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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
“For you, a thousand times over”
The story starts with an adult Amir recalling a day from his childhood that changed the rest of his life. Winter of 1975, he crouched behind ruins and stared down an ally. He had been staring down that alley way ever since. He then remembers a phone call he had gotten from his father’s friend, Rahim Kahn in Afghanistan who is ill and asks him to come back to Afghanistan telling him that “there is a way to be good again” as he ponders this he sees two kites flying in the sky and remembers his life as a child in Afghanistan.
Hassan was a friend of his, but he was also a Hazara, so he was Amir’s servant, just as his father was a servant to Amir’s father (who is referred to throughout the book as ‘baba’). Because they were servants they lived in a mud shack. Hassan didn’t have a mother because she had run off to dance in a traveling group. Amir’s father is affluent and they live in an estate in a wealthy area in Northern Kabul. Rahim Kahn, the man who called Amir at the beginning of the book was his father’s best friend. Hassan and Amir are alike in that they are both motherless. But while Hassan’s mother was shamed because she left with the traveling group, Amir’s mother died in childbirth. Hassan’s father, who was like Amir’s surrogate father, has a twisted leg and can’t show many emotions. Because of this he is taunted by some of the neighborhood children. He is Shi’a Muslim and a Hazara. Once, when he had caught Amir and Hassan flashing mirrors to cause light to shine at their neighbors he told them “the devil shone mirrors too, shone them to distract Muslims during prayer. "And he laughs while he does it," he always added, scowling at his son.”
Hassan would always accept the blame when they got into mischief. Amir’s first word was Baba. Hassan’s first word was Amir. This shows why things turned a certain way. Hassan had unwavering loyalty for Amir and would always say to him “For you, a thousand times over”.
Amir longs for his father to be proud of him but Baba is a fearsome man and Amir can never get the attention that he wants from him. Amir feels that he blames him for his mother’s death. Baba is also a good businessman, he has an orphanage, a carpet business and a restaurant, and he is also on the wealthiest merchants in Kabul and a respected man. But he is not a very good father. He just doesn’t understand his son. Amir overhears him talking to Rahim Kahn about it and how he sees how, even when bullied in the streets it is always Hassan who has to stand up for him. Baba doesn’t respect this of Amir. But he does understand that he doesn’t understand him because he tells Rahim Kahn that it’s good that Amir has an adult who understands him and can talk to him. Rahim Kahn later tells Amir that Baba just has a mean streak. The next day, Amir is mean to Hassan out of jealousy. He is jealous that his father seems to like Hassan better. He then claims that he too has a mean streak. He wants his father to respect him and notice him.
Baba grew up alongside Ali, but he never refers to him as a friend. This is when Amir realizes that he never refers to Hassan as his friend either. Because Amir goes to school and can read and Hassan cannot, Amir often reads to him, one time he changes the story because Hassan can’t notice, but Hassan says that it was the best story he has ever heard, that night Amir writes his first short story. He wanted to show it to Baba, but he was uninterested. Rahim Kahn does read it and even tells him that he has a talent and should keep writing. Amir is upset by this and wishes that Rahim Kahn where his father instead of Baba because he supports him. When he reads the story to Hassan, Hassan points out a plot hole, which makes him mad, because an uneducated person could see what he could not. This is when he realizes that Afghanistan had changed.
This is proven true for shortly after their conversation there is an attack, Ali hides with them. “Huddled together in the dining room and waiting for the sun to rise, none of us had any notion that a way of life had ended.” (p. 36) This is also when we are introduced to Assef, who plays a large part in the novel. However, Hassan pulls out his slingshot and protects Amir by threatening Assef. This is very courageous because Assef believes that Hitler had the right idea and that the new president should follow it and get rid of all the Hazara. Then comes winter with the kite fighting. Amir and Hassan are an unbeatable team and Amir wishes to win the tournament to win his fathers affection. When he does he and Hassan are really happy and Hassan tells Amir that he is going to run the blue kite for him, Amir asks him to make sure he gets it. Then Hassan turns to him, “"For you a thousand times over!" he said. Then he smiled his Hassan smile and disappeared around the corner. The next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph. “(7.52-54). That was the last time Amir saw Hassan smile like that.
Because after he sees what is taking Hassan such a long time. When he gets to the alley he peers down it and sees Assef bullying him for the kite. But Hassan says that Amir wanted him to get it for him. Angered, Assef attacks him and rapes him. “I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan- the way he’s stood up for me all those times in the past- and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run. In the end, I ran.” Pg.77. It was like Baba said of Amir before while talking to Rahim Kahn “A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.” He was never able to stand up to Assef and his friends before, and now when there will be real, life changing consequences for his weakness, he still can’t stand up to Assef for his friends rights. When Hassan later meets up with Amir, he presents him with the kite and doesn’t say anything. Amir wonders if Hassan knows that he knows. But instead he presents the kite to his father, who is finally proud of him.
