Introduction of The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner is based on the childhood memories of Khaled Hosseini of his homeland, Afghanistan. It was published in 2003 by Riverhead Books, and immediately created ripples on the US shelves. The unusual appearance of the story seems to present the Afghan background, culture, and ethnic tensions in the city of Kabul and the country on a wider scale. Though it also encompasses the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Afghan cultural erosion, and Pakistan’s support of the refugees. The story revolves around the character of Amir and his friend Hassan in the same backdrop.
Summary of The Kite Runner
The storyline starts with Amir recalling 26-year old Afghanistan and picturing himself as a boy, living at a luxurious home with Baba, his father. Two servants, the father and the son, Ali, and Hassan from the Hazara community of northern Afghanistan are serving both of them. Even though Hassan was a servant boy, Baba would always let Hassan sit on his lap leaving no room for affection for Amir. Amir always wanted to win Baba’s validation since he was always condemned by him for being feminine because he was more interested in writing. Then he recalls, Rahim Khan, a friend of his Baba, who often visits them who Amir considered as a father figure as he felt more appreciated by him. Meanwhile, Assef the kid from the neighborhood who was half Pashtun himself who has a German mother always picked on Hassan because of his Hazara community.
The story, then, moves to the kiteflying tournament in which the boys participate using different tactics on the kite strings to cut off the kites of the opponents. The boys running after the cut-off kites are the kite runners. When Amir cuts off a kite, Hassan runs to catch it but finds himself trapped in a blind alley when Assef sodomizes him, and Amir pretends as nothing has happened as he feared his father’s anger for showing the act of cowardice. Later, he tries to get Hassan and Ali expelled by Baba by orchestrating the money stealing issue as he puts some money under the pillow of Hassan as he couldn’t live with the guilt. This incident makes them move away from each other.
It happens in 1981, then, when Baba and Amir are leaving Kabul after the USSR invasion. They reach Pakistan from where they leave for Fremont where Baba starts working and educating Amir who attends a college. With the passage of time, they meet other such immigrants among which General Taheri is important whose daughter Soraya also visits them. Both of them start meeting but their elders tell them that they would decide the issue of their marriage which is settled amicably. Although they start wedding preparations, Baba’s health suddenly deteriorates due to terminal cancer. Shortly, after the wedding, Baba dies. Amir and Soraya, then, face another misfortune of not able to bear children.
Time passes by quickly. It happens that Rahim Khan, after getting sick, calls Amir to visit him when he is in Pakistan. He tells him about the situation in Kabul. The departure of the Soviets and arrival of the Taliban has further played havoc with the city and life in general, he tells him adding when they left Kabul, he coaxes Hassan to come with his wife, Farzana live in Baba and Amir’s house and be a caretaker but the Taliban shot him and his wife dead in front of the whole street when he tried to stop them from confiscating the house. They left a baby Sohrab behind. Now Rahim wants Amir to bring Sohrab to Pakistan and who will be taken care of by a couple. He also reveals that Hassan was his half-brother, as he was Baba’s son from a Hazara lady, though Baba handed him over to Ali to bring him up, living close to him, to keep the issue under the carpet. Amir soon leaves for Afghanistan but finds nothing as he runs from pillar to post to find Sohrab after watching a gruesome scene of stoning a woman to death. The next day, he meets an official who takes him to meet Sohrab who appears feminine after having suffered several sexual attacks. Suddenly Amir senses that the official is Assef who starts beating Amir, while Sohrab shoots him with his slingshot in his eye. Meanwhile, they flee from the scene and reach Pakistan where he finds out that after all there was no one to take care of Sohrab.
Finally, Sohrab becomes their adopted son as Soraya and Amir take him in their fold. However, before taking him to the United States, they would have had to prepare papers for him. . When Amir tells Sohrab he’s going to put him briefly in an orphanage, Sohrab tries to commit suicide. When they take him to California after finally becoming successful in getting a visa for him, they visit a park where Sohrab who is his old mate Hassan’s son is now his son. flies a kite and starts a kite-cutting contest where he runs the kite for him saying, ‘For you, thousand times over.
Major Themes in The Kite Runner
- Homeland: Love for one’s homeland is the major theme of the novel as Amir shows that though they live in luxury in Fermont in California, he longs to return to his land, Kabul, where he spent his childhood despite living and enjoying the freedom and open-minded society for having a choice. However, pangs of nostalgia force him to respond to the calls of Rahim from Pakistan and return to get Sohrab back to the United States. Amir later adopts him as a son. He does it wholeheartedly to compensate for the cruelty he demonstrated toward Hassan during his childhood – his own flesh and blood. Both Soraya, his wife, and he become quite happy and satisfied after making Sohrab a part of their family and teach him to fly a kite in California. At that moment, he finds that he feels at home after visiting his homeland.
