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Kite Runner

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This essay will discuss the central themes of the book The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Because the story is told at a time before the War on Terror, it brings the reader back to an Afghanistan the average American never knew existed and presents the current socio-economic reality of a United States one may choose to ignore. The description of Afghanistan before its many "occupations" is a tragedy in itself. The Author portrays a country on the cusp of greatness, which of course makes the inevitable future occupations all the more tragic. When Amir returns to Afghanistan after nearly twenty years, his shock is palpable. He has come back to an entirely different country, and only fragments remain from his past.
It is Amir's journey to redemption that is the premise of this tale. We see that he is essentially a good boy and man, but that he made serious mistakes in his quest for his father's love and attention. As a man, then, he is called to compensate the sins of his past and "do good again." His small successes provide the reader with a sense of familiarity as one faces the daily battle of what is right and what is easy.
The story begins in Afghanistan in the 1970s and spans over 20 years. It is told from the perspective of Amir, a rich Afghani boy who lives with his father and their Hazara (low caste Shi'a) servants. Amir, an only child, spends much of his childhood with Hassan, the son of his father's loyal servant Ali and also the best "kite runner" in Kabul. The boys grow up as brothers despite the social differences, but this relationship is put to the test after an important kite flying tournament. Amir is overwhelmed with guilt when he allows Hassan to be beaten and raped on the day of the tournament. He lies to have Hassan accused of theft so he will leave their home and Amir can try to forget his guilt. Amir and his father flee to America to escape the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, and his country, like his best friend, soon becomes a distant memory. Twenty years later however, during the Taliban's rule, Amir receives an urgent call that returns him to Afghanistan to face the demons he has been hiding from.
Amir returns to Afghanistan to find Hassan's orphaned son, Sohrab, has become the sexual plaything of Assef, the bully who had tormented both Amir and Hassan when they were young. Ultimately, Amir must defeat Assef in a raging physical battle, take the damaged Sohrab out of Afghanistan, and try to help him repair his spirit.
The author touches upon the themes of strength of character, the resilience of the human spirit, man's inhumanity to man, the fragile relationship between fathers and sons, loyalty and devotion, and discrimination, bigotry, and class structure in Afghan society.
The theme of strength of character is the most prevalent theme. Amir commits terrible sins against his friend and half-brother, Hassan. The story of what he does and how he seeks and finds atonement is a lesson for everyone who wants to do find a way to be good again.
The theme of the resilience of the human spirit is also an important idea. Even though Amir has committed these sins, the inner strength that he had all along, but thought was somehow missing from his character, breaks though to allow him to find Sohrab and free him from the clutches of Assef. In this same way, when Sohrab falls into a great inner depression and tries to commit suicide, the spirit within him emerges and he finds his way to happiness again.
The theme of man's inhumanity to man is a theme which makes the reader think about how we torture each other because of our need for power in our lives. It is true as seen in this novel that there are essentially evil individuals who are impossible to redeem and that the evil they do affects all people around them. Assef is such a character. He enjoys hurting others physically, emotionally, and psychologically. However, there is also the evil found in all of us, no matter how good we are most of the time, which allows us to do bad things to those we love the most. The reasons may vary for why we commit such sins, but in the end, it is all about needing some sort of power in our lives. Fortunately, this evil is redeemable when we are ready to atone and right the wrongs we have committed. Amir is such a man. He is essentially good, but the evil he does as a child follows him into his adulthood and he must find a way to expiate those sins for his own sake and also for the sake of Sohrab.
Another theme that is emphasized throughout is that of the fragile relationship between fathers and sons. Amir spends his entire life trying to be the son who will not disappoint his father and making up for the death of his mother who died while giving birth to him. Many of the sins he commits are in the hopes that his father will believe in him, embrace him, and tell him how proud of him he is. The constant reminder of Hassan's goodness is a thorn in his side as he consistently fails to living up to his father's expectations.
It is only when Amir grows up, watches how valiantly his father faces his own death, and then returns to Afghanistan to right the wrongs he had committed that he realizes that his father had always loved him and was proud of him. It is unfortunate that men find it difficult to show their love to their sons for fear of somehow being less of a man. Amir would have loved to have had such a relationship all of his life and we who watch him struggle to find it identify with his need for parental approval.
Another theme would be loyalty and devotion. This is especially evident in the relationship between Amir and Hassan. Despite the fact that Hassan is actually Amir's half-brother, he is his servant, because no one but Amir's and Hassan's fathers know the truth. Nonetheless, even though Hassan is the victim of discrimination and class structure, he is completely devoted and loyal to Amir, both as his servant and as his friend. It takes Amir many years to atone for how terribly he treated the loyalty and love that Hassan always offered no matter what the circumstances.
Adversely the theme of betrayal is prevalent. Amir gradually betrays Hassan on many levels. His betrayals begin with teases about his illiteracy and lying about the stories he pretends to read to Hassan. The betrayals become more meaningful as he purposely does not invite him to places with his father and scoffs at a birthday present. The climax of Amir's betrayal to Hassan takes place when he watches Hassan's attack in the alley and does nothing to stop. Filled with immense guilt, by having Hassan sent away, Amir feels his last betrayal will free his conscience. While Amir's betrayal is the most obvious, one must not forget the ultimate betrayal committed by his father. Amir's father, Baba, impregnates his servant/friend's wife, allows his own child to remain a servant in his own home, and never tells the two boys their true relationship. It is through Baba's betrayal you understand the cycle passed down to Amir. Both men spend their lives simultaneously atoning for their betrayals, which is a betrayal in itself.
A final theme involves discrimination, bigotry, and class structure in Afghan society. Hassan and Ali are members of the Hazaras, a minority group of Afghanis who follow Islamic beliefs called Shi'a. Amir and his father are Pashtuns, the majority, who believes they are a better class than the Hazara and who follow the Sunni sect of Islam. Because of this bigotry and basic class structure, it is very difficult for anyone to marry into another class and the Hazara are often victims of physical, emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of Pashtuns. This is partly why Amir does not come to Hassan's rescue when he is attacked by Assef.
The contradicting sentiment of duty and birth in a class society has plagued nations for centuries. The irony of this particular story is the fact that the United States is seen as a classless society for those seeking asylum from persecution in their homelands. Upon arriving, the once wealthy Amir and his father are reduced to the plight of the average American immigrant. Forced to live in meager conditions, in small ethnic societies, their once affluent lives quickly become the exact opposite. By living essentially the same life as Hassan in the United States, it is bittersweet redemption for Amir and his father.
In Conclusion,

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