But now comes the part that I really hated. Not because it was bad, but because it made me cringe. I hated Amir, or rather, his actions. Hassan is avoiding Amir and spending all his time in bed, noticing this behavior Ali asks Amir if he knows what happened on the night of the kite fighting. Amir acts very cowardly during this whole time, but he could have helped. Here, he was given a chance to tell the truth, but he doesn’t. During the same time, baba is spending more time with Amir taking him on outings, most of which Amir can’t enjoy because he is too consumed with his guilt. The guilt takes a greater toll and Amir becomes an insomniac. And once again Amir is given another chance to fix things. Hassan starts to reach out to Amir, but he pushes him away. I believe that this is the wrong behavior for many reasons; there is the obvious, that it is mean. But less obvious, it was a chance for both boys to heal. Hassan would have a friend and might start to heal from the traumatic event, and Amir could start to feel less guilty. But this doesn’t happen; Amir just pushes him away, and even asks Baba if he ever thought of getting new servants. This was the wrong thing to say, Baba becomes angry and their relationship deteriorate. Amir, still angry with Hassan tries to start a fight, but Hassan won’t fight back and instead of fighting with him, hits himself with a pomegranate, this shows just how loyal he is to him. I don’t think I could do that. If my friend starts to hit me with stuff, and then gives me a chance to hit back- I would certainly take the chance. Hassan was really loyal to Amir; I can only imagine how hurt he must have felt to discover that Amir didn’t want to be around him anymore.
Later Amir realizes that that he can’t live with Hassan anymore and frames him for theft. He puts his birthday money under Hassan’s mattress and then tells on him. Baba asks him about it and Hassan admits that he did steal it. Then, to Amir’s confusion, Baba forgives him. Amir is so surprised by this because Baba had once told them that the worst crime is theft. “When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal a wife’s right to a husband; rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. There is no act more wretched than stealing.” Fortunately (for Amir) Ali says that they must move and so they do. This was the first time that Amir saw Baba cry. And it still didn’t free him completely from the guilt and shame of his cowardice.
Five years after Hassan moves away the Russians invade Afghanistan and Baba and Amir are also forced to leave. They escape to Peshawar, Pakistan finally landing in Fremont, California. Amir and Baba were used to living in luxury with large rooms and servants. But in California they have to settle down in a run down apartment and Baba gets a job at a gas station. Eventually Amir starts to take classes at the community college to develop his writing talents and to earn some more money they go into the business of selling things second hand every Sunday at he local flea market. It is there where Amir meets his future wife, Soraya Taheri. She and her family were also refugees and Soraya’s father, who was a high-ranking officer in Afghanistan, has disdain for Amir’s wanting to be a writer. Soon after Amir meets Soraya, Baba gets cancer and is dying. He refuses the chemo and continues to smoke. But as one last favor to Amir he asks Soraya’s father for her daughter’s hand for Amir. Shortly after they marry Baba dies and they discover that they aren’t capable of having children.
But they don’t do badly, fifteen year later, Amir is a successful author, this is when he gets the call from Rahim Kahn. “There is a way to be good again”. He decides to honor Rahim Kahn’s request and goes to see him. From Rahim Kahn Amir learns that Hassan and Ali are dead. Ali was killed by a land mine and the Taliban murdered Hassan as well as his wife. But they had a son, Sohrab, and he survived. He also learns the shocking new that Hassan was actually Amir’s half brother Ali wasn’t really his father. This means that Amir is Sohrab’s nephew. This is the real reason Rahim Kahn asked him to come to Pakistan, to rescue Sohrab.
Amir returns to a Kabul controlled by the Taliban with a guide, Farid. He also has to wear fake beard and mustache. But when he finally gets’ to the orphanage, Sohrab isn’t there. The director tells them that there is an official who comes by with cash and usually takes a girl, but this time he took a boy, and it was Sohrab. The director tells them to go to the soccer matches and the man who does the speeches is the man who took Sohrab. They manage to get an appointment with him by telling them that they have personal business with him.
They go to the house to meet with the man in the sunglasses; he says that the man who does the speeches was not available. Only after the sunglasses man starts to talk about Baba, Ali and Hassan does Amir realize that his is, in fact Assef. Sohrab, does live in the home, but he is being made to dance in women’s clothes and Amir suspects that he was being sexually assaulted because Sohrab later says, “I’m so dirty and full of sin. The bad man and the other two did things to me.” Luckily, Assef agrees to relinquish Sohrab, but unluckily, for a price. He must win a fight against him. He tells the guard that they will fight, but not to interfere. After only one of them will walk out alive, and if it is Amir they must let him pass without harm. Seeing that Amir is not going to win, he helps him by shooting Assef’s eye out, unknowingly fulfilling his fathers threat from years before.
