This book was recommended to me by a good friend of mine, who said it was an amazing book. This person had been in Afghanistan and showed me some pictures and told me a little about the story. It sounded very interesting and luckily I have this book home, but never read it yet. So I decided I wanted to read this for my list for English.
Khaled Hosseini is an American novelist and also physician from Afghanistan. He now lives in the United States. In 2003 he wrote The Kite Runner, which was an international bestseller, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide.
Memories of Afghanistan, especially with the Hazara people led him to writing his first novel. Hosseini had always been good at reading and writing. At the age of 9 he was writing poetry and he taught his friend from Iraq how to read and write.
Analyzing the book
The story takes place in 1962 in Afghanistan, around Kabul to be exact. Later in the novel the setting moves on to the United States of America, California, San Fransisco. Then back to the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan, then to Pakistan and back to the United States again.
“Amir was born in 1963, in Kabul, who begins as a well-to-do boy in Afghanistan and later migrates to America following the downfall of the monarchy. Amir is Hassan's half-brother; however, Amir does not learn of their relationship until much later in his life.
Hassan is a childhood friend of Amir, although Amir never explicitly admitted to this. He is described as having a China doll face and green eyes. Hassan is first thought to be the son of Ali (Baba's servant and inexplicit childhood friend) and Sanaubar; later in the story, Hassan is revealed to be the illegitimate son of Baba and Sanaubar. Hassan died without ever knowing about the truth of him being Amir’s halfbrother.
Assef is a sadistic, sociopathic teenager from Amir's neighborhood in Kabul. He is described as being exceptionally handsome, blonde and blue-eyed. As a teenager, he rapes Hassan. As an adult he repeatedly rapes Hassan's son, Sohrab, and numerous other young children of both sexes. Neither act, however, seem to be matters of sexuality, so much as of dominance, as there does not seem to be any feelings of lust, at least during Hassan's rape. Assef is the son of a German mother and Afghan father. He hates the Hazaras, and he gives a book to Amir for his thirteenth birthday, which is about his idol, Hitler. Many years later Assef becomes part of the Taliban.
Ali is Baba's servant and childhood friend. He is initially thought to be the father of Hassan. Before the events of the novel, he had been struck with polio, rendering his right leg useless. Because of this, Ali was constantly tormented by children in the town. He was killed by a land mine after Baba and Amir left Afghanistan.
Rahim Khan is Baba's business partner and best friend in Afghanistan, later he was the one who tells Amir about Hassan's actual father. Amir liked him as a child, and Rahim Khan is also the one who invited Amir back to Pakistan to pick up Sohrab. Later in the story, Rahim Khan goes off alone leaving a letter to Amir telling him not to find him. He dies peacefully knowing he has successfully made Amir the man Baba wanted him to be.
Soraya is an Afghan woman living in the States. She marries Amir. Soraya wants to become a teacher. Before marrying Amir, she ran away with an Afghan boyfriend in Virginia, which, according to Afghan tradition, made her unsuitable for marriage. Because Amir also had his own regrets, he loved and married her anyway. Soraya desperately wants to have children but cannot conceive any.
Sohrab is the son of Hassan, traumatized and repeatedly raped by Assef. In the end, he is adopted by Amir.
Sanaubar is Ali's wife who gives birth to Hassan as a result of an affair with Baba. She then leaves home to pursue the life of a gypsy. She might have become involved with an Afghan army soldier who nostalgically describes her "sugary little cunt" to Hassan; whether this is true or whether the soldier was just making fun of the Hazara is never established. She later returns to Hassan in his adulthood to make up for her neglect of him when he was a child, providing a grandmother figure for Sohrab who nicknames her "Sasa".
Farid is a bitter driver who is initially aggressive toward Amir but later befriends him. Farid's two daughters were killed by a land mine years back, a disaster in which he also lost some of his fingers. Farid is Amir's means of transport, information, and knowledge of current Afghanistan when he returns.”
Point of view
The book is written in the first person point of view, narrated by Amir.
