The Kite Runner Questions and Answers
by Khaled Hosseini

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In The Kite Runner by Khlaled Hosseini, how has Amir's relationship with Baba changed from the time he was a child to when he is an adult? How has their relationship stayed the same?

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Throughout Amir's childhood, he had a rather negative relationship with Baba. Baba would continually ignore Amir and never seemed to give him any of his time. Baba was also ashamed and disappointed at Amir's lack of physical prowess and athletic ability. Baba felt that his son was a cowardly boy and in many ways favored Hassan over Amir. As a child, Amir looked up to Baba and wished to gain his admiration. Each time Baba expressed his displeasure with his son, Amir would become angry at his father and even mentioned that he hated him.

As Amir grows older and moves to America with Baba, their relationship begins to change. Baba warms up to Amir and they become closer. Baba even tells Amir that he has made him proud by graduating. As Baba grows older, Amir takes care of him by feeding him and doing chores around the house. However, some aspects of their relationship remain the same. Baba disapproves of Amir's decision to major in English and insists that Amir follow proper Pushtan ways while he courts Soraya. Baba also remains firm in his decisions and does not allow Amir to influence him regarding his decision not to receive chemotherapy.

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Amir spent a great portion of his childhood trying in vain to engage his father's interest, to earn his respect, and to find common ground in their values, experiences, priorities, and attitudes. Amir's self-esteem is constantly flattened throughout his upbringing by his father's inability to show him love in any recognizable form, much less his refusal to attempt to understand his son. During this period in their lives, the relationship is largely one-sided. Amir is left to wonder whether his father notices things about him, has desires, hopes and dreams for his son, or whether he has any real feelings at all for him. For his side, Baba feels confusion, ambivalence and distraction. He engages in lengthy discussions with his friends about politics, the state of the country, and other topics on which it never once occurs to him to seek his son's perspective. His mind is on more pressing matters than the feelings or emotional needs of his son, which he feels he will never understand. After his wife's death, he has concluded that raising his son, given Amir's bizarre and effeminate affinity for literature, will be beyond his grasp, and he appears to have given up trying to understand Amir. The differences in their personalities -- Baba's confidence and extroversion vs. Amir's constant self-doubt and insecurity -- are as vast as the differences in their bodies. Whereas Baba seems like a strong and immovable mountain, Amir is more slight and is, of course, still just a boy, with only the strength and size of a child.

Amir is all too aware that in these disparities there lies a judgment of each: his father is the better man, no matter how much Amir resents his disinterest. Amir's admiration of his father and his desire to gain approval from Baba become the defining factor in Amir's life and character. But this ends up working against him, as he becomes a person that even he cannot respect, all in an effort to please his father and make him proud.

After Ali and Hassan's departure to Hazarajat, Amir gains insight into how much they meant to Baba, something Amir had always noticed but had never understood completely or accepted. But there is no mistaking the great loss his father feels when Ali and Hassan must leave. This creates more resentment in Amir than ever before; he had hoped to be able to grow closer to Baba, with Hassan now out of the way. This doesn't happen, and father and son continue, instead, to grow apart. Baba confides in his best friend, Rahim Khan, that he does not understand his weak and feeble he is. He does not believe that he ever will. Amir, clearly, is a poor substitute for Hassan and Ali.

Amir seems to find countless reasons for pride in his father, even as he continues to see himself as a misfit, a weakling, a young man of the lowest character, as the two men are finally leaving their country for good -- Amir now an eighteen year old.

Upon establishing a life in California, the two begin moving toward a place of acceptance of one another, if there still exists a lack of understanding on both sides. Amir is now at least pursuing a course of action that makes sense to his father by studying at the university. Baba works hard in jobs that would have been far beneath him back in Afghanistan. Amir sees his father's new-found humility and selflessness in this act, and he is duly grateful. As Baba's health worsens, Amir sees not only that his father may be human, may be fragile. More importantly, Amir sees that he himself can be of service to his father; he can finally be useful. A new dynamic between the two characters has taken seed and begins to grow. Amir respects his father no less than he always has, and perhaps even more, now seeing that his father is more human than he had thought. Baba expects Amir to at least honor the traditional Pashtun ways, and here Amir does not disappoint him. The two men settle into a more comfortable relationship, something closer to mutual dependence and equality. When Amir meets the woman who will become his future wife, he asks his father to intercede on his behalf with the family friends who are the young woman's parents. This "transaction," if you will, is one that greatly satisfies both men and their need to hold on to their old world. By this time, Baba is very ill and needs his son to take care of him, to arrange for doctors, get answers, make him comfortable, to the degree he can. The relationship has evolved from one of distance and aloof to one of intimacy and mutual respect. Amir never forgets or completely forgives his father's preference for Hassan, but he does come to peace with his father's perspective of the world. Rahim Khan is able to finally put to rest the mystery of Baba's loyalty to and affection for Hassan and Ali, helping Amir to come to terms with his own position and role in his father's life. His respect for and admiration of his father never changes throughout the period of his life to which the reader is exposed. But the resentment and confusion fade and eventually disappear. And, through Amir's validation of his father's beliefs and values, he gives his father the one thing that he most needs from his son -- not to be identical to himself, but to be honorable.