When they get back to Amir’s hotel he tells Sohrab of his plans to adopt him, and promises to never send him to another orphanage. But after the years of war, all the paperwork for orphans is messed up and Amir can’t adopt him because the US demands the correct paperwork. After having to admit to Sohrab of their lack of progress and the possibility that it might not work, Sohrab attempts suicide.
After that, Amir finally manages to be able to take him back to California where he introduces him to Soraya. However, Sohrab is so emotionally abused that he refuses to speak or even look at her. Things go this way until they go kite flying one day and Amir begins to reminisce about Hassan and tell Sohrab stories. In the end Sohrab gives Amir a small lopsided smile, it is very little, but to Amir it is huge and as he runs after the kite for Sohrab he tells him the same thing Hassan used to say to him, “For you, a thousand times over”.
“There is a way to be good again” and Amir found it. He took in a little boy, Hassan’s son, saving him from a terrible future and past, giving him a whole new world. I wouldn’t have changed much of it, it was so well written. But I would have changed Soraya and Amir’s original views on adopting a child. Because they say that they want a child to be their own, then they take in Sohrab. But, as good as they are to him. I can’t help thinking that maybe some part of them (during all the difficulty they have with him) might be thinking that things would have been easier with a less damaged child.
This book made me laugh, smile, explode and cry at different parts. When Amir and Hassan were playing and causing mischief I felt happy because they were both having lots of fun and acting as kids should, but whenever Amir let Hassan be the scapegoat I felt disappointed. He should have valued his friend more then he did. I rooted for Hassan the entire time, he was always a good friend, even when he was taking the fall and fighting Amir’s fights. But I felt angry at Baba and him when Amir felt his father was proud of Hassan instead of him. Then I felt ashamed of Amir when he didn’t stand up to Assef for Hassan and then trying to get them fired and ignoring Hassan. But I also felt that Baba was a good man, during to ride away from Afghanistan he was willing to be killed to stand up for the woman in the bus. I felt equally as proud of Amir when he put his life on the line to rescue Sohrab, and I felt bad for Sohrab because for most of his life he had lived a terrible existence. But I felt understanding when he attempted suicide, because I know how much internal pain you have to have and how hopeless you feel when you really think that you are at the end of your rope and have no other choice. This is why I feel this is such a great book. It makes you feel so much, not just for the situation, but also for the characters. It gives you a chance to connect to them.
The author says a lot about life and living in the book. The story tells of how you can make horrible decisions in your life, but you don’t have to live your life in the shadows of those decisions. You can go back out and change. There isn’t a deadline on when you can alter your life for the better and decide to do the right thing. Amir made bad decisions throughout his childhood and grew up under a storm cloud filled with guilt. But when he was given another opportunity to “be good again” he went for it. Then he was given a chance to be safe and go home, but he knew what he needed to do for Hassan’s boy. He changed not only his life but Sohrab’s life and Soraya’s too. I think that this was something the author was trying to convey, it’s never too late to go back and do right.
While it was a good book it does seem a bit unbelievable that the guard let Amir and Sohrab go after they won the fight. It also seems pretty ridiculous that when Assef, who caused Hassan to stop smiling after getting his lip fixed, beats up Amir, Amir gets a scar similar to the one Hassan had. I can see why he wrote it that way, but it just seemed unnecessary to me. However on the other hand it is believable that Amir felt guilty after he let his friend be raped, and that he often resented Hassan because Baba was proud of him.
The title, The Kite Runner worked for the book because the main parts of the story start after Hassan and Amir win the kite tournament and Hassan runs the kite, and it ends with Amir running a kite for Hassan’s kid, Sohrab. But in other ways it didn’t work as well. The story is about more than just Hassan, and Amir was the main character. But it also worked because there are many mentions of kites in the book. I really can’t say if it was good for the story. I think it is like this with Dr.Who, I saw one dr. but because they changed them after a couple of season I have seen several doctors, but my mind will always connect Dr.Who with that first Dr. I saw.
The end of The Kite Runner was very fluffy. In a way it was too perfect for me. Everything wrapped up all perfectly into a little box with a bow on top. Amir fought with the bully he had once been too scared to fight and had let Hassan fight for him. Soraya and Amir were able to have a child who was nearly theirs (Amir’s half nephew). He made peace with his past actions and Sohrab came out of his shell. Do you see what I mean? Everything fit together too perfectly. I like books where the author leaves you thinking about the characters. This book presents it all to you and leaves nothing for you to work out. As for what happens next, nothing was intended to happen next. At the end of the book, everything worked out. But if I had to predict what happens next in their lives, I would say that Sohrab will most likely have lasting trauma from his experiences and will be distrustful of adults for the majority of his childhood. It will take Soraya and Amir some time to get used to life with a troubled child. Some of their friends in their community will perhaps shun them for Baba having been Hassan’s father.
