Hosseini Khaled’s The kite Runner: Theme, Symbols, motifs, and Taliban Angela Ge
American Literature, 7th hour
May 2nd, 2014
American Literature, 7th hour
Hosseini Khaled’s The kite Runner: Theme, Symbols, motifs, and Taliban Khanled Hossini is an Afghan-born American novelist who is famous for his first novel, The Kite Runner. This novel was the No. 5 best seller in the New York Times, and was made to a movie in 2007. The Kite Runner expresses the theme and symbols of the novel, which indicates Amir’s sin and redemption, and the return of the human nature. The theme of this novel is about Amir’s sin and redemption (Fu 7) (Fu 8) (Lee 38) (Huang 82) (Huang 83). Amir’s sin is that, he sets Hassan up and indirectly causes Hassan’s death. Amir’s redemption is to go to Kabul to find Sohrab and adopt him. Another theme of this novel is the exposure of the human nature (Lee 149) (Fu 15) (Huang 83). Amir exposes the timidity and selfishness of the human nature, but because of the feeling of guilt, he chooses redemption and finds back the good side of the humanity. On the other side, redemption also expresses that, the return of the human nature is limited; it can only be based on the blood relationship. The symbols of this novel are Afghanistan (Jiang 71), Hassan (Jiang 72) (Lee 83), and the kites (Jiang 72) (Lee 38) (Yu 38) (Yu 39). Afghanistan symbolizes hell, which represents the author’s anger and sadness, and the sympathy towards the whole country. Hassan symbolizes the scapegoat for racism. The Kites represent multiple symbols. To Amir, it symbolizes the pure friendship and his road to redemption; to Hassan, it symbolizes Hassan’s plight; to Soraya, it symbolizes her dream; to Amir and Soraya’s father, it symbolizes dignity of Afghans, and their hopes of returning back to their motherland. The blue kite symbolizes purity; the green kite symbolizes envy; the yellow kite symbolizes hope, sunshine, and warmth. The theme of The Kite Runner is Amir’s sin and redemption. Amir’s sin is that, he sets Hassan up and indirectly causes Hassan’s death. The reason why Amir sinned is because of the lost of his mother’s love and the misplacement of his father’s love. The lost of his mother’s love causes Amir to be more eager for father’s love, wanting to use his father’s love to fill in the vacancy of mother’s love. Baba always treats him very cold, and treats Hassan very nice which leads to Amir’s jealousy towards Hassan. In the kite tournament, Amir wants to win the tournament and bring the blue kite home to win Baba’s affection. Amir’s aspiration for Baba’s love and the jealousy towards Hassan causes him to want to sacrifice Hassan for the blue kite. Amir is tortured by the feeling of guilt and shame. To find a way to relieve himself, he chooses to set Hassan up to let Hassan leave him (Fu 7). The second reason why Amir sinned is due to the social background and religious bound. Afghanistan is a country that has very severe racism and caste system. Hazaras are discriminated in Afghanistan, while Pashtuns have higher social status in the society. Pashtuns oppress Hazaras is because Pashtuns are Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras are Shi’a. Hassan is a Hazara, and he is Amir’s servant. Amir is a Pashtun, and his dad is a well-respected businessman. The large difference between their identities hinders them from becoming best friends. When Amir runs away, his defense for himself is that, “He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?” (Hosseini 77). Their unequal identities influences the unbalance of their friendship. Hassan always sacrifices himself for Amir, but Amir never treats Hassan wholeheartedly. Hassan’s heavy love towards Amir makes Amir feels guilty. If Hassan revenges Amir after he got hurt and relieves Amir’s sense of guilt a little, their friendship might still be maintained. Hassan doesn’t do that because the social background doesn’t allow him to betray his master. Amir’s guilt can’t be relieved, which leads to his trick to set Hassan up (Fu 7). The third reason why Amir sinned is because of his timid character. Amir is born in a wealthy family. He receives a beneficent family edification and a good education. The teaching of Islam and his father’s precepts, both laid a solid foundation to Amir’s healthy personality. His betrayal of friendship is associated with his timid characteristic. When he sees Assef is going to rape Hassan, he doesn’t have the courage to stand up for Hassan. “I ran because I was a coward. I was afraid of Assef and what he would do to me. I was afraid of getting hurt.”(Hosseini chaper 7). When he feels guilty, he doesn’t have the courage to confess his fault to Hassan or to tell other people. He knows he’s a sinner, but he doesn’t have the courage to confess or atone. He keeps torturing himself from the inside, so he thinks about expelling Hassan (Fu 8). In The Kite Runner, sin is everlasting, so it makes redemption seems very important. Amir tries to punish and torture himself to atone his sin, but he finds out, he cannot truly release himself from guilt through his punishment (Huang 82). During the repeated struggles, Amir finds that, he is not the only one with a disgraced past. His wife runs away with an Afghanistan man; his dad betrays his beloved friend. Unlike Amir, they don’t atone for their sins by torturing themselves. His wife tells Amir about her past, which means she has already let go of the past. Even