This quote from Kite Runner reads: “They called him ‘flat-nosed’ because of Ali and Hassan’s characteristic Hazara Mongoloid features.”
Explain the racial implications established in this chapter. How does this inform the reader about the relationship between Hassan and the narrator and between Baba and Ali?
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Hello! You asked about the racial implications established in the chapter on Ali and Hassan's characteristic Hazara Mongoloid features, as well as how this informs us about the relationship between Amir and Hassan/Baba and Ali.
On page 8, Amir discovers the history of the Hazaras by accident. Until then, he tells us that the schools don't mention Hazaras much at all; just like everybody else, he only knows them as 'mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkeys.' Here, you can see that Amir, as a Pashtun, has been brought up to despise the Hazaras. The Hazaras are considered nothing more than servants of dubious ethnic value. Although he doesn't know why the Pashtuns so hate the Hazaras, he discovers an old history book of his mother's in Baba's library one day, which informs him about the history of Pashtun and Hazara conflict. The Pashtuns are Sunni Muslim, while the Hazaras are Shia Muslim. Historically, the two have been at war a long time; the Sunnis as a majority have violently oppressed the Shia Hazaras since the 19th century. The Hazara revolt mentioned in this chapter actually occurred; it was during the reign of Amir Abdul Rahman (1880-1901) that the Sunni Pashtuns declared jihad on the Shia Hazaras.
Amir tells us that when he shows the history book to his teacher the following week, his teacher makes a patronizing comment about the Hazaras always trying to pass themselves off as 'martyrs.' Amir notices that his teacher intones the word Shia as if it is some sort of 'disease.'
So, you can see that this chapter sets the tone for the relationship between Ali and Baba, as well as between Amir and Hassan for the rest of the novel. Ali and his son, Hassan, are servants in Baba's household. Hassan is Amir's personal servant and his father, Ali, is Baba's. Interestingly, Amir tells us in Chapter 4 that even though Ali and Baba grow up as childhood playmates, 'in none of his stories did Baba ever refer to Ali as his friend.' Amir knows that Pashtuns don't consider Hazaras as equals and he concedes that 'history isn't easy to overcome.' Yet, he maintains that the bond he and Hassan has cannot be overlooked either:
'But we were kids who had learned to crawl together, and no history, ethnicity, society or religion was going to change that either.'
Later on, he discovers that his own Baba cannot help showing affection to Hassan. It is as if Baba himself cannot deny his own human feelings (later on, the book tells us why) despite the enmity between Pashtuns and Hazaras.
So, yes, the chapter you mention sets the background for the whole novel: along with their Hazara Shia faith, Ali and Hassan's Mongoloid ethnic features seemingly provide extra ammunition for Pashtun Sunni hatred and enmity. We also see that both Baba and Amir sometimes struggle to overcome their extreme prejudices despite their very human connections to both Ali and Hassan.
Thanks for the question!
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