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I think author Khaled Hosseini comes up with a magnificent title to his novel of life in wartorn Afghanistan. It represents the single most memorable event in the lives of both Amir and Hassan--the day of Kabul's annual kite flying tournament--and the repercussions of both Amir's victory and the horrors that occur to both boys afterward. Kite flying represents both pleasure and terror to the boys: Amir and Hassan never experience greater comaraderie during their time together, Amir flying the kites and Hassan running them down for his master. Hassan's own uncanny mastery of knowing just where the defeated kites will fall makes him the greatest kite runner in Kabul, but it also leads to misery. Hassan is raped by Assef and his young thugs when he refuses to hand over the defeated prized blue kite, and it leads to a life of guilt for Amir whem he fails to summon the courage to aid his friend. Kite running defines Hassan, and it becomes a source of bad memories and nightmares for Amir. The kite, a symbol of freedom which is later banned by the Taliban, returns at the end of the novel when Amir finally makes a connection with Sohrab; and Amir volunteers to run the kite for his troubled young nephew, breaking the ice between them and allowing Amir to feel a sense of redemption for his past sins against Hassan. He is thrilled to run the kite "a thousand times over" for Sohrab, just as Hassan had done for him. The cover of the novel (my version is a large paperback from 2005) showing a kite flying freely over the ancient buildings of Kabul seems appropriate: Though Amir migrates to America, he can never escape the past he leaves behind in Afghanistan. And, though the nation is often controlled by the stifling influences of the Russians and Taliban, the single kite flying high above the city signifies the freedom that Afghan people will always seek.
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