How does the physical geography influence "The Kite Runner"?

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The physical geography of The Kite Runner is essential to the plot and to the development of the characters and their relationships.

Khaled Hosseini's novel is set in Afghanistan, beginning in the 1970s, as we follow the childhood of the narrator, Amir, his father Baba, and his friend (and servant) Hassan. The setting of Afghanistan is not limited to its physical location though. It is the social and political landscape that is most important to this novel. In Afghanistan, the majority ethnic group, the Pashtuns, have oppressed the Hazara minority group for some time. This comes into play in the novel because Amir and Baba are Pashtun and Hassan and his father Ali are Hazara. As such, Ali and Hassan are the servants for Baba's family. Ali and Baba grew up together, almost like brothers, and the same is true of Hassan and Amir, but the reality remains that the ethnic and religious differences between the families separates them. Amir struggles to maintain his friendship with Hassan despite peer pressure and bullying and his own sense of superiority over Hassan. Eventually, it is Amir's weakness and inability to overcome those prejudices that allow him to watch Hassan be assaulted and do nothing to help him. This event is a turning point in the novel, as Ali and Hassan leave Baba's house, and later, Baba and Amir migrate to the United States to escape the violence brought on by political turmoil in Afghanistan.

Since he had an influential father in Afghanistan and his family were members of the upper class, Amir has the opportunity for a better life in America, while Hassan must stay in Afghanistan and is eventually killed by the Taliban. Amir even wonders if things might have been different if Hassan had been able to come to California with him and Baba.

When Amir returns to Afghanistan to see Rahim Khan and eventually to adopt Hassan's son Sohrab, he finds Kabul in extreme turmoil. Former neighborhood bully and Hassan's assailant, Assef, is now a head Taliban leader. Amir must fight through this fraught sociopolitical atmosphere to redeem himself through the adoption of Sohrab.

Based on all of the evidence above, you can see that the setting of Afghanistan sets up all of the social and political conflicts that then determine the novel's plot events and the eventual fates of the characters.

clane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The physical geography is a huge influence on the novel because it gives the reader the historical context needed to understand Afghanistan's political unrest and the warring that takes place. The reader understands the why behind Baba and Amir leaving their home country and fleeing to America. The geography of the novel also helps put into perspective Amir's journey back to his homeland and how it has changed. The author does an excellent job of using imagery to illustrate the changes that have taken place since Amir left, you really get a good mental picture of a war torn country full of orphans and tears. The physical geography also lends to an understanding of the culture of the Afghan people as well. Without the geography in the novel, it would be difficult to follow those passages and the journeys that Amir takes in his path toward redemption.

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The Kite Runner

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