The Kite Runner



At the opening Baba is presented as physically strong, headstrong, proud, opinionated and a pillar of the community. "Lore has it my father once wrestled a bear" - The association between Baba and the bear in Amir's mind reflects his view of his father's strength and power but also suggests some fear. There are use of modifiers "towering" and "unruly" and the dynamic verb "thundered" which present Baba as physically imposing also wilful and headstrong. The use of the similie "like sunflowers" reflects Amir's view of his father as someone who is well respected and admired in the community. Rahim Kahim referred to him as "Mr Hurricane", the noun "hurricane" comes with connotations of power, violence and unpredictability. Baba is presented with having a fiery temper

In Amir's view Baba's reputation, courage and strength provide an impossible ideal that he feels unable to live up to, this leaves him with feelings of inadequacy. Baba is portrayed as a generous character; he builds an orphanage using his own money. But later we find out that these acts of benevolence were a way of trying to redeem himself for his betrayal of Ali and Hassan. He is also presented as a stubborn but yet ultimately successful man when he refuses to hire an architect in the design for the orphanage. 

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Developments in presentation of Baba later in nove

Baba is presented as a unpredictable and temperamental character but also affected by notions of honour and shame. In (10) he stands up to a Russian solider in order to protect a woman, this represents him as a character who is willing to risk his safety in order to stand up for he believes to be right. Baba is used as a means of critiquing the concepts of honour and shame in Afghan culture. When Rahim explains why Baba lied the reader gains a sympathetic view of Baba because he was bound by cultural constraints to admit to a son he dearly loved. Hosseini suggests honour and shame are achieved at the expense of family ties

Hosseini develops the early presentation of Baba as opinonated in terms of religion and politics. After the move to America his reference to Jimmy Carter being a "big toothed cretin" is reminiscent of his disparaging comment about religious leaders. When in America, Baba's loss of status and power is reflected in the image of hands. The use of the adjectives "grubby" and "calloused" reflect hard manual labour. Juxtaposes with Amir's hands which are "clean and soft". Baba's hands creates a sympathetic presentation of Baba as a man who is working hard to pay for an education for his son and it also reflects Amir's sense of guilt. When Baba has cancer Amir describes "his shoulder blade felt like a bird's wing under my fingers". This similie presents Baba as being fragile and vulnerable which juxtaposes with earlier presentations of power & strength. 

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Baba's relationship with Amir, Ali and Hassan

Amir strives to win his father's approval and is elated after winning the kite flying competition, noticing that his father "was standing on the edge. pumping both of his fists". Baba is presented as a distant and somewhat uncaring father. Hosseini converys Baba's critical view of his son through direct speech "a boy who won't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up to anything".The irony being that Baba considers Amir cowardly but later we find out that Baba has behaved in a cowardly way by not admitting to being Hassan's father. The hyprocrisy is highlighted in Amir's reflections that his father committed the worst sin -stealing.In America Baba is presented as a proud father. This suggests that Amir's earlier perceptions of his father were tainted by his childish jealousy and fear of failing to live up to expectation. Amir's view of his father in America reflects a matured narrative voice, he now sees his father's love and pride.

Baba and Ali relationship is parallel to Amir and Hassan. When gunshots are fired it is evident that Baba's first instinct is to protect both of his sons. In America Baba still thinks of Hassan at Amir's graduation. Baba is one of the characters in the novel through which Hosseini develops and explores the themes of betrayl, guilt and redemption, primarily in terms of his actions towards and relationships with Ali, Amir and Hassan

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The Move to America: difficulty of emigration

Hosseini portrays Baba as a man who is unable to adapt to life in America. "the fruit was never sweet enough, the water was never clean enough and where were all the trees and open fields?"."Almost two years we've bought his damn fruits and put money in his pocket and the son of a dog want to see my license!"

These descriptions emphasize Baba's physical reaction to his new environment, many of the images connect to allergy which symbolises his inability to adapt to and fit in to an American way of life. 

This description also emphasizes Baba's deep connection with Afghanistan, the natural images (fruit, trees, water, fields) convey his strong connection with his homeland. Baba is used to represent the fact that we never lose a sense of connection with our country of birth and he also explores the difficulties of emigration.

Baba is presented as a widower who remarries but can't let go of his dead wife. This parallels with Amir when he has to go back to Afghanistan he is presented as having re-connected with his roots. 

