The Kite Runner

Novel by Khaled Hosseini

Book Genre: Historical Fiction

Total Pages: 336

Presentation by Alec Gardner

Background Info

Telling the story of the life of a boy by the name of Amir, The Kite Runner is mostly set in the Wazar Akbar Khan district of Kabul, Afghanistan. Amir, the narrator of the story, experiences life as a child in an Afghanistan before it was ravaged by war. Only to return as an adult, to find that both Afghanistan and he have been transformed by scarring events. The story is filled with messages of friendship and betrayal between father and sons as it digs deep into Afghan culture, winning awards such as the New Writers Award and the Literature to Life Award.

Characterization

Major Characters

  • Amir- The narrator and protagonist, and main antagonist in the story. A gifted fictional writer from a young age who tries to win the love of his father. Often times finds himself his own worst enemy as he must deal with forgiving himself for the horrific things he has done.
  • Hassan-Amir's loyal servant and best friend. Is always willing to do anything for Amir, displaying his friendship and trust in Amir, who does not return such faithfulness.
  • Aseff-A sociopath obsessed with the torture of others and Adolf Hitler's beliefs. Strong and dangerous, he proves to be one of Amir's greatest fears and threats.
  • Baba-Wealthy, well-respected man in the city of Kabul. A husband turned widow after his wife died giving birth to Amir. Strong, brave, and athletic, he is very much unlike his son who is weak, cowardly, and clumsy.
  • Sohrab-Hassan's orphan son who is captured by the Taliban. He is rescued by Amir and adopted by him, restoring his loyalty to Hassan and serving as the final piece to forgiving himself.

Minor Characters

  • Rahim Khan-Longtime friend of Baba's and partial father figure to Amir.
  • Soraya-Amir's wife.
  • Ali-Baba's adopted brother and Amir's father who is a servant of the family.
  • Farid-Amir's driver in the Taliban-ridden Kabul.
  • Sanuabar-Hassan's mother who ran away after his birth only to return when he was an adult before she died.
  • General Taheri-Soraya's father and Amir's father-in-law.
  • Jamila-Soraya's mother and Amir's mother-in-law.

Setting

Kabul, Afghanistan (Before and After)

During Amir's childhood, Kabul serves as his home. It is a place full of merchants, theaters, and best of all, kite-fighting tournaments. However, Amir has no experience with the poor sections of Afghanistan, living in a mansion and being spoiled. Kabul is filled with memories for Amir, creating mixed feelings. When the Russians invade the city, the Amir and Baba are forced to leave the country and head for the U.S.

Years later when Amir returns to his home country, he does not recognize the place. The city has been ravaged from years of war fighting the Russians, Afghan Alliance, and the Taliban. Kabul appears to create an aura of fear as everyday citizens may face the Taliban's wrath. He discovers his old house and the rest of his neighborhood in ruins, with many people living in poverty and on the streets. Afghanistan, much like Amir, has changed much over the last thirty years.

Fremont, California

After escaping the destruction in Afghanistan, Baba and Amir find themselves settling in Fremont, California close to the city of San Francisco. There, Amir and Baba have very different feelings for the states. To Baba, America is nothing more than a place to make a living and call home. Baba wishes for his old life back in Kabul where he was well-respected by everyone within the community.To Amir, America is a chance for him to forget his horrific past, and create a new life. The two live in a poor community, surrounded by poverty. Every weekend they visit an Afghan flee market, where they and other Afghans socialize and celebrate their culture. It is very different than their former city of Kabul.

Main Conflicts

Man v. Self-Amir v. Amir

Perhaps the very focus of the novel, Amir must learn to forgive himself. After betraying Hassan and witnessing evil things, Amir deals with the burden of guilt. Throughout the story, he is very critical of himself and searches for ways to redeem himself. It is only at the conclusion of the story, as he restores his loyalty with Hassan, that Amir forgives himself and finds peace.

