The Kite Runner 1/3

Khaled Hosseni’s “The Kite Runner” is, to simply put, heartbreaking. The first section is primarily a narrative detailing the main character Amir’s childhood in pre-war Afghanistan. The first section is shocking and at times overwhelming, too realistic and gritty to be beautiful, but full of childish innocence, and Afghan culture that perfectly complements the story.

At first, Amir is nothing more than a spoiled child in a large house. He consciously belittles in thought and words Hassan, the son of Ali, his father’s friend and servant, and a Hazara Muslim, a member of an oppressed ethnic minority. Though raised by the same nurse as a child, Amir ignores the supposed brotherhood they share and cannot see Hassan even as a friend due to ingrained societal prejudice regarding class expectations. Amir harbors many guilty feelings regarding Hassan, from simple trickery to a horrific incident that Amir was too cowardly to stop, a disturbing and heart-wrenching scene that I cannot describe. Though looking down on Hassan, Amir is almost resentful of the affection that his father displays towards Hassan, requesting to take him on outings, buying him gifts, and almost embracing him as another son. Amir also seems jealous of Ali’s love and protection for Hassan, deeply contrasting with his relationship with his own father.

Amir’s father (or Baba) is a passionate and hardworking business man, who rarely displays affection towards his son. Throughout the novel, Amir’s main long-term goal seems to be pleasing his father. Amir somewhat disappoints his father by defying what a male in his society should be, not athletic, but rather transfixed with literature and with writing aspirations, finally pleasing his father when he wins a contest only to cause a rift in the dynamic. Their relationship starkly contrasts many father and child relationships evoked in traditional literature, Liesel and Hans, Harry and Hagrid/Dumbledore, or even Atticus and Scout. I was slightly surprised by Baba’s opposition to the Islamic religion, and his moral character, as I observed his almost blind sense of justice.

I both pity and almost despise Amir as a character, a prejudiced and bratty child who is yet so alone, without a mother or any sort of female tenderness in his life. His sole interest is discouraged by father, and he is left to feel worthless, solitary, and incredibly frustrated. Hassan is almost too easy to read, too kind, too loving, too trusting to the point where I began to feel a pity for the boy. On the other hand, I felt a sort of disgust at Amir’s reactions to certain situations, until I reminded myself of his youth. While Hassan is an open novel, Amir is so closed off, consumed by the guilt he carries on his scrawny shoulders.

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7 responses to “The Kite Runner 1/3

  1. So far, “The Kite Runner” has proven to be one of the most heart-rending novels I have ever read. As Mia said earlier, the first section is all about the life and childhood of Amir, a spoiled child living in Afghanistan with his father. They live like kings, with their giant house, extravagant parties, and two servants, Ali and Hassan. Hassan is a child the same age as Amir, and they have been as close as brothers since birth.

    It doesn’t take long for the reader to realize, however, that Amir feels a sense of superiority over Hassan. After Amir tells him a story he wrote and Hassan makes a suggestion, Amir thinks, “What does he know, that illiterate Hazara? He’ll never be anything but a cook. How dare he criticize you?” This subconscious thought uncovers exactly who Amir is, and his prideful traits continue to show themselves throughout the book.

    I found a lot of irony when learning about Amir’s relationship with his father. Amir’s father, Baba, is a powerful figure of Afghan society. He is courageous, confident, and heroic. He always does what is right, except father his son. Baba’s constant need for popularity and heroism keeps him distanced from Amir. Amir spends his whole childhood trying to build bridges between him and his father, but Baba’s seeming disgust for him makes it difficult for Amir to accomplish this. Baba desires for Amir to be just like him, but he is always too busy to be a role model. Because of his neglect, Amir is the opposite of his father. Amir’s self-esteem is so incredibly low that he takes his pain out on others. He commonly attacks Hassan with words and petty trickery, but Hassan’s loyalty keeps him by Amir’s side.