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Rahim Khan

Hosseini employs the narrative device of a letter to offer the reader an alternative perspective of Baba's character. Through the letter we gain a more sympathetic view of Baba's actions. "...It was my past of unatoned sins". The use of the abstract noun "sins" suggests that Rahim Khan is connected to an event for which the narrator feels some degree of guilt. Rahim is a father figure to Amir offering him kindness and support which he is lacking. Khan and Baba is (3) defends Amir against his father's criticism. Khan is intuitive, the analogy of the colouring book demonstrates his recognition that Baba's expectations of Amir are unfair.

 Khan is a true friend because he is willing to criticise him when necessary. (8) Khan is instinctive because he was "silent" and "..looking at me in a odd way" after Hassans ****. The use of the adjectives "silent" and "odd" which suggest that he recognises that Amir is unhappy. Later we know that Khan knew about the **** but at exactly what point remains ambiguous, which might also mean that he is disappointed in Amir. Through direct speech Hosseini portrays Khan as a character trying to offer Amir understanding and the opportunity to unburden his guilt. When explaining the futility of his hopes for a life with Homaira he "barked a bitter laughter". The use of the verb "barked" and the adjective "bitter" convey his pain and frustration, the use of plosive sounds which emphasize his anger

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Rahim Khan (continued)

When Amir sees Khan for the first time after years, Hosseini's use of the noun "thing" emphasises the shocking deterioration in Khan's physical health. His health could be viewed symbolically as representing the affects of the Taliban regime on the people of Afghanistan. It creates sympathy for Khan and provides a motive for Amir being willing to do as Khan asks. (16) is narrated from Khan's perspective and is used by Hosseini to present the analeptic account of Hassan's life. Khan addresses Amir directly using the 2nd person pronoun "you" and "Amir Jan" which provides the reader with an authentic sense of Khan's voice. 

Hosseini uses Khan to explore the themes of guilt, forgiveness and redemption. Khan is presented as a character who is aware of and feels guilt for his betrayals, "I am ashamed for the lies we told you all those years". When he admits that he was aware of Hassans **** it engages the reader's sympathy for Amir and presents the reader with an alternative perspective of Amir's actions on that day. One of the most significant quotations from the letter links to the theme of redemption, Rahim Khan suggests that "true redemption is ... when guilt leads to good". Amir's guilt about his treatment of Hassan does eventually lead to good with the adoption of Sohrab at the end of the novel.

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He is the protagonist or antagonist depending the reader. Hosseini presents him as a narrator-participant. He is the central character of a modern version of a bildungsroman - a novel of moral education. An insecure and occasionally jealous child deprived of a mother's unconditional love. Baba's love appears to be conditional upon Amir becoming a son he can be proud of in terms of toughness, courage, ambition and prestigious like Assef instead of being a weak, cowardly boy who shelters behind Hassan. Amir's story is revealed through a first person, retrospective narrative voice which must create both a sense of the psyche of a child and the tormented adult he has become i.e. a dual narrative perspective. Hosseini created an idiolect which conveys both the cultural heritage of a privileged Afghan and an educated relatively affluent U.S citizen.

Hosseini peppers the account with Arabic and Farsi words and phrases in order to provide the Western reader with a convincing cultural setting. The American influence is largely revealed through modern colloquialisms, the noun "kid" and the expletive "**** them" along with proper nouns evoking a strong sense of place "Fremont, California, Hayward". His native language retains a firm foothold in his native idiolect presenting the reader with evidence that Amir remains faithful to his cultural and ethnic roots but has moved some way beyond the somewhat limited customs and sensibilities of the older Pashtun and Tajik ruling class.

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Amir (continued)

Hosseini has created a flawed child protagnist revealed through his own account of his petty cruelties to Hassan which culminate in his partially understandable but shocking abandonment of his childhood friend and companion as he is cruelly ***** on the day of the tournament. Being a coward is not a sin but the sins that follow after the **** are when he plants the money and the watch to incriminate Hassan. Amir's cowardice and weakness manigests itself in car sickness, a motif which reoccurs at key points in the narrative. Hosseini also wants us to sympathise with Amir and see his essential goodness.

We are drawn into acts of metafiction where Amir as a self-conscious narrator expresses his desire to present the stroy of Hassan with honesty and to provide the reader with some hope for the ending of Sohrab's story. His love for Baba and Soraya has enabled and enhanced by forgiveness of their transgressions (Baba's secret betrayl of Ali; Soraya's more public sexual transgression). In an epiphanic moment of insight he realises how much he loves Hassan at the moment of his final act of silent betrayal. Amir's courage and desire to atone is manifested in his decision to rescue Sohrab. Through intense pain from Assef, Amir finds the punishment and absolution he needs. His atonement takes another form in the revelation of his rediscovered faith, which manifests itself in the need for prayer and the act of giving alms to the poor.