- Betrayal: The Kite Runner shows the thematic strand of betrayal through the characters of Baba, Amir, and Hassan. Baba betrays his wife from the Hazra community, and then leaves his son Hassan with Ali to fend off themselves. Amir betrays Hassan by leaving him in the cul de sac to fend off himself, though, Hassan has always stood by him through thick and thin. Unfortunately, Hassan dies leaving his son Sohrab to take care of himself. Although it is not a betrayal in that sense, yet Sohrab is left alone in the world.
- Guilt and Redemption: The theme of guilt and its redemption occurs through the character of Baba who has a wife and a child in the city, living with him yet he does not dare own them publicly. However, later, he tries to redeem it by demonstrating his love for Hassan, yet that, too, does not prove fruitful, or of any use to him. It rather causes jealousy to Amir which he later redeems by taking Hassan’s son, Sohrab, out of Kabul to California.
- Familial Relationships: The novel allows the readers to discover twisted familial relations through Baba, Hassan, Amir, and Sohrab. Baba has two sons, but he could only claim Amir and not Hassan who is from the mother, having considered lowly ethnic background. Therefore, Hassan becomes an outcast in the Kabul society despiting the son of an aristocrat, while Amir leaves for California with Baba. Later, when Amir and Soraya do not have their own children, Amir comes to take Sohrab back after the latter loses his father in the war-torn Kabul. These familial relations and their interaction become another theme of the novel.
- Memory and Nostalgia: When Amir remembers Kabul while living in California, America, Baba narrates to him about Kabul and Afghan stories. Baba recollects those memories that keep haunting the old man and his son in the United States. The nostalgia forces Amir later to seek immediate flight to Pakistan, meet Rahim in Peshawar and pick up Sohrab in a daredevil feat. Even the taking of Sohrab to California is an action of effort to forget the nostalgia of leaving Kabul.
- Kite Flying: The game of kite flying shows human effort, growth, aspirations, and love for each other. When Amir loves flying kites, Hassan stands by him in the flying contest and runs after kites for him. However, when it comes to Amir, he abandons Hassan with fear and hurry. Later, he redeems by rescuing Sohrab, Hassan’s son, when he takes him to California adopting him as his son.
- Politics: The novel shows global politics at work due to its references to Communism, jihad, departure of Baba, and Amir to the United States and the free society of California. It tries to portray the United States as a paradise that extends refuge to people like Baba and Amir, from the war-torn Afghanistan, where even generals are roaming around. It also shows the ethnic fissures between the Pashtun, Hazara, and sectarian issues of Shia and Sunni that have led to the devastation of Afghanistan.
- Racial Discrimination: Racial and ethnic discriminations continue to destroy the social fabric of Kabul and Afghanistan. Although Baba is quite liberal and possesses good fortune, he cannot dare to own Hassan as his son from a Hazara lady due to the reprisals from the Pashtuns. He can only extend his love. However, Amir does not fear taking Sohrab who is from Hazara ethnicity and brings him to live in the United States.
- Marginalization of Femininity: The novel shows the marginality of the ethnicity and minority through the character of Hassan and Sanaubar. Hassan represents the ethnicity of Hazara and its significance in the Afghan social structure, while Sanaubar’s role and her story show the marginality of femininity.
Major Characters in The Kite Runner
- Amir: The main character and protagonist of The Kite Runner, Amir is Baba’s representative of the elite structure of Kabul having all the luxuries and privileges. Despite this, he feels detached from the existing realities and does not show bravery which Baba desires him to show when it comes to human contests. For example, he does not extend protection to Hassan or protects Hassan when others violate his honor, while Baba does not express pleasure over this betrayal. His attempt of insulting Hassan, though, emerges from his jealousy of Baba’s love for Hassan. Later, Amir repents and realizes his flaw, when he comes to meet Rahim in Peshawar to redeem himself from this guilt. Hence, he redeems himself when he takes Sohrab with him to California and plays kite flying with him in a park.
- Hassan: Despite being subservient to Amir, Hassan’s character does not seem subdued by the circumstances. Belonging to a marginal ethnicity rather makes him a favorite character in the novel as he grows up under the shadow of Amir yet makes him seek Hassan’s support where he does not think himself fit to fight others. Even the end of the novel makes him repent over his prejudicial attitude toward Hassan, who is not present, yet his son Sohrab wins love from Amir as his adopted son.
- Baba: Baba is a highly esoteric character in those several aspects of his personality emerge on the scene after his death. Amir comes to learn that Hassan was his son too, and he cannot reconcile with this idea. He wonders why he had never expressed the truth or treated him on equal footing with Amir as a son. However, he senses that his love for Hassan must have a cause behind it that he sees himself. Amir later learns that the old aristocrat from Kabul, perhaps, failed to adapt himself to the urban setup of Kabul where prejudice and malice still existed at that time. However, Baba might have seen that California would dispel these negative emotions from Amir and it proves right when Amir comes back to take Hassan’s son.
