The novel, The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, depicts the regional geography of Afghanistan in great detail. There are numerous occasions in the novel, which describe the natural as well as the human elements of the different regions of Afghanistan. The purpose of this report is to help the reader gain a better understanding of the different regions of the country, particularly the various landmarks, cities, terrain, and the climate, and demonstrate how the author has blended this information with the plot to maintain the overall integrity of the story.
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As the story unfolds, the author uses a variety of things to describe the regions of Afghanistan. For example, the author uses the relationship that the protagonist, Amir, has with his best friend Hassan to give the reader an insight on how the climate of Afghanistan is in every season. Later in the story, when Afghanistan is attacked by the Russian forces, Amir is forced to migrate to Pakistan. As Amir travels through Afghanistan, the author uses this as an opportunity to tell the reader about various landmarks that are prominent in the country, the different cities, and other relevant information related to the topography of Afghanistan.
Before conducting the research, there were certain expectations and goals that were set. These expectations were primarily based on gaining an idea of how much research is necessary in the creation of a novel, and how the author uses the information to describe the setting of the story. While researching, certain probing questions were also gathered. These included:
How has the author described the different famous landmarks of Afghanistan in relation to the plot of the story?
Has the author accurately portrayed the climate of the country in different seasons, with particular focus on the climate of Kabul?
Has the author accurately described the topography of Afghanistan?
How has the author used the information on different cities of Afghanistan?
Khyber Pass – One of the famous landmarks of Afghanistan is the Khyber Pass, which extends from Kabul (Afghanistan) to Peshawar (Pakistan). The Khyber Pass is a significant link between the two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Throughout the history, Khyber Pass has been given a lot of importance due to its adventurous route through the mountains. This importance is shown in The Kite Runner when the author states that “the Khyber Pass was as famous for its terrain as for the bandits who used that terrain to rob travelers” (Hosseini, 301). Khyber Pass’ terrain is known as steep and narrow “at 1020 metres elevation, where the Khyber River (Khyber Khwar) leaves the pass to the south.” (South Asia Tourism Society) Due to the Afghan civil war, Refugees used Khyber Pass as their escape route into Pakistan. The author makes an accurate use of this fact when Kabul is invaded by the Soviet Union and Amir is forced to migrate to Pakistan with his father. This is shown when Amir says, “his brotherâ€¦who had a bigger truck with a second convoy of refugees was waiting to drive us across the Khyber Pass and into Peshawar” (Hosseini, 142). Here we see Amir describing his escape to Pakistan through the Khyber Pass due to the Soviet invasion.
Panjshir Valley – According to numerous testimonies by tourists, Panjshir Valley is the most beautiful place to visit in Afghanistan. The Valley is known for its overwhelming scenery and “is located about 60 miles from Kabul and stretches for 62 miles to the Anjoyman Pass.” (South Asia Tourism Society) The Valley is now somewhat damaged due to the civil war between the Soviets and the Taliban. We see Hosseini taking this fact into account as well when he mentions that “they had fought in the Panjshir Valley for two yearsâ€¦” (Hosseini, 294)
The description of landmarks such as Khyber Pass and the Panjhsir Valley contributes to the understanding of the reader as the reader is better able to understand the significance of why Amir uses the Khyber Pass to escape Kabul. In addition, the accurate description of the Panjshir Valley also helps the reader understand the impact of the civil war on the regional geography of Afghanistan.
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The climate in Afghanistan has been said to be very unstable. The weather is more extreme on the high altitudes compared to the lower landscape of the country. For example, “at lower altitudes, the winter is pleasant but the heat in summer is intense.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 75) There is almost no rain from June to October due to the existence of high mountains to the south. This particular fact is clearly shown in The Kite Runner when Amir says that “in Kabul, it rarely rained in the summer.” (Hosseini, 138) The lower parts of the country are especially the victims of warm, desert-like environment. Heavy snowfall is recorded at altitudes of 5000 feet caused by the occasional blizzards from the northwest region of the country. This is evident when Amir describes, “I findâ€¦the rooftops, and the hills buried under a foot of snow.” (Hosseini, 61) The Rainfall is contingent on the country’s altitude. For instance, at lower levels of altitude, rainfall reaches to about 7 inches, and for Kabul specifically, it approximately reaches 13 inches. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 76) It is also important to note that the greater of precipitation falls between December and April (i.e. the winter season). Spring and autumn however are known for their clear days and cool nights. This is shown in the novel as Amir signifies the coming of spring by stating, “most of the snow had melted and the hills in the north were already dotted with patches of green grass.” (Hosseini, 114) As it is shown by the quotes, one can see the effort the author has put in to correctly show the patterns in the climate of Kabul.