though his dad doesn’t admit Hassan is his son when he is alive, he uses his behavior to show his love towards Hassan. They both choose to face their disgraced past bravely. When Rahim Khan calls Amir and says, “Come. There is a way to be good again.” (Hosseini chapter 14). Amir takes the plane to Pakistan to use his action to atone for his sin (Lee 38). Rahim Khan is a wise man in the novel. In his letter to Amir, he writes, “I know that in the end, God will forgive. He will forgive your father, me, and you too. I hope you can do the same. Forgive your father if you can. Forgive me if you wish. But, most important, forgive yourself.” (Hosseini 326). Rahim expresses another meaning of the novel, forgiveness. God is merciful, but human beings are not. Therefore, if a person wants to accomplish redemption, one must depends on oneself, instead of depending on external forces. When Amir prays, he still fetters by fear and guilt. He doesn’t pray for Sohrab to recover; he prays that Sohrab won’t die because of him. When Amir finally forgives himself, he will accomplish the real redemption (Huang 83). It is a defining moment when Amir says to Sohrab the words Hassan said to him many years ago, “For you, a thousand times over.” (Hosseini 391). He finally releases the guilt, which hid inside of his heart for so many years (Lee 38). The Kite Runner also exposes the human nature through Amir’s sin and redemption. Human beings are born to be sinners. Amir has many characteristics of sinner. He is selfish; he shows the arrogance of class superiority; he is unpleased and jealous with Baba’s love towards Hassan, so he teases Hassan. When he sees Hassan is raped for taking the blue kite for him, he runs away because of his timid and selfish characteristic. For relieving his guilt, he even sets Hassan up to expel Hassan and his dad out of the house. When Hassan sacrifices for Amir for the last time by admitting that he steals the money, Amir even selfishly think, “Glad that this would all be over with soon.” (Hosseini). Nonetheless, he goes to Kabul to atone his sin, letting us see the return of the human nature. This behavior exposes his pursue towards good humanity (Lee 149). The reason why Amir’s good human nature returns is due to the guidance of the religion. When human nature is struggling in the sense of guilt, one needs a firm faith to atone for the sin: “There is a God, there has to be, and now I will pray, I will pray that He forgive that I have neglected Him all of these years, forgive that I have betrayed, lied, and sinned with impunity only to turn to Him now in my hour of need.” (Hosseini). Religion is a big symbol of human civilization, and it is an important composition of human culture. It is a part of human life, and it affects people’s behavior and thinking. Religion has a binding effect towards its followers. It can purify one’s soul, and improve one’s moral and social responsibility. It can also let people be reverent towards God, so that one will restrain one’s behavior. When a person sins, one will admit one’s sin due to the religious doctrine, and will get one’s conscience smitten. At the same time, religion let its followers do good deeds, and directs one to atone for one’s sins (Fu 15). However, the novel also exposes the return of the human nature is limited; people’s pursuit towards good humanity is circumscribed. When Amir doesn’t know Hassan’s true identity, he only thinks what he did to Hassan was very bad. When he knows Hassan is his brother, the feeling of guilt expanded immediately, making him go to Kabul to find Sohrab regardless of danger. If Sohrab is not Amir’s nephew, can Amir surpass his timid nature to save Sohrab? The answer is definitely no. When Amir doesn’t know Hassan’s true identity, he says, “Rahim Khan, I don't want to go to Kabul. I can't!” (Hosseini). Only when he knows the truth, he finally agrees to go to Kabul to save Sohrab. Consanguinity becomes Amir’s moral baseline, and it is his motivation of self-redemption. The return of human nature is limited; the heat emitted from the human nature can only warm one Sohrab (Huang 83). In The Kite Runner, there’re three symbolisms: Afghanistan, Hassan, and the kite. The timeline of the story is between 1975 and 2001, which includes the most upheaval events in those thirty years: civil war, the end of monarchy, the invasion of the Soviet Union, the expansion of Taliban, and the tension between Pashtun and Hazaras. The dark blue tone in the novel is the real mental state of the war- torn Afghanistan citizens. The story’s background is switching constantly between the peaceful California and the Afghanistan migration center, which is filled with terror. In the novel, America symbolizes a peaceful, abundant, and freedom country; Afghanistan symbolizes a hell which is poor, backward, and filled with chaos and racism. It represents the anger and sadness of the author, and the sympathy towards the whole country (Jiang 71). The second symbolism is Hassan. Hassan symbolizes the scapegoat for racism. In Afghanistan, Pashtuns are the dominators of the country. Hazaras are discriminated in Afghanistan. Hassan is a Hazara, and Amir is a Pashtun. Hassan suffers from Amir’s bullying and discrimination. He always says, “For you, a thousand times over.” (Hosseini) to Amir, but Amir always chooses to evade coldly. This is not only because of the difference in personality, but also because of the social