“I sat on a park bench near a willow tree. I thought about something Rahim Khan said just before he hung up, almost as an afterthought. There is a way to be good again. I looked up at those twin kites. I thought about Hassan. Thought about Baba. Ali. Kabul. I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of 1975 came along and changed everything. And made me what I am today.” (Hosseini 2)
The story begins with the narrator, Amir, who gets a fateful phone call which reminds him of his childhood companion in Kabul during the 1960s and the inevitably horrific scene he witnesses that changes his live forever. Amir, a Pashtuni, is the son of a wealthy and respected Kabul businessman. Hassan is the son of their family’s servant, and a member of the despised Hazara minority. Amir and Hassan, having both lost their mothers at around the same time, spend most of their childhood times together. Whereas Amir first word is “Baba”, Hassan’s is “Amir”. They are nearly inseparable, until one day when Amir’s courage doesn’t match up to his friend’s.
Amir is desperate to gain his father’s approval, but also very much aware of how he falls short of Baba’s expectations. Unlike Hassan who is a “fighter”, Amir is a “writer”, much to his dad’s disgust. On what should have been the best day where he wins a kite-flying contest and finally some respect from his father, a shameful act is committed against twelve-year old Hassan, and Amir, a fearful, unwilling witness, does not intervene to help him. Thus, when Amir and his father leave Afghanistan for Los Angeles to escape the new Soviet regime, the memories of betrayal continues to haunt him until adulthood. Years went by as Amir attends college, marries, and fulfills his dream of becoming a successful writer. Yet, When Amir finally receives the word about his childhood friend, he once more return to the Middle East and gather the courage to redeem himself until he finds “a way to be good again”.
B. about the author, Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1965 as the oldest of five children (“Khaled). His mother was a teacher of Farsi and History at a large girl’s high school in Kabul and in 1976, Khaled’s family was relocated to Paris, France, where his father was assigned a diplomatic post in the Afghan embassy (“Khaled). The assignment would return the Hosseini family in 1980, but by then Afghanistan had already witnessed a bloody communist coup and the Soviet invasion (“Khaled). Khaled’s family, instead, asked for and was granted political asylum in the U.S. He moved to San Jose, CA, with his family in 1980 (“Khaled). He attended Santa Clara University and graduated from UC San Diego School of Medicine, married, and has two children (a boy and a girl, Haris and Farah) (“Khaled). He is now a 38 years old physician in San Francisco and “the kite Runner” is his first novel (“Hosseini). Essentially being the first Afghani writer, writing in English, his novel portrays life long lessons and a look at Afghanistan that Americans have never truly been exposed to (Pojunas). The novel greatly reflects Hosseini’s own life spent in Afghanistan and his own emotions, shown through the main character Amir (Pojunas).
C. Political Climate of the author’s time and place.
“After September 11th, as it became apparent that the United States would bomb Afghanistan, an open letter written by an Afghan appeared on the Internet. It pleaded with Americans to realize that Afghanistan was already a devastated country. It needed food, not vengeance; sympathy, not hate.” (Champeon)
Through his first novel, Khaled Hosseini reflects upon his childhood memories of Afghanistan and attempt to explain how different the country is now compared to the 1960s (Pojunas). The Afghanistan that he tells of in his book do seems like a fairytale land, when compared to nation today. He says he wanted to take readers “to the forgotten Afghanistan, the pre-Soviet war Afghanistan that lived for decades in peaceful anonymity” (Minzesheimer). After moving away from his country at a young age, Khaled lost much of his connection with his native country (Pojunas). Eventually, the Taliban had gained control of Afghanistan and did restore peace throughout the nation, until they began to take away the freedom of its citizens (Pojunas). This feeling of inspiration led to the largely biographical novel, which deals with the character of Amir, and his interaction with his father and best friend Hassan (Minzesheimer). The story takes place in Afghanistan during a time of tragedy. The author spoke a great deal about potential peace spreading not only throughout Afghanistan and the Middle East, but also throughout the world (Champeon).
D. Themes in “The Kite Runner”
This painful, remarkable debut novel conveys many themes such as loyalty, friendship, betrayal, redemption, family, love, social stigmas, guilt, identity, sacrifice, war, race, rooted cultural identity, humanity, kindness, forgiveness, and etc. Among all of those, there are a couple of themes that I’d like to elaborate more.