Afghanistan is a country “walled” by mountains to each side. The highest altitude on land is Mount Nowshak with an estimated height of 7,485 meters (24, 558ft), whereas the lowest point on land is Amu Darya River with an estimated height of 258 meters (846ft). (Ellicot and Gall, 3) Furthermore, the central highlands formed by the Hindu Kush are extensions of the Himalayas. These gorgeous mountains cross the country for 965 kilometers (600mi.) from east to west. (3) This part of the country is gifted with tall snow covered peaks with sharp gorges and desolate slopes. Since the central highlands are clearly visible from the city of Kabul, it is essential for the author to precisely indicate how they look from such a distance. This becomes apparent when Amir describes his view of a “cluster of mud houses, beyond them nothing but broad sky and mountains like jagged teeth.” (Hosseini, 263)
There are three main ridges in Afghanistan, the main one is believed to have been started from China, running towards the southwest, similar to the Hindu Kush, which is around 21,000ft high (6,400m). The Hindu Kush extends from the middle of Afghanistan over to Tajikistan. Pakistan, and Afghanistan sharing what is known as the “Safe Koh range,” a part of the Hindu Kush reaching heights of 16,000 ft (4877m). (4) In The Kite Runner, Hosseini mentions some crucial details about the Hindu Kush. When Amir says, “I tried to keep my eyes glued to the snowcapped Hindu Kush on the north side,” (Hosseini 293) we can see the importance of direction he mentions (i.e. the north side). Since the Hindu Kush run from the east to the southwest, they will be found on the north side of Kabul, which is exactly what Amir mentions in his quote.
Kabul – Located around the banks of Kabul River, the city was known as “the main stop for the trade caravans that streamed through the region from China” in the old times. (Behnke, 15) As the country developed, the city of Kabul became the largest urban center in Afghanistan. Even today, Kabul is known as the main transportation hub for export products. By the early years of the 21st century, the city’s population was approximately two million. However, this figure was debatable “because of the large numbers of returning refugees after the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.” (Behnke, 15) The older portion of the city still contains houses with walls made of mud bricks and metal roofs. Some consider Kabul to be still “in rubble” as it was a victim of 2 decades of conflict between the Taliban and the Soviet Union. This is shown by Hosseini as he describes a neighbourhood through Amir’s perspective. He explains that state of “buildings that hadn’t entirely collapsed, barely stood, with caved in roofs and walls pierced with rocket shells” (Hosseini, 315). This also contributes to the reader’s understanding of the kind of impact the civil war had on the cities and the lifestyle of the people that lived in those cities.
Jalalabad – The city of Jalalabad is where major trade transactions take place and is situated near the famous landmark, the Khyber Pass. It is the entrance towards various Afghan valleys such as the Laghman and the Kunar valley. The population of this city consists mostly of Pashtuns. The nearness of Jalalabad to the infamous Khyber Pass is a significant factor that was portrayed correctly by Hosseini. When Amir and Baba, both were being transported to Peshawar due to Soviet invasion, the author demonstrates the fact that Jalalabad is a city that refugees most likely encounter when escaping to Peshawar through the Khyber Pass. The following quote represents this demonstration: “He was taking us to Jalalabad about 170 kilometers southeast of Kabulâ€¦to drive us across the Khyber Pass and into Peshawar” (Hosseini, 142).
Regional geography of any setting that is used in a novel is one of the most important factors that author must conduct research about. In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini demonstrates his research of Afghanistan’s geography as he describes the different landmarks, cities, terrain, and the annual climate of Kabul through Amir’s perspective. For example, the Khyber Pass was one of the most important landmarks used in the novel as the main characters such as Amir is often encountered traveling through the pass. It is also important to note that the author has not only described Kabul, but has also mentioned cities that are relevant to the plot of the story. For example, Jalalabad is described in the story due to its use by the refugees who escaped Afghanistan because of the civil war. What one can learn from this report is the significance of accurately connecting the research to the plot, themes, and the characters of the novel. In The Kite Runner, the reader can see that the author has worked hard not only to give quantitative facts about the geography of Afghanistan, but also the qualitative features of the subtopics that this report has explored.
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