In The Kite Runner, how are Amir and Hassan characterized?
As a boy in Afghanistan, Amir grows up in wealth and privilege as a member of a Pashtun family, the higher social class in his country. Amir's mother is dead, and his father often seems distant and disapproving to him. Amir is physically weak and unathletic; he lives in books and fantasy, longing to be a writer. These traits do not impress Baba (his father).
Amir longs for a close relationship with Baba. He desperately needs his father's approval and frequently feels jealous when Baba shows love and attention to Hassan, the servant boy who lives in their house. Amir's feelings of personal inferiority make his life miserable as he strives to win his father's approval and feel more worthy; consequently, he often abuses Hassan emotionally, even though Hassan is his only childhood friend. Amir takes advantage of Hassan's illiteracy and lack of power; sometimes he is simply cruel to Hassan, displaying an ugliness in his nature that distresses him even as he continues being cruel. Amir is most ashamed of his cowardice and disloyalty to his friend.
After Amir grows up, after making a daring and dangerous escape from Afghanistan with his father, he changes in some very significant ways. He grows close to his father, first as they struggle to survive in their new home in California and then as Amir has to deal with Baba's illness and death from cancer. Amir also finds he can be a courageous man instead of a coward. When he returns to Afghanistan to save Hassan's son, Amir finally earns his own self-respect.
Hassan, Amir's childhood friend and personal servant, is a member of the Hazara, the ethnic group in Afghanistan that is despised. Hassan, despite his excellent character and brave and gentle nature, is a social outcast. He and his father live as servants in Amir's household. Baba considers both of them to be more than servants, treating them with love and respect. Hassan's mother ran away after his birth. As an adult, Amir learns after Hassan's death in Afghanistan that Hassan is actually his half-brother; both are Baba's sons.
As a child, Hassan is small and physically disfigured, but his spirit is loving and courageous. (He risks his life to save Amir from bullies, armed only with a slingshot.) Although he is illiterate and uneducated, Hassan is bright and curious, hanging on to every word as Amir reads to him from books he cannot understand. Hassan loves Amir and remains loyal to him always, despite Amir's frequent abuse. As a adult living under the terror of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hassan still lives with courage and honor, protecting his family at the expense of his life. He and his wife die at the hands of the Taliban, leaving the orphaned son that Amir comes to rescue.