Man v. Man-Amir v. Aseff

Serving as the representation of evil in the story, Aseff is a villain in the novel. Strong, quick, and having no conscience whatsoever, he rapes both Hassan and Sohrab. Throughout his entire life, Amir has remembered the picture of Hassan's rape, and his cowardly actions. Aseff is the fear that he finally stands up to for himself, defeating him towards the end of the novel.

Summary

The story begins as Amir flashes back to 26 years ago to where his guilt began, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Amir meets and introduces the characters and places. Everyone appears to be joyful and in good spirits. That all changes one night as the king of Afghanistan is overthrown. Days later, Amir and Hassan encounter Aseff and his friends. Aseff threatens them, and Hassan, displaying his faithfulness to Amir, stands up for him, aiming a slingshot at Aseff's eye. Aseff and his friends retreat, vowing revenge on the two for the humiliation they caused.

Things in the novel begin to pick up as the kite-fighting tournament approaches. Boys from all over Kabul come to steer kites with the upmost precision, striking and cutting the strings of other kites. As the strings of the kite are cut, the kite takes off into it's own direction, leaving the "kite runners" to chase and fight each other for it. When Amir, a magnificent kite-fighter, wins the competition, Hassan runs after the last fallen kite as a trophy for Amir. Hours pass and Amir goes searching for Hassan only to find him being beaten and raped by Aseff and his friends. Fear takes over Amir's thoughts as it causes him to run away, never mentioning the scene to Baba. This leads to Amir becoming depressed and Hassan along with Ali leaving the family, devastating Baba. Years pass and Baba and Amir escape the dangers of Afghanistan to make for the United States of America.

While in Fremont, California, Amir creates a new life not dominated by his own guilt. He marries a woman by the name of Soraya and becomes a successful fictional writer. But his happy new life is interrupted one day when he receives a call from a dying old friend named Rahim Khan who wishes to meet him in Afghanistan, telling Amir "there is a way to be good again." Amir travels to Afghanistan, where he is told shocking news that Hassan, now killed by a Taliban, was once Amir's half-brother as Baba had had an affair. Realizing this, Amir sets out for the now dangerous Kabul in search of Hassan's orphan son, Sohrab, to repay the debt to Hassan for his loyalty. While in search of Sohrab, Amir discovers that Sohrab has been captured by the Taliban. Setting up a meeting with one of them, Sohrab asks the Talib for the boy. The Talib reveals himself as Aseff; both fight each other so that Amir may have Sohrab. Amir is severely injured, and only survives thanks to Sohrab, who uses a slingshot to destroy one of Aseff's eye. The two escape with Amir badly wounded. Amir adopts Sohrab and restores loyalty with Hassan by taking care of his child, saying a powerful quote in the book, "For you a thousand times over."

"For You A Thousand Times Over."

Theme

Redemption

Throughout the novel, Amir tries to repent for the evil things he has done by searching for ways to redeem himself. Everyday, the guilt of watching Hassan being raped haunts him to the very core, so much so to the point that he is insomniac. Furthermore, he thirsts to gain Baba's love, blaming himself for his mother's death. It is this guilt that he has inside him that drives him towards the end of the story to face great fears, such as his encounter with Aseff and rescuing Sohrab. Beginning when he was born, Amir faced great guilt, and it is his guilt in the end that gives him the courage to try and make the world a better place.

Evaluation

Thumbs Up

Personally, I like this book most for its mature messages. Many books I have read require little thought and understanding; this book, however, required a more mature look at it. With elements such as rape, guilt, and poverty, this novel took a look at the world for what it really is: a dangerous place. Very rarely are their happy endings, just as their was not one in this book. To take in a real life, believable story on both modern terrorism and poverty, I feel as though I have actually been able to take away some new knowledge. For instance, I learned how to say curse words in Farsi (the language spoken in the area), about kite-fighting, and awesome food in Afghan culture. Therefore, I approve this book:)!