The Kite Runner is a novel about a distant family, the relationship between father and son, and also among two brothers as they deal with guilt and forgiveness. Amir the main character grows up in Kabul, Afghanistan prior to the Taliban regime. Amir spends most of his early childhood with a Hazara boy named Hassan. Hassan is Amir's best friend and illegitimate brother. The secret to the novel the boys are fathered by the same man. One single moment defines Amir when he witnesses with the rape of his brother by Assef. Amir must decide what to do and what kind of person he will become. Does he ignore the situation, or does he defend his best friend? "I had one last chance to make a decision. One final opportunity to decide who I was going to be. I could step into that allyâ€¦ or I could run" (Hosseini 137). Amir pretends to be oblivious to the situation and the lack of courage as a result of that haunts him for the rest of his life. As Amir grows up and contemplates the past, he must come to terms with the choices he makes and adjust to his new lifestyle in the United States.
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Many ongoing conflicts are prevalent throughout the novel. A major conflict involves both Amir and Baba, as they both seek deliverance from their past sins. Baba betrayed his closest friend and business partner Ali by sleeping with his wife; Amir betrayed Hassan by not helping him when he needed him the most. The biggest conflict Amir deals with is the recognition of himself. He is unable to forgive and accept the past. Rahim Kahn briefly states, "A man who has no conscious, no goodness, does not suffer" (301) Although defending Hassan would be a courageous act, Amir takes the easy way out as the last ounce of dignity is destroyed in his best friend. Another example of Amir's internal conflict is one he faces at his birthday party. Amir plants money under Hassan's mattress to frame him for theft. "I lifted Hassan's mattress an planted my new watch and a handful of Afghani bills under it. I waited another thirty minutes, Then I knocked on Baba's door and told what I hoped to be the last in a long line of shameful lies." (116) Although Hassan is forgiven, Ali and Hassan leave home. These two events inhabit Amir's thoughts for many years to come.
The climax in the novel is when Amir returns to Kabul in search of Hassan's orphaned son Sohrab. Amir did what he was told, in order to clear his mind of the regretful scene. If there was one thing Hassan would have asked, it would have been to save his son. Amir must defeat Assef in a fierce physical battle, take the damaged Sohrab out of Afghanistan and try to help him repair not only his spirit but the damage of his past. From the point Sohrab was rescued, the story changes. It goes from a life of regret, to a life of contentment.
The resolution occurs when Amir returns to the United States with Sohrab. Although Sohrab is introverted and does not quite fit in with Amir and his extended family, a breakthrough occurs when Amir agrees to run Sohrabs kite. When the pair win the competition, likewise with Hassan and Amir many years ago, a bond is created when Sohrab finally shows a smile. He says, "It was a smile, nothing more, it didn't make everything all right, only a smile. But I'll take it with open arms" (371). Not only did Amir redeem himself to Hassan, but he feels a sense of pride for he knows what he has done would also make his father proud.
Amir is the main character, and narrator of this novel. He shares the story of his early childhood to his adulthood. Amir is a complex character, and his traits often contradict one another. Amir is a fully developed, static character. He is the son of a very successful businessman in Kabul and is very sensitive about the lack of attention he receives from his father. The desire to please his father is the primary motivation for his unpleasant behavior early in the novel. After witnessing his best friend getting raped, he is driven by his feelings of guilt as he looks to find a way to redeem himself. "I watched Hassan get raped. I said to no one. A part of me was hoping that someone would wake up and hear so I wouldn't have to live with this lie anymore. That night I became an insomniac." (86) Looking back on the past Amir says, "There was so much goodness in my life. So much happiness. I wondered whether I deserved any of it" (278). But, Rahim Kahn tells Amir "There is a way to be good again," (2) and Amir ultimately he does so through courage and sacrifice; as he continues to tell his story as a form of absolution.
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Hassan is Amir's best friend and half-brother, as well as a servant to Baba. Hassan is a loyal, trustworthy individual who is always there to listen when Amir needs him. Amir envies Hassan for the traits he processes. Amir says, "I had been the entitled half, the society-approved, legitimate half, the unwitting embodiment of Baba's guilt. [Hassan is] Baba's other half. The unentitled, under-priveleged half. The half who had inherited what had been pure and noble in Baba" (359). Hassan's defining traits include: bravery, selflessness and intelligence even though as a boy he is illiterate. As a Hazara minority, Hassan is considered inferior in Afghan society, but in Baba's eyes he is equal and just as lovable as Amir. Even though Hassan is not present in a substantial portion of the novel, he provokes a major role throughout.
