How does The Kite Runner penetrate the issues of humanity and cultures in Afghanistan?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Kite Runner penetrates the issues of humanity and culture throughout the entire book.  It grapples with the problems of love, family, friendship, envy, betrayal, and redemption. It examines clashes of culture in Afghanistan and in the United States. 

Amir and his father must find a way to love one another, overcoming secrets and resentments that are obstacles to their relationship.  Amir and Hassan's friendship is fraught with envy and also poisoned by family secrets because Amir senses that Hassan is more loved by Amir's father than Amir is.  Both families are motherless, which is an implicit examination of the ways in which the lack of a female force harms the human condition.  Resentment, envy, and betrayal are continuing themes of the story, wonderful object lessons in how these human emotions and actions can harm us.  It is Amir's resentment and envy that cause him to not try to help Hassan when Hassan is sexually assaulted and when he betrays him again by setting him up as a thief.  But, like hope at the bottom of Pandora's box, redemption, in the reconciliation of Amir and his father, in Amir's actions in rescuing Hassan's son, and in the love Amir finds with Soraya, is always a possibilty, a way to "make things right,"  as Amir is told at the very beginning of the novel. 

Cultural clashes abound in the story.  In the Afghanistan setting, we have two different ethnic groups, the Pashtun and the Hazara, the Pashtun being the privileged and "ruling" class. This cultural divide affects the entire story, since Amir and his father are Pashtun, and their servants, Hassan and Ali, Hassan's father, are Hazara.  It is this divide that allows Amir to drive Hassan and Ali out of the household, betraying them because he can, and ultimately causing their deaths.  The Taliban represent another cultural aspect of the story, with their religious fundamentalism.  While this is not discussed all that much in the novel, it is clear that Amir and his father, not exactly secularized, are hardly fundamentalist in their religious views.  When the scene shifts to the United States, one can see the cultural difficulties of the immigrant family, trying to preserve their native culture while assimilating in the ways that are necessary.  For example, Amir, in courting Soraya, must observe all the requirements of Afghan culture to meet the approval of the General, her father, but he is becoming Americanized and finds this courtship a strain because of this conflict.  One of the loveliest cultural aspects of the novel is the use of the kite as a symbol of Afghan culture and then its use as a symbol of American freedom. 

There are so many examples of ways in which this book explores humanity and culture.  And that is exactly what literature is supposed to do! 

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The Kite Runner

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