The Kite Runner: Themes
The friendship between Amir and Hassan is arguably the most important relationship in the novel, but it is not without its complications. The boys were always inseparable and developed a strong friendship with one another. Hassan tried to teach Amir more athletic and playful activities while Amir taught Hassan about reading and books. The friendship takes a twist when Amir witnesses a horrific event in Hassan’s life and pushes him away. It is not until after Hassan’s death that Amir finds out that Hassan never held a grudge against him and spoke to his own son about his best friend, Amir.
There are a few sources of betrayal in the book: Amir’s betrayal of Hassan, Baba’s betrayal of Ali, and Assef’s betrayal of his people are the most notable. For Amir, it is his betrayal of Hassan that stays with him more than anything in his life. He is unable to stop thinking about Hassan and when he finds out that Hassan was massacred with other Hazaras he feels responsible for his death. Amir believes that if he had not driven Hassan and Ali out of his home that they may have survived. Baba betrays Ali by sleeping with and impregnating his wife and Assef betrays his people by joining the Taliban.
While admiration is generally a good thing, in the case of “The Kite Runner” it causes some terrible events to take place. Amir admires his father so much that he results himself to committing certain unsavory deeds to earn his father’s respect. The worst of these deeds is when he hides his watch and some money under Hassan’s mattress and tells his father that it was stolen. The end result is Hassan and Ali moving out of the house and the end of Amir and Hassan’s friendship all because of Amir’s jealousy when someone else gets Baba’s attention.
The events of this novel take place from the beginning of turmoil within Afghanistan and the emergence of the Taliban until 2002, one year after the twin towers are flown into. As Amir is growing up there is a lot of tension between the different ethnicities, especially against the Hazara of which Hassan and Ali are members. When Amir and Baba are getting ready to leave the country, destruction is beginning to occur all around them. When Amir returns to Kabul, he is in awe of the scene that surrounds him; everything is in shambles, there are homeless beggars everywhere, and the Hazaras (including Hassan) have all been massacred.
Amir and Hassan were once carefree children who were innocent and knew nothing first hand of war, violence, abuse, or serious racism. As the Taliban influence, starts making its way into Kabul the innocence of the boys is taken away from them. The single act that sticks out is when Hassan is raped in an alley by Assef and his cronies; Amir sees it happen but does not tell Hassan or save him. Later in life when Assef joins the Taliban and has already killed Hassan he buys Hassan’s son Sohrab from an orphanage and sexually abuses him, as well. The children in the novel are never allowed to be children for long.
The main source of racism in Afghanistan occurs against the Hazara, who are seen as lesser beings by most of the other people in the country. Unfortunately for Hassan and Ali, they are Hazara but they are protected to a point by living with Amir and Baba who are Pashtun. When the boys are growing up Hassan is picked on by bullies for being Hazara and Ali is called cruel names but it is not until the Taliban starts to come in that the Hazara are truly discriminated against. The Taliban takes a cue from Hitler and makes a mission to exterminate the entire Hazara race; Hassan is a victim of the massacre.
Amir has very low self-esteem as a child and desperately seeks the approval of Baba whom he admires greatly. Amir often gets jealous of boys who seem to impress his father more than he does.This occurs when Amir sees Assef talking to Baba about soccer, which is something that Baba wishes Amir would participate in, but Amir does not enjoy and is not very good at. He is also jealous of all the attention Baba gives to Hassan, not knowing that Baba is actually Hassan’s father. The jealousy leads to Amir pushing away his best friend and feeling guilty about it for the rest of his life.
Amir, living in California, receives a letter from Rahim Khan telling him that he can “be good again” which to Amir means he can repent for his sins and get redemption. Amir is sad to learn that Hassan has died, but he makes it a mission to rescue Hassan’s son, especially when he finds out that the very same person (Assef) who raped Hassan when they were children is doing the same thing to Hassan’s son Sohrab. Amir cares for Sohrab and takes him in as his own son to get redemption for his and his father’s betrayal of Ali and Hassan.
Family is an interesting dynamic within this novel because it is seen in several forms. Amir and Baba are a family, and Ali and Hassan are a family; together all four of these men are family even before it is learned that Hassan is actually Baba’s son. Amir forms his own family with his wife in America and Hassan marries and has a child of his own. After Hassan, Baba, and Ali all die Amir returns to retrieve the son of his best friend and half-brother and to bring him back to America. In this move, Amir is coming full-circle for his family which has been broken up and pulling it back together.
The past haunts Amir from the time Hassan walks out of his life. He feels intense guilt for Hassan and Ali leaving the house, and when he finds out that both men are killed he feels exponentially guiltier than ever before. Amir never stops thinking about Hassan and sees many things that remind him of his childhood friend. The past really comes back to bite Amir when he realizes that the man who is holding Hassan’s son Sohrab is the same man who raped Hassan when they were all just boys. Amir is finally able to step away from the haunting of his past when he takes Sohrab in as his own son.