Theme is a pervasive idea presented in a literary piece. Themes in The Kite Runner, a masterpiece of Khaled Hosseini, are aplenty. Not only does the novel present the dilemma of the homeland, but it also demonstrates the dark sides of human nature such as racial hatred and ethnic discrimination. Some of the major themes in The Kite Runner are discussed below.
Themes in The Kite Runner
Homeland and love of homeland are one of the major themes of the novel, The Kite Runner, for not only its writer but also its protagonist, Amir, are Afghan immigrants who make the United States their home. Amir thinks that America represents freedom and choice. Although Baba faces the humiliation of doing menial jobs in the United States, Amir feels that he is not only free from the stifling atmosphere of his homeland, but also of the persons who have made him jealous of them like Hassan. As the writer, he also adopts storytelling as his profession and writes a novel. On the other hand, he becomes nostalgic about his homeland when living in the United States.
He immediately comes to meet Rahim Khan and his consciousness about his country and its political situation makes it clear that he is always in touch with his homeland. Although it seems that he has had a privilege in Afghanistan that it seems him a tourism resort, and he declares himself a tourist, it is still his country where he has maltreated Hassan and from where he takes, Sohrab, Hassan’s son, to adopt him. That is why despite living in the United States, he marries the daughter of former Afghan general, Soraya, and adopts a Hazara Afghan boy despite having racial differences. It is partly out of love for his homeland that he flies to Peshawar to meet Rahim and find Sohrab, who later proves a solace for him and his wife.
Betrayal is another major theme of the novel, The Kite Runner. Baba has betrayed his servant, Ali, by fathering Hassan with Ali’s wife. In the same way, although he shows love to Hassan, he betrays Hassan by failing to recognize him as his son. Amir, too, betrays Hassan when he seems that his father loves Hassan more than he loves Amir. Here it seems that Baba betrays his own son, Amir, too, for he does not disclose to him the secret reason for his love of Hassan. That is why it seems that each of these characters betrays the other as in the case of Ali and Hassan, who belong to the low caste of Hazara, the Shia community, which is considered an outcast in Kabul.
Guilt and Redemption
Guilt, its realization, and efforts for redemption comprise another major theme of the novel. Baba has the guilt that he has fathered a child from the wife of his servant, Ali, who is a Hazara. He tries to redeem his guilt by helping him and extending his love to Hassan. On the other hand, his son, Amir, too, commits the same mistake though it is out of jealousy. He hates Hassan out of this jealousy and maltreats him whenever he finds a chance. Although Hassan tries to gladden him with whatever he can, Amir does not pay him in the same coin. He rather lets the bullies rape him and leaves him there. This guilt of allowing others to rape Hassan haunts him when he is in the United States. Then he comes back to take his son, Sohrab, to seek redemption for his guilt after finding that Hassan is already dead.
Familial relationships, specifically between fathers and sons, is another major theme of the novel, The Kite Runner. Amir is not the only son of Baba, he is also a half-brother of Hassan which he does not know. He hardly imagines that a person like Hassan, an outcast in the social fabric of Kabul, could be his brother, who he believes to be the son of their servant, Ali. Similarly, Baba does not think that his son, Amir, could be so cowardly that he could not stand up for others before bullies. It means for him that he would not be able to stand up for himself in the future. This causes a strained relationship between Baba and Amir as well as between Amir and Hassan. Later, Amir tries to atone for those issues of maltreatment by helping to rescue Sohrab from Assef.
Memory and Nostalgia
Memory and nostalgia are two other major themes of the novel, The Kite Runner. Amir’s memory runs very fast from the United States to Kabul and Peshawar and then again to Kabul. He recalls flying kites in the clear blue sky of Afghanistan with his half-brother Hassan, whom he considers an outcast on account of Baba’s love. His past haunts him so much so that when Rahim calls him from Peshawar he comes flying toward him to help Sohrab, the son of Hassan, so that he could redeem himself from his past guilt. Therefore, memories come and go in his mind and he tries to help his relations he could not identify in the past to atone for his willful neglect.
Kite flying is another major theme of the novel, which has become a symbol of human growth and progress in Afghan society. In fact, the kite is a symbol of progress and growth in a person as Amir loves to fly kites and comes to know that if he can fly kites high, he can elevate himself in the eyes of all the street boys. Hassan, too, knows it and helps Amir, promising that he can bring kites to him if he asks a thousand times. This symbolical reference of help recurs to Amir when he goes to the United States, the reason that he comes back to help his former servant as well as a half-brother to atone for his willful neglect in the past.
Politics is another major theme of the novel that runs parallel to all other thematic strands in the novel, The Kite Runner. Baba is deeply mired in the political wrangling in Afghanistan and has made a name for himself through his manipulation of the situation to his own advantage. The ethnic and racial politics have not only caused problems for the next generation like Amir and Hassan, but have also led Amir to feel estranged from his half-brother, Hassan, who is ethnically Hazara, a race considered inferior to Pashtuns. Another political drama is the invasion of the USSR, and later the rule of jihadists and the Taliban regime pervades the tale that Amir tells about his arrival in Peshawar and subsequent visit to Kabul to find Sohrab.
Ethnic or racial discrimination is another major theme of the novel. One of its examples is the enmity between Pashtuns and Hazaras, which runs so deep that despite being Hassan’s father, Baba stops short of telling Amir that they are brothers. He can only extend his love to Hassan and shows respect for Ali by keeping his secret in his heart. He does not imagine that his son, Amir, too, could be poisoned with ethnic discrimination.
Literary or learning is another minor theme of the novel. It is also a dividing as well as a uniting force. Baba’s desire for physical excellence gives way to the desire of Amir for learning and writing. Similarly, Amir believes his ability to write and learn makes him superior to Hassan. In other words, literary and illiteracy have their advantages and disadvantages that different characters show at different times.
Marginalization of Women
The harrowing tale of Sanaubar and her flight shows the marginalization of women in Afghanistan, despite the fact that Sofia Akrami and Sakina have been presented in a good light.