An individual’s esteem of himself and thus, by extension, others’ opinion of him is determined by a simultaneous play of variegated factors. This paper is an attempt to unravel various such subtleties of a masculine identity as depicted in the novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. At the same time, it also tries to determine the importance of culture in determining an individual’s identity and that of transcending certain pre-conceived notions in order to arrive at a just society.
Khaled Hosseini is a truly talented story teller and has two touching novels to his credit, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both the novels talk about the plight of the Afghani people during the late twentieth century with various forces taking over the country, incessant bloodshed of innocent people and religious fanaticism. Of both his novels, The Kite Runner is more popular and has been acclaimed as the better novel by both, the public and the critics unanimously. The novel is an account of a twelve-year old boy, Amir and his lower class servant-friend, Hassan. Amir struggles to win his father’s approval all his life, which Hassan seems to get without any effort. Finally, when he is twelve, he wins the local Kite-flying tournament and gets what he always wanted, his father’s pride in him. However, on the same day, he sees Hassan getting raped by an older boy and fails to stand up for Hassan against Assef’s malevolence out of fear. Hence, Hassan and his father are forced to leave the city. Political troubles stir up in Afghanistan and Amir and his father escape to America. Over the years, Afghanistan is transformed into a living hell and Hassan and his wife are killed by the Taliban. Amir, then, has to return to America to save Hassan’s son from meeting the same fate as his father and at last, find salvation from his nagging guilt.
“Their sons go out to nightclubs looking for meat and get their girlfriends pregnant, have kids out of wedlock and no one says a goddamn thing. Oh, they’re just men having fun! I make one mistake and suddenly everyone is talking nang and namoos, and I have to have my face rubbed in it for the rest of my life.” 1
These words spoken by Soraya, Amir’s wife show that she is utterly disillusioned with the hypocritical society that she lives in and complains about its unfairness. She knows that there is an inherent problem in the social system that they live in and that problem evokes in her a typically feminist response. However, the book deals with, not Soraya’s or Jamila Khala’s, (Soraya’s mother’s) problems. It deals with Amir, a man’s problems while placing the quandaries of his life. The discourse of the book is essentially masculinist because it recognises the fact that with the rising support for feminism, women can atleast voice their problems and try to deal with them but for men, it is all the more difficult since they are not supposed to have any problems at all. Rather, they are supposed to deal with them. It is quite evident that the book deals with masculinities since there are only two major female characters: Soraya and Jamila Khala. Even Jamila Khala is actually a peripheral character but still, she is quite well-fleshed out by the author. Also, these two female characters are not introduced until one is halfway through the book. Hence, the book clearly endeavours to look at the various ways in which the expected ‘masculine’ behaviour may quell men’s real identities and aspirations and how being a man doesn’t come easily and doesn’t mean that they have a natural advantage in the world.
R. W. Connell has identified four major ‘types’ of Masculinities: hegemonic, complicitous, marginalised and subordinated2. Hegemonic masculinity refers to the normative and the desired masculinity. The hegemonic male, then, would have everything one can wish for - power, money, women, dominance. In The Kite Runner,...