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The opening paragraph of almost any book is usually one of the most important paragraphs of the work. The opening paragraph gives the author her first opportunity to interest readers and perhaps even intrigue them. A reader who is intrigued by a work’s opening paragraph is more likely to move on to the next, and so on throughout the book. Certainly Khaled Hosseini manages to pique our interest in the opening paragraph of his work titled The Kite Runner:
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.
If we assume that writers choose details because those details seem appropriate to the writers’ larger purposes, then consider the details chosen here:
- The reference to December 2001 implies that the book will be concerned with facts – with precise dates and details, which presumably will be important in some way. Already, then, Hosseini may be suggesting the historical nature of his work, its concern with the passage of time.
- The opening word – “I” – already implies that this book will have a strong autobiographical flavor and that the narrative will be presented from a personal point of view.
- The first ten words of the opening sentence imply a strong connection between the past and the present, between childhood and maturity. This connection will, of course, be one of the central themes of the work.
- The reference to a “frigid, overcast day” is just the first of several references in the opening pages to symbolic cold and darkness. The narrator has a story to tell about a dark, cold past, and so he sets the tone immediately in the opening sentence of the narrative. This emphasis on both literal and symbolic coldness is stressed again through the use of such later words as “winter” and “frozen.”
- The fact that the narrator remembers himself “crouching” and “peeking” may already imply some sense of fear and danger, and both of these feelings will indeed be strongly emphasized in the narrative as a whole.
- The reference to a “precise moment” implies that key events can be turning points in a person’s life. We are immediately curious to know what makes this “precise moment” from the past seem so important to the mature narrator.
- The second sentence implies that the narrator is a reflective person who is not afraid to disagree with conventional opinion.
- The fact that the third sentence is actually a sentence fragment gives it all the more emphasis.
- The reference to the past “claw[ing] its way out” personifies the past or compares it to some animal or even monster. The verb here is also memorably vivid.
- The final sentence gives the opening paragraph a sense of symmetry and completion.
- The phrase “crouching behind a crumbling” employs alliteration effectively, while “peeking . . . creek” demonstrates assonance.
- Words such as "it's" and "I've" imply a colloquial tone and make the narrator seem the opposite of stiff and formal.
In all these ways (and others), the opening paragraph of The Kite Runner demonstrates Hosseini’s skills as a writer.
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