    There is one scene in which the differences between Amir and his father are truly uncovered. Amir is looking for Hassan when he hears voices in an alley. He hides behind a wall and watches as three bullies attack Hassan and rape him. Amir almost tries to help and be a hero like Baba, but his cowardice and pride remind him that he doesn’t have to do anything. This horrific scene really made me wonder. Is Amir’s decision to do nothing really his fault? I know that it was him who watched this happen, and him who thought himself to be above doing the right thing. However, I believe that Baba is the real reason why Amir did what he did. Baba had always had some sort of a soft spot for Hassan, and this angered Amir greatly. I think that Amir was jealous of the attention Hassan received from his father, and the fact that Baba seemed to love Hassan more than him made Amir extremely upset. If Baba had mentored and cared more for Amir, there is no doubt in my mind that Amir would have done the right thing when he saw Hassan in the alley.

  2. The second part of “The Kite Runner” is all about the adult life of Amir. After deciding that life in Afghanistan was too dangerous, he and Baba move to the United States, in Freemont, California. While here, Amir goes to college and pursues his love of writing, and Baba works at a gas station. I found that both Amir and Baba looked at their move to California as a “new start.” However, they feel differently about what this means. For Baba, this is an abandonment of his culture. He misses Afghanistan. He misses his parties, his friends, and ultimately, his social status. A man who was once rich and popular is now living in a run-down apartment and working at a gas station. While Baba looks at his move as an unfortunate but necessary action, Amir looks at it as a miracle. The idea of a new start is tremendously appealing to Amir. He would do anything to run away from his past.

    Little did Amir know, running away from his past didn’t prevent it from following him. Amir’s regret is always in the back of his mind. It never goes away. He finds himself constantly thinking of Hassan and of his own horrific betrayal. After learning from Rahim Khan, Baba’s old friend and a father figure of Amir, about Hassan’s murder, Amir has a dream. In it, he narrates, “I see the barrel first. Then the man standing behind him. He is tall, dressed in a herringbone vest and a black turban… The rifle roars with a deafening crack. I follow the barrel on its upward arc. I see the face behind the plume of smoke swirling from the muzzle. I am the man in the herringbone vest” (240).

    As proven by his dream, Amir still hasn’t forgiven himself for what he did to Hassan all those years ago. He ultimately believes that he is responsible for Hassan’s death. If he had stood up to the bullies in the alley, none of this would’ve ever happened. I found that Amir really hasn’t matured much since moving to America. All those years ago, when he refused to help Hassan in the alley, he was an insecure young boy with a low self esteem. Now, thirty years later, nothing has really changed. He is simply burying his guilt deep inside his heart because he is too afraid to face it. He is still as cowardly as he was as a boy.

    Amir now has the chance to do something that could potentially “make him good again.” Rahim Kahn has told him that Hassan’s son is in an orphanage in Kabul, and he hopes that Amir will find him. I wonder if Amir will finally do what is right, or if he will continue on as a coward, pretending nothing is wrong.

  3. miacremona

    The second third of the Kite Runner is definitely focuses on the idea of beginnings, but also ends. Though Amir is able to get married to Soraya, a woman whom he loves, graduate college with an English degree, and start a life in San Francisco, a tragedy occurs. The ever headstrong Baba passes away after suffering from cancer. Though he has moved to a completely new country, Baba remains a man who is strong in his identity and morals, refusing treatment and deciding to leave the world on his own terms, very similar to the stubborn Mrs. Dubose in To Kill A Mockingbird who withdraws from morphine as she dies.

    I completely agree with the statement that Amir does remain the little cowardly Afghan boy at heart in a way, but he does gain courage that was not present previously. When he discusses his college education with his father, he remains certain that he will study English. Amir says ¨But I would stand my ground, I decided. I didn’t want to sacrifice for Baba anymore (Hosseini 135)”. He shows growth in his ability to stand up to his father and in knowing who he is in his, much as his father does. The one thing that remains similar to his childhood, however, is his stance on Hassan and the feelings revolving around his childhood companion.