The most important event in the book is almost certainly Hassan being raped and Amir not helping him. It is what sets the story in the direction of redemption and guilt and atoning for his past misdeeds. His guilt has him act in a way that he probably wouldn’t if he didn’t feel that way. If Amir had helped Hassan than he would have shown his father that when it is needed he can stand up to others, he would have shown Hassan his loyalty and he would have shown himself that he can be strong and a good friend. This would have changed the course of the story. Amir wouldn’t have gotten Hassan sent away, thus when Amir and Baba escaped Afghanistan, Ali and Hassan would have gone with them. Because of this, there would be no son for Amir to risk his life saving. I feel certain that if Ali and Hassan had lived with them when they escaped Baba would have made sure they were safe too, Baba felt strongly towards them. It was right that he did, he grew up with Ali and Hassan was his son.
Amir reminds me of Buttercup in William Goldstein’s, The Princess Bride. Both characters struggle with guilt because of what they did to their close ones. In Amir’s case it was not helping Hassan out, with Buttercup, she feels guilty because she told Wesley that she would never love another soul. But then when he ‘died’ at sea she married the Prince. She told herself that it was okay because he didn’t expect her to love him, just marry. Both also struggle with sleeping because of their guilt. Amir becomes an insomniac and Buttercup has terrible nightmares about marrying the prince and then her baby refusing to see her telling her that she betrayed Wesley. Lastly, both try to fix their mistakes. When Buttercup leaves Wesley after they get out of the fire swamp, she writes to Wesley telling him that she really does love him and that she won’t marry the prince. Amir goes back to Afghanistan and helps Hassan’s son.
The Poisonwood Bible deals with many of the same themes that The Kite Runner does. One of these is guilt. The Poisonwood Bible is narrated by a mother and her four daughters; each character examines her guilt in the death of their sister/daughter. They were sent as missionaries with their father to live in the Congo. In The Kite Runner, Amir has a great deal of guilt about Hassan. Amir’s actions resulted in Hassan “dying” on the inside. For some time after being rapped he slept constantly and didn’t talk very much. He also stopped smiling.
I don’t think that any of my opinions were changed after reading The Kite Runner. It was a good book, but it didn’t affect me strongly enough to have me change opinions or attitudes. I already had opinions on hierarchy, sexual abuse, culture shock and many other things that present themselves in The Kite Runner.
The author uses foreshadowing quite a lot. An example would be “The next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph.” Pg. 67. They are foreshadowing that something serious is about to happen to Hassan as well as that something that might be connected to what is about to happen will separate Hassan and Amir for a long time and they won’t reunite.
I enjoyed this book, but I enjoy most books, particularly depressing books. So, I would have to say that if a reader liked strong emotional story lines than they would like this book. It is also a good book for people who liked metaphors; the kite is a big metaphor in the book. The kite represents Amir’s life. It looks great, but every movement and interaction with another life leaves a mark on it.
A particularly memorable scene in the book is when Sohrab attempts suicide. It really shows you just how bad his life was after he was sent to the orphanage. He was so young, it really shows you just how much he was affected if he believes that he has nothing left to live for if he goes back to an orphanage. I think it also shows how he has come to distrust adults. He doesn’t think that Amir can do anything for him, but he doesn’t wait to see if he can. He has just experienced many adults who had bad intentions.
I don’t think this would be a good class read, but I personally really dislike reading as a class where you all have to move at the same pace. You want to keep reading, but can’t. I think it is a good book to discuss as a class because there are many areas that are good for discussion, rape, social hierarchy; loyalty and suicide are just a few. These are things that are good to have many people’s opinions on because there are so many different opinions a person could have on the topics. They aren’t just yes- this is good. No- this is bad. Discussions like that where everyone thinks one thing can become a bit tedious to sit through, if everyone’s opinions are similar, you don’t really have a discussion. You have a short one-sided conversation.
It’s hard to rate a book like this on a scale. There are so many different parts. I would rate the beginning as a 5, because it was a bit slow and not very captivating. But then the middle, when the story gets interesting I would rate a 6 to an 8, depending on the particular part. The ending I would rate a solid 6. So, I thought it was a good book, but then certain parts weren’t very interesting or they made me upset because of characters actions. But, since the question asks for an overall rating, I’m going to go with a 7.5. It was good, but not great.
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead, 2003. Print.
Goldman, William. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure. Orlando [Fla.: Harcourt, 2007. Print.
Kingsolver, Barbara. Poisonwood Bible. New York: HarperPerennial / HarperCollinsPublishers, 1998. Print.
My brain. Georgia. 2012.