The duration of the story is approximately 39 years, from 1962 until 2001. The story skips time, as it starts when Amir is a kid, then a teenager, then an adult. Some years have been skipped; others have been spoken about very extensively. For the rest it is chronologically written, but the novel does include some flashbacks referring to Amir’s youth or things happened before.
The genre of the book is a psychological roman. The reader follows exactly what the main character is thinking. Also, it has a humanitarian and social aspect, as it shows you a whole new world: the world in the Middle East, which is generally unknown to me and many people living in the western culture.
Motifs and Theme
Father and son relationship: The relationship between the father, Baba, and the two sons Amir and Hassan. Although Hassan never knew that Baba was actually his real father, but nevertheless Baba always treated him like his own son. Amir always thought it was strange that his father would care for a servant this much, he always hated it when Baba gives Hassan more attention than Amir. For example when they were skipping rocks Hassan skipped more than Amir, Baba then put his hand on Hassan shoulder to congratulate. Amir felt then extremely jealous.
Amir would always try to be acknowledged by his father, especially when he was a 12 year old boy. He always felt that Baba was ashamed of his own son, for not being as strong, brave and not having the same interest has himself.
When he was small he thought his father hated him for killing his mother, when she died giving birth to Amir. Sometimes Amir wishes that Rahim Khan was his actual father, because he seemed to care more about him than his own father.
Betrayal: Baba was never a religious person; he only believed there was one sin, theft. He believed there are different variations of theft. For example pg 16: “When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband; rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”
Even though Amir and Baba are very different they have one thing in common, that his they both committed a sin of theft. Amir betrayed his best friend Hassan; instead of protecting Hassan from being beaten he just stood there and watched. And Baba betrayed his lifelong friend and servant by sleeping with his wife. They both want redemption for their sins in the past. Baba changed by building an orphanage, giving money to the poor, standing up for the weak, etc. And Amir atoned for his sins by rescuing Hassan’s son, Sohrab, from the Taliban.
Loyalty: The author portrayed the absolute loyalty between a Hazara servant and his master. Under no circumstances would Hassan betray Amir. Amir would often tease Hassan by asking him if he would do anything for him, to see how loyal he is to him, for example he would ask Hassan if he would eat dirt if he is told to. At one point Amir deliberately hit Hassan many times with pomegranates, and begged him afterwards to retaliate, but Hassan refused to hit his master. Even when Hassan supposedly stole money, he would never betray his master; he took the fall for the theft, even though he knew full well that Amir was the mastermind behind this act.
Master & servant: Amir and Hassan were best friends; they always played with each other when they were small. But even though they were good friends Amir was always a little ashamed of playing with a Hazara. He would never include Hassan if he was playing with friends from his school.
Flying a kite--or kite running--is as much of a national sport in Afghanistan as playing baseball or flag football in St.Maarten. The title refers to the characters Hassan, the good friend of Amir, who is the narrator of the story. It also refers to the event that changes the lives of both of these boys, the competitive kite running that Amir wins, with the help of Hassan, after which Amir shames himself by not coming to the aid of Hassan when he needs him. Besides referring to these characters and these events, the title also refers the freedom of the kite made possible by controlling it through manipulation of the spool. The freedom, then, is only partial, but beautiful, a cooperation, in this case, between 2 boys and nature.
The ambiance changes drastically as the story goes on. In the beginning of the story in 1962, everything was peaceful in Kabul. Every winter they would have kite tournaments, where all the children would come out and play. There would be pomegranate trees, full with pomegranates. But after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, everything was destroyed. All the roads and buildings had been heavily damaged; trees like the pomegranate were all gone, people who were once professors were now homeless in search for food.
The ambience also changed when Baba and Amir fled to the United States, the luxury life they had lived in Kabul was gone, now they were just low class people trying to get back on their feet. They had a little apartment, Baba had a low class job by the gas station and they did all they could do to earn a little bit of extra money.