    Hassan is never actually seen again as a living character, but he no doubt plays an incredibly large role in the novel. Hassan is the only perpetual force of good and has a large impact on Hassan’s life, always influencing the ever-present theme of guilt. Amir describes “thorny old barbs of guilt” that bore into him as he discusses Hassan. Amir has always kept his feelings buried deep inside of him, which have provoked his cowardly actions, originating from the time he witnessed Hassan’s assault to the time he learns of his murder. Amir believes that he is the reason for the horrific events in his life, yet what I don’t think he realizes is that he has a choice in what he can do with that knowledge. Amir has a choice to live for Hassan and to do the right thing, or to remain silently in cowardice.

  4. The last third of The Kite Runner is all about Amir’s mission to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab, and bring him back to the United States. His journey is filled with violence and heart-break, but it is ultimately a story of healing. After learning from the owner of the orphanage that Sohrab was taken by a violent and terrible man, Amir embarks on a dangerous journey to get him back. Little did he know, the man is Assef, the bully from his childhood who raped Hassan all those years ago. When they meet each other, Assef tells Amir that he can take Sohrab if and only if he beats him in a fight. The fight is extremely violent, leaving Amir broken and disfigured. However, as proven on page 289, Amir feels a sense of peace while being beaten up by Assef. “I hadn’t been happy and I hadn’t felt better, not at all. But I did now. My body was broken- just how badly I would’t find out until later- but I felt healed. Healed at last.” Ever since that terrible day in the alley, Amir has felt internally broken. He has wanted to feel externally broken in order to take the pain away from his heart. This beating is both a painful and terrible experience, but also, it is Amir’s chance to feel at peace again.

    Guilt was a central theme throughout the book, but it was most prominent in the last third of the novel. Amir’s guilt has tortured him for his whole life, but it is finally leading to good. His guilt has made him indebted to Hassan’s name, and he is ultimately paying back this debt by rescuing Sohrab. Amir receives a letter from Rahim Khan that explains everything about Baba’s troubled life and why he was so hard on Amir. In it, he writes, “‘Sometimes, I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good’” (302). This explanation of Baba’s motives shows the reader how similar Amir and his father truly were. They were both tortured souls filled to the brim with guilt. Now, Amir is becoming the hero that Baba was, and his guilt is leading to good.

    The book ends in America, where Amir has taken Sohrab back to live with him and his wife. Sohrab is extremely depressed after an attempted suicide, refusing to talk, laugh, and interact with anyone. The conclusion of the novel is about Amir participating in a Kite Running contest. He asks Sohrab if he wants to try, and he reluctantly accepts. After teaching Sohrab how to fly the kite, he looks down at him and sees something for the first time since Sohrab’s attempted suicide. “I looked down at Sohrab. One corner of his mouth had curled up just so. A smile” (371). This miraculous act gives the reader hope that Sohrab will be able to love life; he will be able to experience a happy childhood. Most of all, however, it shows that he will always be connected to his father. His joyfulness while flying kites demonstrates an internal connection to Hassan, who loved Kite Running more than anything. Amir’s guilt has led to an amazing thing, and he has truly redeemed himself.

  5. miacremona

    Amir truly grows the most within the third and final section of The Kite Runner. He is able to redeem himself as a man, and to prove himself worthy of the benevolence of his old friend Hassan and indeed uses his guilt to propel him towards gracious acts. His fight with Assef symbolizes what he believes he should have done all those years ago when Hassan was assaulted, setting on the path of absolution from the injustices he directed towards Hassan.

    Of course, guilt is still strongly depicted in the story and ultimately, Amir is able to direct his negative emotions towards the good as he saves Sohrab from the Taliban and brings him to the United States. But regret and shame are present in an unexpected character: Baba. Though he raised Amir in wealth and privilege, he neglected his other son: Hassan. For me, one of the most shocking moments in the novel was the revelation that Hassan and Amir were brothers. Baba is shown to have had extremely guilty feelings about the different ways he raised his two boys, leaving Hassan with Ali and having Amir grow up as his own. It is left unstated as to why Baba did so, but I infer he acted as he did due to his pride and even subtle prejudice,

    Though he has been an adult for sometime, Amir never fully matures until he encounters Sohrab. Never before has he dedicated himself so wholeheartedly to something, and done so completely selflessly. Amir knows that he owes a sort of moral debt to Hassan and that he will finally feel almost ¨pure¨ if he fights to bring Sohrab to the US. After Sohrab attempts suicide, Amir is anguished and I believe in the moment he sits in the hospital waiting room he changes forever. Ämir says ¨I will do namaz, I will do zakat…I will fast (Hosseini 348)¨. In that small sliver of time, Amir learns to be grateful and to truly appreciate life in it´s forms.