- Rahim Khan: Rahim Khan’s character is also an important one. He asks Amir to visit Peshawar as he has some important news for him. He utilizes his old business terms with Baba and when Amir comes to meet him, he tells him the whole story behind Hassan and Baba’s relation and tries to make him understand the significance of Sohrab and his safety.
- Sohrab: Hassan’s son Sohrab becomes significant in the novel in that Amir considers him his own son instead of just the son of his stepbrother, Hassan. Therefore, he does not leave any stone unturned to save him from the clutches of Assef when he visits Afghanistan for this very purpose at the request of Rahim Khan. Later, he provides Soraya and Amir a chance to win happiness.
- Assef: Despite belonging to double ethnicities, Assef becomes a bully as well as a villain of The Kite Runner. His brass knuckles and his bullying makes him the bad character who demonstrates his anti-Hazara sentiments whenever an opportunity arises. He sexually molests Hassan, however, proves dear to him when it comes to Sohrab who is timely saved by Amir. In fact, he shows the unpleasant and dangerous side of life among the good characters of Amir, Soraya, and others.
- Soraya: The significance of Soraya lies in that despite being a daughter of an ex-general, she happily marries Amir and agrees to adopt Sohrab when she knows that she can never bear a child. This kind act of the lady wins the heart of the readers by the end.
- Ali: Despite being a secondary character, Ali has two drawbacks that force Baba to show his humane character. Not only is he limped, but also is a Hazara, and to top all this, he is a Shia. Almost all of these drawbacks make him a target during the melee following the chaos after the USSR invasion. However, he wins the love of Baba which reveals its cause later when Amir comes to take Sohrab to California.
- Sanaubar and Farid: Sanaubar, though, appears for a brief period, is significant. She is Hassan’s mother and belongs to the Hazara community after marrying secretly to Baba, while the significance of Farid lies in his assistance extended to Amir when he comes to take Sohrab.
Writing Style of The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini adopted the personal and direct style in his novel, The Kite Runner. The main character, Amir, brings recollections out of his sunken memory presented as long flashbacks, bordering hyperbolic use of personal memories. As Khaled is an ESL speaker, his diction is mostly formal, though, occasionally he has resorted to shaping English to demonstrate the true Afghani cultural nuances in the globalized American value structure. However, the self-translation of one cultural construct might have hampered his abilities. Therefore, the novel mostly seems written in formal language though somewhat broken and choppy dialogs of Assef and other characters living in the vicinity of Kabul shows Khaled Hosseini’s real intention in writing personal memories in the global language. Therefore, this style of writing in formal English suits his requirements.
Analysis of Literary Devices in The Kite Runner
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises Amir’s migration to California with Baba and then return to Kabul through Peshawar to take Sohrab, Hassan’s son with him. The rising action occurs when Amir sees that Hassan becoming the victim of bullying, yet he does not come to help him. The falling action occurs when Baba and Amir leave Kabul for the United States.
- Anaphora: The Kite Runner shows the use of anaphora. For example,
i. I looked up at those twin kites. I thought about Hassan. Thought about Baba. Ali. Kabul. I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of 1975 came along
and changed everything. (One)
The sentence shows the repetitious use of “I thought.”
- Antagonist: The Kite Runner shows the character of Assef, Russian soldiers, and the Kabul elite as the main antagonists on account of their bad behavior toward Baba, Hassan, and the ethnic Hazra community.
- Allusion: There are a good number of examples of allusions in the novel.
i. After I hung up, I went for a walk along Spreckels Lake on the northern edge of Golden Gate Park. (One)
ii. … can still see Hassan up on that tree, sunlight flickering through the leaves
on his almost perfectly round face, a face like a Chinese doll chiseled from hardwood: his flat, broad nose and slanting, narrow eyes like bamboo leaves, eyes that looked, depending on the light, gold, green, even sapphire. (Two)
iii. Gold-stitched tapestries, which Baba had bought in Calcutta, lined the walls; a crystal chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling. (Two)
iv. I remember the day before the orphanage opened, Baba took me to Ghargha Lake, a few miles north of Kabul. (Three)
v. He told us one day that Islam considered drinking a terrible sin; those who drank would answer for their sin on the day of Qiyamat, Judgment Day. (Three)
vi. We saw Rio Bravo three times, but we saw our favorite Western, The Magnificent Seven, thirteen times. With each viewing, we cried at the end when the Mexican kids buried Charles Bronson—who, as it turned out, wasn’t Iranian either. (Three)
The first two allusions are related to geographical points, while the third and fourth are related to Indian and Afghan landmarks and the last one is related to the theological concept of Islam. However, the last one shows cross-cultural allusions; American, Mexican, and Iranians.