The first one is loyalty. There are two quotes that enhanced the meaning of loyalty and they are “For you, a thousand times over.” (Hosseini 2) and “You can tell me, I’ll stop doing it.”(Hosseini 93) These to quotes were both said by Hassan. Both quotes show Hassan’s ongoing loyalty, and true love for his friend Amir, and in both circumstance Hassan sacrifices for Amir. The latter of the quotes also shows Hassan’s forgiveness, though Amir can’t accept. Twice in his lifetime Amir is morally tested in his relationship with Hassan. The first time, a victim of his own arrogance, Amir fails his companion. Hiding behind the superiority of class, Amir chooses the path of least resistance. That first failure of betrayal scars Amir throughout his life, even in America, until he is offered another chance for redemption. With compassion, Hosseini lies the answer of Amir’s personal dilemma in the forgiveness and kindness of human hearts.
Another main theme that attributes the novels moving story is the social stigmas. In the novel, the setting is actually in a country which is in the process of being destroyed. It helps to show the inhumanity of a rigid class system (especially between the Pashtun and Hazara) and the horrific realities of war from its pre-Russian-invasion glory days through the terrible reign of the Taliban. .Spanning almost 40 years, the novel traces Amir’s journeys, alternating from his tranquil childhood to his resettlement in California and thus become a desperate battle to preserve the cultural heritage of Afghanistan. While Amir and his father reside safely in America, their homeland is decimated by constant warfare — streets lined with beggars, fatherless children whose future is marginalized by poverty: “There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”(Hosseini 246) The sweet simplicity of youthful spent “kite running” with Hassan seem light years away, replaced by the boys’ faltered innocence. Thus, the novel transcends a mere fiction to the ongoing plight of the Afghan people which also serves as a compassionate tribute to the virtues of humanity. By the end of the novel, every tiny thread of the story is neatly tied in place, creating a satisfying, although bittersweet conclusion.
E. Relevant passage towards the novel and writing style/literary devices.
“December 2001 — I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.” (Hosseini 1)
The paragraph above is the first passage that is being used by the author to start the novel, which prompts more than 300 pages of the narrator’s soul searching. I found that this first part of the novel very important because it behaves as a foreshadowing towards the whole novel. In fact among all the foreshadowing devices that the author uses, the foreshadowing in the first paragraph is the most critical one. Not only it gives a sense to the reader on where the plot is heading, it also tells the reader about several of the major theme and incidents in the novel. The first theme that is being exposed from this paragraph is that the person who is saying this (Amir), is having remorseful feeling and somewhat scared about the past. The first two words, “December 2001”, also shows the reader that the next chapters might be a flashback (which it is). Some allegories are also being used in this particular paragraph. Such as “WINTER of 1975” and “because the past CLAWS its way out”. The word “winter” and then being followed by a past year, gives a gloomy, depressed, sad mood (winter itself means cold). The word “claws” also gives a chill atmosphere since it is such a sharp or intense word. Thus, with these two words together, already the reader can sense that something bad is going to happen or reveal. Another point is how this passage gives a huge sense of suspense. If you read and think about the sentences logically, it doesn’t make sense. It’s very choppy, as in being cut or not continuing the rest of the meaning. Thus it makes the readers to wonder what the author mean by these sentences and thus makes the reader want to read more (page flipper or can be said a cliffhanger). With the mood, atmosphere, and sentence structure, this one of many paragraphs gives the reader a more intense feeling that other novels.
Why this book?
Despite all the plots about sacrifice, loyalty, etc, I find this book teaches you more about morality and humanity. Before the sept 11 attack, I basically didn’t know anything about the Middle East condition. Right after the attack, I became aware of the Middle East area, but not in a positive way. Afterwards, I started to realize the real situation that’s happening there. But still, after reading the book, not real enough. The book does show the details about the war and the cruelty that follows and I am aware of that. But before reading I wasn’t aware on how human can act so low in such situations. How people can easily loose their moral in a critical circumstances. This is the part in the novel that touches me. And while reading the book especially the last parts, I began to feel really grateful and thankful that I’m here, that I was born in a situation as I am right now, that I don’t have to experience such cruel conditions. And IF I am in such condition, will I also behave with such low morality in order to protect my own being? It can be scary but I guess this book makes u to appreciate more of yourself and for the morality in the world/around you.
On a brighter note, the book is an easy read. There is not much hidden meaning and basically very straightforward. And since its been published in 2003, its been on the top 10 bestseller fiction until now (Amazon.com and Chapters.ca).