    The end of the novel is gritty and real. There are no blatantly happy endings, no fairy tale sunsets or complete enlightenment. There is only a faint smile from Sohrab, a boy chasing a kite just as his father did many many years before. There is Amir, who plays two similar scenes in lands thousands of miles apart, and is able to finally put his guilt behind him and focus on the small yet oh-so-possible realities and hopes of the human experience.

  6. 8.5/10

    Overall, “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini is a very good book. Not only does it highlight the injustice and terror that was always present in war-ridden Afghanistan, but it is also a narrative that makes the book much more personal. I love Hosseini’s writing style; his powerful language and imagery allow the reader to not only imagine the novel’s events, but to experience them. His ability to impact the reader on such an emotional level is truly magnificent, and the lessons he teaches through his characters are compelling.

    I found myself shocked with many of the events of the book; Hassan’s rape, the realization that Amir and Hassan were brothers, Sohrab’s attempted suicide, and more- all of these events left me with my jaw dropped. Hosseini’s unpredictability was an extremely impressive aspect of his writing. In the first and third parts of the book especially, I found a surprise on every page.

    The reason I didn’t give a perfect rating was because of the second third of the book. As I said earlier, the first and third parts were crafted beautifully. I was always on the edge of my seat while reading. However, I found the second part of the book to be quite boring. The second part of the novel is about Amir’s new life in America. I was forced to read page after page about Amir and the flea market and his new wife and more and more and more. The only thing I wanted to read about was Hassan! What happened to him? Ultimately, I found the second part of the book to be a waste of precious pages. Hosseini could have used this space to thicken the plot and give the reader more in depth explanations of Hassan’s life after leaving Amir. Hassan was just as important a character as Amir, so why didn’t Hosseini write more about him?

    Other than the disappointing second third of the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Kite Runner.” If you enjoy historical fiction with a personal and heart- wrenching twist, I highly recommend this book.

  7. miacremona

    The Kite Runner 8.5/10

    For me, in a world of fantastical (albeit wonderfully crafted) stories about fantasy lands and mythical creatures, the Kite Runner was a breath of fresh air. No novel has ever so beautiful captured the human experience in a such a real and gritty way. While not being overly embellished, Khaled Hosseini’s writing showed me the streets of Afghanistan in a way only a truly brilliant author can. The characters were very believable, Amir was a flawed human being who held internal prejudice and a myriad of regrets and guilty feelings, but was able to overcome his previous beliefs. Personally, I feel Amir’s growth was very evident in this novel, something lacked by many other books. Hassan was kind and good, presenting the idea that purity does not mean simplicity and that there are people who truly, genuinely care about others. Baba was a man who seemed strong in his morals, but ultimately was found to have committed a multitude of mistakes and had lead his life subtly according to his many regrets.

    While much of the book was carefully crafted, I found it a little unbelievable that after coming to Afghanistan, Amir once again faced his tormentor in the form of a member of the Taliban, Assef. I truly believe that coincidence’s may be possible, but at the same time I found it extremely far-fetched that after Hassan’s assault by Assef, Assef had unknowingly taken Hassan’s son, and then proceeded to fight Amir, a man he recognized after over a decade after fleeing the country. For me, this moment was too unconvincing and was perhaps the most major flaw in the book for me.

    Despite my scrutiny, I truly recommend the Kite Runner to anyone who enjoys literature. It does not matter if you are accustomed to books about mythology or wizardry, science fiction, or dystopian universes. The Kite Runner is so human and so real that any reader would enjoy it. The Kite Runner left me shocked, heartbroken, informed, and hopeful. Anyone who appreciates a well-developed story will absolutely appreciate Khaled Hossieni’s wonderfully crafted novel.

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