background of the caste system. Hassan knows that, a Hazara servant should be loyal to his master, and a superior Pashtun master doesn’t worth to take any risks for his Hazara servant (Jiang 72). In the novel, Hosseini has implied Hassan’s fortune as a scapegoat, “Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba.” (Hosseini chapter 7). Hassan’s fortune is like the lamb, be partitioned by others at will, and he even has no regret (Lee 83). The story is very short, but it exposes many problems: the country is not stable, there’s severe racism, and people are selfish. Hassan symbolizes Afghanistan, which needs to be saved. He also symbolizes the beautiful wish of eliminating racism (Jiang 72). The third symbol is the kite. The story starts from kites, and end with kites. The kites in this novel represent multiple symbols, and runs through the whole novel. Amir likes to fight kites. When he is young, he always wants to get Baba’s love and affection, but his arrogance, timidity, and selfishness hurt Hassan, and also let him suffer from the sense of guilt. After he goes to America with his father, he finally gets up the courage to find the kite, which has been lost for a long time (Jiang 72). In Amir’s heart, Hassan is always synonymous for kindness and loyalty, and makes him eager to pursue those values. Amir painstakingly finds Hassan’s son; it symbolizes that, Amir finally gets the kite he has always been chasing for. It makes him become a real man with responsibility and courage (Lee 38). In Amir’s heart, the kite symbolizes his pure friendship with Hassan; it also symbolizes his road to redemption. It’s not only the redemption for himself, but also the redemption for his suffering motherland (Jiang 72). Hassan is a good kite runner. He bears Assef’s bullying just for getting that blue kite for Amir. The kite in Hassan’s heart symbolizes his loyalty and caring towards Amir. Everyone’s fate is like the kite, towards the higher and further sky, but is always controlled by that fine string. The kite in the novel also symbolizes Hassan’s plight. Since Hassan was born, his role of life has been settled: servant’s son, no mother’s love child, Amir’s loyal servant, and lowly Hazara. Hassan’s fate is like the kite, vagrant and unable to dominate (Jiang 72). In Amir’s wife, Soraya’s heart, kite symbolizes the dream in her heart. Even though she once walks in the wrong direction, the string of the kite finally leads her to the right path. When she is young, her blind pursuit of happiness leads her to elope with an Afghanistan man, which is a unforgivable fault in Afghanistan culture. Eventually, Amir forgives her, and Sohrab comes back to a family, and becomes a virtuous and tolerant wife (Jiang 72). Amir and Soraya’s father are both kite runners too. The invasion of the Soviet Union broke their peaceful and comfortable lives; the terrifying Taliban makes them homeless. They bear many hardships, but they don’t give up chasing the kite inside their hearts until they die. The kite in their hearts symbolizes the dignity of Afghans, and their hopes of returning back to their motherland (Jiang 72). In The Kite Runner, there are three kites that appear: the blue kite, the green kite, and the yellow kite. In the kite tournament, the blue kite symbolizes purity. At the last gasp of the tournament, Amir’s red kite cuts the string of the blue kite. The passion of winning beats the pure blue kite. For winning, the failing of the blue kite is the price that has to pay. Then, Hassan runs the blue kite for Amir. He meets Assef in the ally, and he refuses to give the blue kite to him. For punishing Hassan, Assef rapes Hassan. According to Assef, Hassan must pay the price for his disobedience towards him. Even though Hassan’s pure body has been tarnished, just like the blue kite that falls to the ground, Hassan’s protection towards the blue kite is the protection towards his pure friendship with Amir (Yu 38). The yellow kite symbolizes hope, sunshine, and warmth. At the end of the novel, Amir is flying the yellow kite for Sohrab, and is competing with a green kite in the sky. Green symbolizes envy. Shakespeare has said, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock. The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss. Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger.” (Shakespeare). When Amir is young, he is jealous and even hates Baba’s love towards Hassan, sacrificing Hassan for winning Baba. Now, Amir is holding the string of the yellow kite, cutting the green kite with his own hands. Sunshine and warmth defeated jealousy and hatred from the past. The feeling of guilt is converted to caritas. Amir used to be timid, but now he has the courage to face his past, and finally forgives himself. Amir chases the falling kite for Sohrab just like what Hassan has done for him, and makes the same promise to Sohrab as what Hassan has made to him, “For you, a thousand times over.” (Hosseini). The yellow kite at the end of the novel not only indicates Amir’s embracement towards love and warmth on his road of redemption, but also indicates the new hope of Sohrab’s new life (Yu 39). The Kite Runner is a beautiful and sad story. It’s a story about sin and redemption; it’s also a story about the human nature. The kite is the main line of the story. Not only Amir and Hassan are the kite runners, every one of us is the kite runner. One needs to chase the kite in one’s own heart.