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.