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General Taheri

  • He was a decorated general and worked for the Ministry of Defence when living in Kabul. The past tense is very significant here as in America General Taheri occupies a very different social status. General Taheri is associated with nang and namoos & he is also Pashtun. He is fiercely protective of his daughter's reputation as he warns Amir about unwelcome gossip.
  • He is capable of acts of kindness i.e. when he visits Baba at the hospital & extends true friendship and he welcomes Amir into the family and shows his joy in the union between Amir & SorayaAmir sees a different side of the General when he becomes a family member e.g. he suffers from migranes, a loveless marriage, requires antidepressants & welfare checks sustain the family. He believes that if he works in America it will degrade a man of his nature, he uses the euphemism "hobby" to account for why he can justify his family working at the flea market. 
  • He is antithetical to Baba. An incremental function of General Taheri is for Amir to realise that Baba has distinctive individual qualities which are not socially or culturally prescribed.
  • The reclamation of Soraya is symbolic since he is trying to retrieve his Pashtun pride owing to the shame that  an unmarried woman will bring upon their family. His nang and namoos shows his darker side i.e. threatening that he will kill himself for Soraya.
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General Taheri (continued)

  • When he asks Soraya to cut her hair it is symbolic because he is ********* her of her womanly, sexual identity and exerting his patriarchal power over her actions. He is dismissive of Soraya's aspirations which reflects his misguided perceptions about his own asylum status within America. It reflects his naivety in recognising the changing & non returnable contemporary Afghan political landscape. 
  • He demonstrates resistance to the possibility of Amir and Soraya adopting a child.It is ironic that his comment 'blood is a powerful thing' becomes interesting in the adoption of Sohrab who has a real blood link to Amir owing to Hassan sharing Baba as a father. 
  • Hosseini demonstrates to the reader that challenging family relationships have the capacity to change and become more positive over time. 
  • General Taheri's questioning of Sohrab's status allows Amir to be honest and assert his authority against his father in laws blinkered pride. 
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Mrs Taheri

  • Mrs Taheri is described from Amir's perspective "partly middle-aged woman with pale skin and dyed red hair". Unlike her husband she doesn't initially view Amir suspiciously at the flea market & offers him fruit. 
  • She represents guilt & guilty feelings to Soraya owing to her physical sufferance as a result of these actions. The reader might speculate that a central reason why Soraya returns home is to ensure that her mother is alright. 
  • We learn that she used to be a singer and could have gone professional but one condition of her marrying General was that she never sings in public. This action represents squashed female personal desire which fully destroyed by the General within his own marriage. Soraya fights against this cultural repression
  • Amir becomes "the new delight in her life". He reveals that she is predisposed to hypochondria reciting "monologues of illness". Her self confidence has been eroded as a result of an unhappy marriage in which she doesn't operate as the general's equal. 
  • Hosseini presents her as a means to show how generationally women have been restricted within a particular cultural marriage system. Jamila cries when her daughter returns but defers ultimately to her husband's choices about how Soraya should behave.
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  • The contrast of Hassan's birth to Amir's "even in birth, Hassan was true to his nature. He was incapable of hurting anyone". Amir's birth creates trauma which he never fully forgives himself for, intuitively believing that he is not good enough for Baba and feeling guilty for killing his mother as a result of being born. Sanaubar abandons Hassan & refers to him as an 'idiot child' & 'refusing to even hold Hassan'
  • Hassan grows up with a range of injustice and insults, because of his Hazaran minority status. This ethnic group found themselves encountering horrendous prejudice. He is classified in relation to his physical appearance "flat nosed". 
  • They shared the same nursing woman. His first word was "Amir" & he often instinctively knows Amir better than himself. Hosseini demonstrates that wealth, social status & knowledge of formal academia is not an indication of intuitive understanding of human nature. The shared bloodshed during the kite running part is symbolic of Rostam & Sohrab's warrior tales, brotherhood, the 'war' of the kite competition itself & the later conflicts which fracture Afghanistan. The event also foregrounds his ****, death & a break in Amir & Hassan's relationship. 
  • Baba provides him with plastic surgery for his harelip. Amir expresses his retrospective childish observations a link between Baba's physical ease which Hassan also has. The blood family connection is foregrounded by Amir & confirmed later on. 
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