From reading ‘The Kite Runner’, I realised that Afghanistan culture is not honestly illustrated in the media. Before reading this novel my views were negative and I only thought of Afghanistan as being a country which lacks control, unity and peace. Now, however, I am fully aware of the fact that afghan’s have strong morals and family values, and regard education as being a fundamental foundation in life.

In addition, it reminded me of the reality of war and peace in the Middle East and how there is always going to be social tensions in Afghanistan for as long as the Taliban are in charge.

Furthermore, I realised that the saying “once a coward, always a coward” has its flaws, as life always offers you a path to redemption – it’s just up to us to take the journey.

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How do you feel about the main character? Do you sympathise with them or do they make you angry?

Amir, the main character and narrator, tells his story of how he grew up in Afghanistan and the sins he had committed against his friend and half brother, Hassan. The story is mainly about his journey to redemption. However, throughout the novel we begin to feel extremely frustrated with Amir, as he grows increasingly jealous of his father’s apparent interest in Hassan and begins to treat Hassan more like a servant than a friend. Additionally, Amir has a problem being able to stick up for himself or others, showing he is very weak and at times incredibly selfish.

Later on, however, we do begin to feel increasingly sorry for Amir as he feels he has to constantly fight for his father’s love an approval, thus leading him to betray Hassan.

Does he/she present a problem or a solution to a problem? How do you feel about that problem?

Amir witnesses Hassan getting rapped by Assef, a boy in his class, out in the freezing streets of Kabul, however instead of rescuing Hassan – just as Hassan had rescued him – he runs away. The reader realises that Amir does struggle with Assef’s intimidation, but the real problem is that he is so self-centred that he cannot bring himself to defend Hassan.

However, Amir’s true triumph is when he stands up against Assef for Sohrab’s (Hassan’s son) rescue. At this point, he attempts to redeem himself for being a coward so many years ago.

Does the author present a realistic view of society as it exists or might exist?

Throughout the novel, the author paints a clear picture of the different social classes that did and still exists in Kabul, Afghanistan. The contrast between social classes is seen in Amir and Hassan. Amir lives a life of privilege and comfort in a fancy home and enjoys every social advantage that is being offered. Amir goes to school, owns books, and can read and write. Hassan, however, is a member of ‘Hazara; an ethnic minority in Afghanistan who can be recognized by their distinct ethnic features. The Hazara make up the lowest class in Afghan society. Throughout the novel they are loathed, rejected, and dismissed as human beings. They live lives of abject poverty and discrimination.

Racial and ethnic discrimination still exists in every society today; therefore I believe the author presents a realistic view of society and one which the reader can both reflect and relate to.

Theme

What is the main theme present in the novel?

Betrayal and redemption –

* After the kite flying tournament in Kabul, Amir betrays Hassan by turning a blind eye when Hassan is being tormented, bullied and finally raped. This results in Amir feeling enormously guilt-ridden, which haunts him for the majority of the novel.

* Motivated by intense jealousy, Amir sets-up Hassan, making him look like a thief- he plants an expensive watch and some money under Hassan’s bed. This drives Hassan and his father out of their home.

* In the last part of the novel, Amir redeems himself by travelling back to Afghanistan (a war-stricken country) and by an extraordinary act of courage, brings back Sohrab, Hassan’s son, to America. Amir then promises to raise and love him like his own son.

Character

Who is the main character and how do you learn what kind of a person they are?

Amir is the main character of ‘The Kite Runner’. Amir grows up surrounded in wealth and opportunities, as a member of a well-known ‘Pashtun’ family. The reader is told that Amir’s mother died giving birth to him, and his father often seems distant and disapproving towards him. Amir is physically weak and very seldom athletic: he lives in books and often mixes up reality with fantasy. Amir’s only friend is his servant, Hassan.

Near the beginning of the novel, the reader realises that Amir seems to feel that he is superior to Hassan because he is rich, he goes to school and he is not of Hassan’s ethnic group (the Hazara’s). Additionally Amir is also jealous of Hassan because his father pays a lot of attention to him, such as never forgetting his birthday. Amir no longer wants to be friends with Hassan due to their encounter with Assef, which results in Amir feeling threatened to be seen with Hassan. These early events involving Amir show him to be weak, self-absorbed and often disloyal.

Does the character change? If so in what way?

Near the end of the novel, Amir is able to seek redemption when he is given a chance “to be good again.” He is asked by Rahim Khan to find Hassan’s son. Amir nobly accepts and in doing so he enters a war-torn country and risks his life to save a child he has never met before. The reader sees Amir change into a man that is loyal, brave and determined. We also acknowledge the fact that Amir is no longer driven by guilt but love for his former friend, Hassan.

Are the characters well presented? Are they realistic and believable or flat, wooden stereotypes?

In the novel, the reader realises Hassan is sometimes presented unrealistically by taking the fault and punishments for Amir over and over again. On more than occasion, Hassan throws himself into a fight for Amir, even though Amir treats him with no respect or loyalty. Most people in today’s world would think twice about involving themselves in a battle for a friend who continued to be disloyal to them. Furthermore, Assef is portrayed as the perfect evil character; he rapes Hassan, worships the acts of Hitler and is often racist. The reader finds it hard to believe a young boy, like Assef, could commit such acts of violence.

Society and Setting

Is the main character in conflict with someone?

