taheri who is a friend of Baba’s. She trusts and supports Amir committing herself to him.
Assef is Amir’s old friend while growing up. He presents himself as a rude and ignorant individual acting violently in the book.
Hassan was secretly Amir’s brother who looked after Amir and protected him. He was very mature and responsible at a young age.
Ali is Hassan’s supposed father and one of Amir and Baba’s servants.
Sohrab is Hassan’s son, who predominantly acts isolated and is fairly shy.
Sharif is Soraya’s uncle and has a short role throughout the book. He is helpful towards Amir and Soraya for getting Sohrab to the U.S.
Amir and Baba
Assef and Wali
4. Meaningful Quotes
“It hurts to say that. But better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie” (Hosseini 58).
-This quote represents how Amir, and others in his family, are constantly lied to throughout the book.
“I loved him because he was my friend, but also because he was a good man, maybe even a great man. And this is what I want you to understand, that good, real good, was born out of your father’s remorse. Sometimes, I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good” (Hosseini 302).
-At this point in the novel, Amir reaches the climax where he realizes he is a good man who has matured and realizes the political destruction and structural violence from his own point of view.
Khaled Hosseini paints a picture of common life living in Pakistan and Afghanistan as he experienced it. The Kite runner is a very harsh and real novel that presents the structural violence within Pakistan and Afghanistan. Throughout the book we see Amir, the protagonist, face the terrors of war as the book explores unique themes of sin and redemption, family ties, and homeland and nationality. The Kite Runner itself is a bildungsroman that depicts similarities between two countries and cultures. The novel regularly deals with themes of morality as it focuses on the relationship between fathers, sons, and brothers. As stated by Amardeep Singh, an associate professor of English at Lehigh University,
“Ah yes, fathers, sons, and a scene of primeval violence. It’s the kind of thing that only really happens in heartbreaking medieval epics and melodramatic Hindi films, but it gets me every time. It’s important at the beginning of the novel — as the protagonist feels neglected by his father — and it becomes important again at the end, in an interesting way. If you don’t stop to notice the connection, you might miss it.”
The novel addresses the bullying of Amir’s friend, Hassan, as a representation of ethnic tensions and discrimination as he is a Hazara, an ethnic group discriminated against in Afghanistan. He is constantly bullied for his ethnicity by the antagonists and this is used as a method to represent how racism sparked by war and poverty directly affecting the lifestyles of groups. Akram Sadat Hosseini corroborates by stating in their publication “The Kite Runner and the Problems of Racism and Ethnicity,”
“The novel The Kite Runner depicts the two major Afghan ethnical populations, Pashtun and Hazara, and their social, cultural, and religious conflicts.” (Hosseini 33).
Assef, the novel’s main antagonist, is the representation of perpetuated racism in the novel by joining the Taliban, in adulthood, which targets the Hazara group. Often this perspective is not presented or thought of as our point of view on world news is often limited to the effect events have no us; in this case, how the war on terror affected Americans, when throughout the Middle East there is constant dehumanization ethnic groups, families, and citizens.
As readers, we evidently see Amir mature as he ages and begins to find his identity as the novel progresses toward its satisfactory resolution. The book succeeds in covering westernization and orientalist perceptions of people of the Middle East. The International Study of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Studies states,
“For the characters in The Kite Runner and even for Amir, who associates strongly with America, the Afghan subculture becomes the main point of identification. Interactions with non-Afghan Americans are scarce throughout the novel, highlighting a sense of exclusion for this Afghan community from broader American society and constructing them as outsiders. Amir‟s identification as American is possible because he achieves his American dream” (Saraswat 169).
When Amir immigrates to the United States we see that in American society, he means to support himself and his family. Simultaneously, the novel smoothly educates it audience on the political climate of 9/11 and the war on terror, xenophobia, and ethnic cleansing without ruining the pacing or plot. For these reasons, The Kite Runner is most definitely a book I would recommend for those who are beginning to grasp more serious tones and themes in literature.
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead, 2003.
Singh, Amardeep. “Amardeep Singh: The Kite Runner”. Lehigh University, 10 August 2005. https://www.lehigh.edu/~amsp/2005/08/kite-runner.h tml. Accessed 20 February 2019.
Hosseini, Akram, and Zodhi Esmaeil. “The Kite Runner and the Problem of Racism and Ethnicity”. International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences. vol. 74, 8 July 2016, pp. 33-40. https://www.scipress.com/ilshs.74.33.pdf.Accessed 20 September 2018.
Saraswat Niraja. “Theme of Identity and Redemption in Khaleed Hossieni’s The Kite Runner”. International Journal of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Studies, vol. 1, no. 5, 2014, pp. 166-175. http://www.ijims.com/uploads/89d5501d7e7a1e187a62z ppd_576.pdf. Accessed 20 September 2018.