Baba is the father of Amir and Hassan, and is a wealthy and well respected man in Kabul. Baba stresses honesty and doing the right thing no matter what throughout the novel, and tries to impart these qualities to Amir. He is a round, static character. Baba's views tend to stay the same throughout the story. Always doing what is right, the reader seems to love Baba in the story. Even when Amir and Baba move to California, Baba seems to like the old Afghanistan traditions better. "There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness" (17).The irony in this is that although Amir is his legitimate son, he is always somewhat distant towards Amir. The frustration of not being able to openly love Hassam strains the relationship not only between Amir and Baba, but Amir and Hassan as well.
A significant portion of the book is told through Amir's flashbacks to early childhood memories. The novel begins in California in 2001, only for a short period until the first flashback occurs. Afghanistan was chosen by Hosseini for a reason. In the beginning, the community was friendly, and they were not worried about the Taliban. Everybody was free to practice one common religion, without people telling them what to do. The main events in the novel begin in Kabul in the winter of 1975. In 1980 when Kabul is undergoing radical changes, the setting changes again when the family must flee. The importance of the on-going scenery changes is that Hosseini uses parallelism to the destruction of Kabul, with the destruction of Amir's life. When Amir moved to California, it represented a clean slate on his life. The family moves to the United States to escape the oppression of the Taliban, and Amir uses the moving of his family to try and also escape the past.
The narration of the story is first person. Amir acts as the narrator, and as a story teller. The story is told in past tense with extended flashbacks. He describes the events the occurred months and years ago by the experiences he endured. The importance of this perspective is through Amir the reader gains a sense of the difficulty of growing up and the harsh reality that comes with the pain of betrayal. First person allows insight in Amir's thoughts and struggles as he tries to live the respectable Afghan way. The writing style builds suspense in many moments of the book. Amir's thoughts and actions, which the reader reads, builds suspense in many parts. Hosseini writes the text in first person limited on purpose.
Hosseini used Afghan terms and customs to illustrate the differences between lives in America versus life in the Middle East. Parallelism was used to connect the irony in the plot. Is it not ironic that Baba betrayed his friend even though he talks big about honor, principles and the importance of being honest? Is is not ironic that Assef finally loses his eye? Hosseini uses short, simple, almost cinematic language helps the reader feel the edginess of the literature.
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Hosseini wrote a very complex book covering honor in one's family, lying, guilt, and redemption. A major issue that is discussed throughout the novel is discrimination in Afghanistan between Pashtuns and Hazaras. In Kabul discrimination is everywhere. "I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi'a, and nothing was ever going to change that" (24). Hosseini shows that the Taliban's persecution of the Hazaras is not new, but a long-held discrimination. Both discrimination and family play a very important role in the kite runner because Hosseni wants all readers to understand the differences not only within a nation, but among neighboring people.
Another theme discussed is the importance of family. Family is extremely important in the story, especially because it takes place in the middles east where culture and tradition are of significant importance. Baba states, "Blood is a powerful thing" (276). This is prevalent when Amir asks Baba if they can get new servants. "Baba, have you ever thought about getting new servants?" (89) Baba is stung when Amir asks this question. His response, "You bring me shame. And Hassan...Hassan's not going anywhere. Do you understand? I said, do you understand," emphasizes the importance of Hassan in Baba's life.
Honor is yet another theme illustrated throughout the novel. In many instances Baba refuses help from the one he loves. Baba bases his life off his social status, and honor of his heritage. Rahim Kahn makes a case and point to Amir when he states, "I think everything he did [Baba] feeding the poor, giving money to friends in need. It was all a way of redeeming himselfâ€¦ I believe what true redemption is, Amir Jahn, when guilt turns to honor" (254) In many instances through Baba, Hosseini tries to demonstrate that there is always a way to correct past mistakes; Whether you choose to or not depends on the pride and honor of the individual.
For the most part I really enjoyed Kite Runner. I felt that the exposition dragged on, but for the most part it was relatively interesting. I appreciated the fact the Hosseini included Arabic words, and that he tried connecting the reader to the culture. Despite the gruesome events that occurred, I believe that the lessons learned from them outweigh the negatives. The Kite Runner was an eye-opening novel for me, and it really made me think about how lucky I am to live in a country that is free. We take these things for granted every single day, yet across the globe many individuals would die for a glimpse of freedom.
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York, NY: Putnum Publishing Group, 2003. Print.