How does social class affect relationships both in The Kite Runner and reality?

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini illustrates how social class affects relationships, just as it often does in reality. In the book, best friends Amir and Hassan spend all of their time together, although they are from two extremely different social classes. Amir is from a wealthy Sunni Muslim background....

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini illustrates how social class affects relationships, just as it often does in reality. In the book, best friends Amir and Hassan spend all of their time together, although they are from two extremely different social classes. Amir is from a wealthy Sunni Muslim background. Hassan is a poor Shi'a Muslim and ethnic Hazara. The two boys clearly love one another, but their differences are always at the surface.

For instance, it is telling that Amir never once refers to Hassan as his friend. Yet the two boys are always together. They do everything together, but there is an unspoken line drawn between companionship and actual friendship—at least in Amir’s mind, as a child growing up in Afghanistan. His relationship with Hassan parallels the relationship their fathers had as boys. Amir says,

Ali and Baba grew up together as childhood playmates—at least until polio crippled Ali's leg—just like Hassan and I grew up a generation later…

But in none of his stories did Baba ever refer to Ali as his friend.

The curious thing was, I never thought of Hassan and me as friends either. Not in the usual sense, anyhow.

It is not until years later that Amir realizes how good a friend Hassan was to him and that they were, indeed, friends. In fact, they were not merely the sons of a master and servant—as it turns out, they were brothers.

Throughout the book, the people in Amir’s social class display tremendous prejudice toward Hassan. They openly refer to him as “a Hazara” and to Amir as his master. Moreover, during the book’s most pivotal scene, it seems clear that the three boys who assault Hassan are from Amir’s social class. The merchant who points Amir in their direction says,

The other boys...The ones chasing him. They were dressed like you.

The reader has to wonder whether those boys would have had the temerity to assault another boy had he been from the same social class. It seems unlikely.

We often see that social class becomes a barrier to forming friendships in reality. Sometimes it is because people from different social classes socialize primarily in their own neighborhood and therefore do not have the opportunity to meet.

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In The Kite Runner, social class is linked to ethnicity and religion. The main characters in the novel are separated by class but also by ethnic and religious background. Amir and his father Baba are upper class characters who are Pashtun (ethnic group) and Sunni Muslims (religion). Their servants Ali and Hassan are Hazara (ethnic group) and Shi'a Muslims (religion). Amir points out in the novel that in Afghanistan, these ethnic and religious categories are typically aligned.

Although Amir and Hassan grow up spending time together and are even nursed by the same woman after Amir's mother dies in childbirth and Hassan abandons him and Ali, their relationship is strained as a result of their class difference. When Amir feels insecure or feels like Hassan is better than him in any way, he falls back on his supposed superiority, based on his family's class and ethnic makeup. For example, when Hassan points out the plot hole in Amir's story, Amir thinks to himself that Hassan, as a Hazara, is inferior to him and has no right to correct him. When Amir and Hassan come across the bully Assef one day in the city, Assef (also upper class and Pashtun) challenges Amir to explain why he is seen in public with a Hazara and proceeds to hurl slurs at Hassan and his father Ali and to relay his admiration of Hitler and programs of ethnic cleansing. Amir thinks to himself that maybe he didn't believe Hassan was his "friend," and later, he denies Hassan as a friend and calls him simply "our servant." Amir's need to feel superior to Hassan also plays a role in Amir's lack of action when Hassan is assaulted by Assef after the kite fighting tournament.

Ironically, when Amir and Baba move to America, they must suffer a decline in class, as Baba can only find work at a gas station. Amir gets an education and becomes a writer, living a more middle class lifestyle, but they are certainly not at the top of the social hierarchy as they were in Afghanistan. A further irony is that both Baba and Amir, though privileged in their society, commit arguably unforgivable acts against the lower class characters. However, both Baba and Amir try to redeem themselves: Baba through helping the poor and starting an orphanage and Amir by adopting Sohrab, Hassan's orphaned son. Ultimately, Amir claims Hassan and stands up to his father-in-law, who insists that their Afghan-American community will demand to know why his daughter is raising a Hazara boy.

It is tragic but also realistic that the class and ethnic divisions between Amir and Hassan lead to the dissolution of their friendship, and later, to Amir's attempt at redemption. The Kite Runner offers a poignant depiction of the way social class and other distinctions can drive a wedge between people who would otherwise have been best friends.

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Throughout the novel, Khaled Hosseini depicts how people treat others differently because of their social class. This treatment negatively affects many relationships throughout the novel. For example, Baba refuses to have an open, loving relationship with his son Hassan because Hassan is a Hazara. Amir is also a privileged Pashtun who looks down on Hassan and treats him disrespectfully at times. It is socially acceptable for Amir to treat Hassan with contempt, which causes a rift in their relationship. Amir never fully expresses his true feelings of friendship to Hassan because Hassan is from a lower social class. Both Baba and Amir's relationships with Hassan do not reach their full potential because Hassan is a Hazara and they are Pashtuns.

For centuries, Hazaras living in Afghanistan have suffered persecution at the hands of Pashtuns because of their religious and ethnic differences. Hazaras have prominent Asian features and are Shiite Muslims. Although they compromise 20% of the population, many Hazaras live in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan to avoid persecution. These provinces are extremely underdeveloped, and they do not have the same opportunities for advancement as Pashtuns. Relationships between Pashtuns and Hazaras are also socially discouraged in Afghanistan.

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