Amir doesn’t experience a continuing conflict with another character in the novel. However, as a man Amir does struggle with the inner conflict of his decisions he made when he was a child.

Amir is eventually given the opportunity to return home to Afghanistan, where he learns the truth: Hassan was really his half brother, and all the scrutiny and harshness he had inflicted on him during their youth was really towards his brother. Amir is then asked to find Hassan’s son, his nephew, and it is then that the reader witnesses Amir defeating his inner conflict as he grows to understand himself; he grows into a man of bravery and insightfulness.

Are we meant to compare and contrast certain characters?

Amir is the privileged son of a wealthy ‘Pashtun’ business man, whereas Hassan is the son of an underprivileged ‘Hazara’ servant. Therefore it is clear that Amir and Hassan come from contrasting backgrounds and live different styles of lives. The reader acknowledges the fact that they are forced to dislike Amir due to his selfish actions and drawn to like Hassan because of his angelic ways. We believe the author makes this contrast between these two characters in order to portray a very simple message: that the privileges you receive do not necessarily influence the person you will become.

Where and when the action is set?

There are many different settings in “The Kite Runner. The novel begins in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, in 2001. Though, the novel flashes back to Kabul, Afghanistan – where Amir grew up.

San Francisco is peaceful, tranquil and in complete contrast to the turbulent landscape of Afghanistan.

Is the author writing about the divisions in society?

Amir, belongs to the majority race called the ‘Pashtuns’, whereas Hassan belongs to a minority race called the ‘Hazaras’. Hazaras are frowned upon for there so called ‘china doll looks’. Even though they are both good friends, this difference created by society follows them for years and impacts both their lives quite severely.

Is the main character in conflict with society?

Hassan is never Amir’s true friend due to Hassan’s placement in Afghanistan society. The Afghanistan society places Hassan much lower than Amir. Therefore, if there was no such division in society, Amir would not have had to experience extreme guilt for the majority of his life. The reader believes that in a small way, Amir blames his society for the actions of his childhood.

Style

Are there any techniques the author uses frequently?

The majority of ”The Kite Runner” is written in English; however the author frequently makes use of different Arabic words. Since these words are not commonly used, seen, or heard in British society it catches the reader’s attention. The use of this foreign language allows us to relate more to Amir and his culture.

Furthermore, Khaled Hosseini employs the technique of foreshadowing throughout his novel. For example, on the first page Amir says: “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975”.The extent of Hosseini’s foreshadowing is more than expected and leaves the reader with an urge to find out more.

In addition, the author uses a motif throughout the novel. The words “For you, a thousand times over.” are repeated by Hassan in the beginning and by Amir at the end of the novel, showing an extreme change in Amir’s character and his love for Sohrab.

Is the style satirical, humorous, in the form of a fantasy, diary or is it very descriptive?

The writers use of imagery in ‘The Kite Runner’, results in the novel being very descriptive. For example, we see this at the beginning of the novel when Amir explains “When we were children, Hassan and I used to climb the poplar trees in the driveway of my father’s house and annoy our neighbours by reflecting sunlight into their homes with a shard of mirror”. The use of imagery here, transports the reader into the characters environment and in turn makes the novel more intriguing.

Is it very personal, giving you lots of information about how the main character feels and thinks? Is the main character the narrator? Does this influence your attitude?

The main character, Amir, is also the narrator. This results in the reader being more sympathetic towards Amir as you are seeing events through his eyes; however it does leave the reader with a biased viewpoint. In addition, it gives us a greater understanding of the theme of betrayal and redemption as we ourselves experience Amir’s real thoughts and feelings.

Does the author use description skilfully to create mood?

At the beginning of ‘The Kite Runner’ the mood created by the author seems positive and innocent – perhaps because the story is being told through Amir’s memories rather than as the events are happening. However, when the author describes the experience felt by Amir and Baba in the darkened basement the mood shifts from hopeful to dark and distressed. Although, the novel does end with the mood shifting back to hopeful as we are left with Amir teaching Hassan’s son, Sohrab, how to fly a kite.

Structure

What is the overall pattern of the events in the work? Why has the author planned it in this way?

‘The Kite Runner’ opens with the line: ‘I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975’. This raises the question, to what is Amir referring to? However, obtaining the answer to this question will take the entire novel; therefore this opening line suggests the promise of Amir’s story.

Hosseini’s overall pattern of events allows him to set up expectations early on in his novel and in the end turn those expectations on their heads.

Does it deal with several generations?

‘The Kite Runner’ deals with the history of Afghanistan across three different generations, each involving huge political changes: one experiences the rise of Taliban and the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Does the author use flashbacks?

Most of Hosseini’s novel is a detailed flashback which begins in 2001 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and ends there in 2002. This flashback transports the reader into Amir’s childhood and young adulthood before bringing us to his manhood.

Does the novel build to a climax or turning point or is there an anti-climax or cliff hanging ending?

Throughout the entire novel the writer spends most of his time building up to a climax. This climax is soon revealed when Amir fights Assef, for the freedom of Hassan’s son, Sohrab. In addition, this climax of Amir becoming brave is also a turning point as he can now walk away from his past knowing he has been granted redemption.

What is the tone of the novel?

Hosseini’s novel is mainly written in a solemn tone. This is due to the fact that the main message of his novel is a very serious one: that anyone, from any background is capable of committing a sin but on the other hand there is always a path to redemption.

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