This is such an unforgettable and heartbreaking story as a you read about the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant. It’s beautifully crafted in such a nice country. Not nice as in beautiful, but nice as in that it is being destroyed but people still bring beauty to the country, besides that the nature is very different from ours.
What I liked a lot is the whole symbolism behind the story. The kite running, something done by many, which bring the people very close to each other, it is beautiful to see. The power people have over each other is unbelievable, it’s very sad to see that it was hard to have your freedom if you lived in a country like Afghanistan. After the Taliban took over, you had to wear a beard for example. Everyone had to be the same. I think this is a very touching thing as you see that freedom is not spoken of and people are not being accepted by their fellow citizens if they’re different.
The way Khalid tells the story makes me very curious about the world I haven’t seen before; it’s like lessons of true history. You get a real look at the Afghanistan world, which is unseen by many. But not just at the country, but the little local things happening in the surroundings of Amir. This is one of the best books I have ever read, as it has made me think a lot about the situations in countries that I haven’t seen before.
It made me think about good and evil, redemption, betrayal and friendship. The characters are very touching, they are just like you imagine in real life. You can really see the story through Amir’s eyes, as it’s written in the first person, besides that the way Khalid wrote the novel, you bond with the characters in different ways. Agreeing with them, or just knowing certain situations and understanding them, bonded me with them.
When I was reading the book, I couldn’t put it down, that’s why I read it in one day! That’s very unusual for me, as it normally takes me a few weeks to read a book. It’s a very suspenseful story with a lot to it, which keeps you excited until the end.
One of the things I truly liked as well, was that there are so many different moods and themes going on. There’s happiness and friendship, while it is a sad world at war with disasters all the time. There’s hate among the people, while you can also find love between some. Surviving the situation, this novel is about humanity.
It’s a very intense book and I get quite agitated reading some things happening in Afghanistan, it’s unbelievable. I really hope the people there will get their freedom soon and be able to do whatever they want. The way women are treated is very unfair as well, but we can’t do anything. It hurts me to think this way, but it’s a fact.
“Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara and the son of Amir's father's servant, Ali, spend their days in a peaceful Kabul, kite fighting, roaming the streets and being boys. Amir’s father (who is generally referred to as Baba, "daddy", throughout the book) loves both the boys, but seems critical of Amir for not being manly enough. Amir also fears his father blames him for his mother’s death during childbirth. However, he has a kind father figure in the form of Rahim Khan, Baba’s friend, who understands Amir better, and is supportive of his interest in writing stories.
Assef, a notoriously mean and violent older boy with sadistic tendencies, blames Amir for socializing with a Hazara, according to Assef an inferior race that should only live in Hazarajat. He prepares to attack Amir with his steel knuckles, but Hassan bravely stands up to him, threatening to shoot Assef in the eye with his slingshot. Assef and his henchmen back off, but Assef says he will take revenge.
Hassan is a successful "kite runner" for Amir, knowing where the kite will land without even watching it. One triumphant day, Amir wins the local tournament, and finally Baba's praise. Hassan goes to run the last cut kite, a great trophy, for Amir saying "For you, a thousand times over." Unfortunately, Hassan runs into Assef and his two henchmen. Hassan refuses to give up Amir's kite, so Assef exacts his revenge, assaulting and raping him. Wondering why Hassan is taking so long, Amir searches for Hassan and hides when he hears Assef's voice. He witnesses the rape but is too scared to help him. Afterwards, for some time Hassan and Amir keep a distance from each other. Amir reacts indifferently because he feels ashamed, and is frustrated by Hassan's saint-like behavior. Already jealous of Baba's love for Hassan, he worries if Baba knew how bravely Hassan defended Amir's kite, and how cowardly Amir acted, that Baba's love for Hassan would grow even more.
To force Hassan to leave, Amir frames him as a thief, and Hassan falsely confesses. Baba forgives him, despite the fact that, as he explained earlier, he believes that "there is no act more wretched than stealing." Hassan and his father Ali, to Baba's extreme sorrow, leave anyway. Hassan's departure frees Amir of the daily reminder of his cowardice and betrayal, but he still lives in their shadow and his guilt.