- Conflict: The are two types of conflicts in the novel. The first one is the external conflict that is going on between the local Afghan elite society and the foreign conspirators. Another conflict is in the mind of Amir about his position as a boy, his gentlemanly learning, and his behavior toward Hassan, his half-brother.
- Characters: The Kite Runner presents both static as well as dynamic characters. The young man, Amir, is a dynamic character as he faces a huge transformation during his growth and migration from Afghanistan to the United States. However, the rest of the characters do not see any change in their behavior, as they are static characters like Sanauber, Ali, Rahim Khan, Baba, and even Hassan.
- Climax: The climax takes place when Amir returns to Kabul to take Sohrab, son of Hassan, his half-brother, to the United States.
- Foreshadowing: The novel shows the following examples of foreshadowing.
i. I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. (One)
ii. When we were children, Hassan and I used to climb the poplar trees in the driveway of my father’s house and annoy our neighbors by reflecting sunlight into their homes with a shard of mirror. (Two)
iii. It was Rahim Khan who first referred to him as what eventually became Baba’s famous nickname, Toophan agha, or “Mr. Hurricane.”. (Three)
These quotes from The Kite Runner foreshadow the coming events.
- Hyperbole: Hyperbole or exaggeration occurs in the novel at various places. For example,
i. At parties, when all six-foot-five of him thundered into the room, attention shifted to him like sunflowers turning to the sun. (Three)
ii. The generation of Afghan children whose ears would know nothing but the sounds of bombs and gunfire was not yet born. (Five)
These sentences are hyperboles. The first one shows how Baba’s figure has been exaggerated by comparing him with the sun, while the second shows exaggeration about the Afghan nation.
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
i. Sitting cross-legged, sunlight and shadows of pomegranate leaves dancing on his face, Hassan absently plucked blades of grass from the ground as I read him stories he couldn’t read for himself. (Three).
ii. Something roared like thunder. The earth shook a little and we heard the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire. “Father!” Hassan cried. We sprung to our feet and raced out of the living room. We found Ali hobbling frantically across the foyer. (Four)
iii. The streets glistened with fresh snow and the sky was a blameless blue. Snow blanketed every rooftop and weighed on the branches of the stunted mulberry trees that lined our street. Overnight, snow had nudged its way into every crack and gutter.(Seven)
The imagery shows the use of images of sound, color, and nature.
- Metaphor: The Kite Runner shows good use of various metaphors such as,
i. My father was a force of nature, a towering Pashtun specimen with a thick beard, a wayward crop of curly brown hair as unruly as the man himself. (Three)
ii. Just before sunrise, Baba’s car peeled into the driveway. (Five)
iii. Outside the walls of that house, there was a war raging. (Sixteen)
The first example shows the father compared to a model, the second sun to a knife, and the third war to a furious person or bull.
- Mood: The novel shows various moods in the beginning; nostalgic, neutral, and indifferent, but it turns out tragic and at times darkly humorous when the tragic tale of Farzana, Hassan, and Sanauber are told, and when Rahim calls Amir to save Sohrab from abuse.
- Motif: Most important motifs of the novel are pomegranate, kite, kite contestants, migration, and seasons.
- Narrator: The novel is narrated from the first-person point of view, Amir.
- Protagonist: Amir is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with his entry, reminiscing about Kabul and his life in that city and ends with his memories of the same thing after looking at Sohrab flying his kite.
- Parallelism: The novel shows parallelism in the following examples,
In the end, 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. Nothing. (Four).
- Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places such as,
i. She had a large purple bruise on her leg for days but what could I do except stand and watch my wife get beaten? If I fought, that dog would have surely put a bullet in me, and gladly! Then what would happen to my Sohrab? (Seventeen)
ii. How could I have been so blind? The signs had been there for me to see all along; they came flying back at me now: (Eighteen)
iii. In his rearview mirror, I saw something flash in his eyes. “You want to know?” he sneered. “Let me imagine, Agha sahib. You probably lived in a big two- or three-story house with a nice backyard that your gardener filled with flowers and fruit trees. (Nineteen)
This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed but different characters not to elicit answers but to stress upon the underlined idea.
- Setting: The setting of the novel spread over three countries; Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States.
- Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes. For example,
i. So I read him unchallenging things, like the misadventures of the bumbling Mullah Nasruddin and his donkey. (Four)
ii. Something roared like thunder. (Five)
iii. Flanked by his obeying friends, he walked the neighborhood like a Khan strolling through his land with his eager-to-please entourage. (Six).
These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things.