Five years later, the Russians invade Afghanistan; Amir and Baba escape to Peshawar, Pakistan and then to Fremont, California, where Amir and Baba, who lived in luxury in an expansive mansion in Afghanistan, settle in a run-down apartment and Baba begins work at a gas station. Amir eventually takes classes at a local community college to develop his writing skills. Every Sunday, Baba and Amir make extra money selling used goods at a flea market in San Jose. There, Amir meets fellow refugee Soraya Taheri and her family; Soraya's father, who was a high-ranking officer in Afghanistan, has contempt of Amir's literary aspiration. Baba is diagnosed with terminal oat cell carcinoma but is still capable of granting Amir one last favor: he asks Soraya's father's permission for Amir to marry her. He agrees and the two marry. Shortly thereafter Baba dies. Amir and Soraya learn that they cannot have children.
Amir embarks on a successful career as a novelist. Fifteen years after his wedding, Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan, who is dying from an illness. Rahim Khan asks Amir to come to Pakistan. He enigmatically tells Amir "there is a way to be good again." Amir goes.
From Rahim Khan, Amir learns the fates of Ali and Hassan. Ali was killed by a land mine. Hassan had a wife and a son, named Sohrab, and had r eturned to Baba’s house as a caretaker at Rahim Khan’s request. One day the Taliban ordered him to give it up and leave, but he refused, and was murdered, along with his wife. Rahim Khan reveals that Ali was not really Hassan's father. Hassan was actually the son of Baba, therefore Amir's half-brother. Finally, Rahim Khan tells Amir that the true reason he has called Amir to Pakistan is to go to Kabul to rescue Hassan's son, Sohrab, from an orphanage.
Amir returns to Taliban-controlled Kabul with a guide, Farid, and searches for Sohrab at the orphanage. In order to enter Taliban territory, Amir, who is normally clean shaven, dons a fake beard and mustache, because otherwise the Taliban would exact Shariah punishment against him. However, he does not find Sohrab where he was supposed to be: the director of the orphanage tells them that a Taliban official comes often, brings cash and usually takes a girl back with him. Once in a while however, he takes a boy, recently Sohrab. The director tells Amir to go to a soccer match and the man "who does the speeches" is the man who took Sohrab. Farid manages to secure an appointment with the speaker at his home, by saying that he and Amir have "personal business" with him.
At the house, Amir has his meeting with the man in sunglasses,who says the man who does the speeches is not available,. The man in sunglasses is eventually revealed to be his childhood nemesis, Assef. Assef is aware of Amir's identity from the very beginning, but Amir doesn't realize who he's sitting across from until Assef starts asking about Ali, Baba and Hassan. Sohrab is being kept at the home where he is made to dance dressed in women's clothes, and it seems Assef might have been sexually assaulting him. (Sohrab later says, "I'm so dirty and full of sin. The bad man and the other two did things to me.") Assef agrees to relinquish him, but only for a price - cruelly beating Amir. However, Amir is saved when Sohrab uses his slingshot to shoot out Assef's left eye, fulfilling the threat his father had made many years before.
Amir tells Sohrab of his plans to take him back to America and possibly adopt him, and promises that he will never be sent to an orphanage again. After almost having to break that promise (after decades of war, paperwork documenting Sohrab's orphan status, as demanded by the US authorities, is impossible to get) and Sohrab attempting suicide, Amir manages to take him back to the United States and introduces him to his wife. However, Sohrab is emotionally damaged and refuses to speak or even glance at Soraya. This continues until his frozen emotions are thawed when Amir reminisces about his father, Hassan, while kite flying. Amir shows off some of Hassan’s tricks, and Sohrab begins to interact with Amir again. In the end Sohrab only shows a lopsided smile, but Amir takes to it with all his heart as he runs the kite for Sohrab, saying, "For you, a thousand times over.".”