In The Kite Runner, why do Amir and Hassan have a strained relationship? Can their troubles be attributed to religious differences, as Amir seems to think? If not, what other factors may be involved?
While neither Amir nor Hassan is aware of the fact as they are growing up, Baba is the father of both boys. That undercurrent is likely to have been felt by both, although neither had any explanation for it. Amir does not understand why Hassan, who is a mere servant, receives Baba's unconditional approval and what seems to be and actually is love. Of course, Amir as a child is strikingly unlovable in many ways. He is an envious and cowardly child, but with intelligence and imagination that Baba does not appear to appreciate very much. The contrast in the way Baba treats the boys makes me wonder about Baba's marriage to Amir's mother and his relationship to Hassan's mother, Sanaubar. This is sheer speculation on my part, but it is likely that, given the time and place, Baba's marriage to Sofia, Amir's mother, was an arranged one. And while Baba bragged about Sofia to Amir, it might have been a loveless match, while Baba's relationship with Sanaubar might have been one of love, not just lust. Furthermore, since Sofia died in childbirth, it is also possible that subconsciously, Baba resents Amir for having been "responsible" for her death. All of these undercurrents could have swirled around Amir and Hassan in their childhoods together, making for an uneasy relationship.
"Amir is a privileged Pastun, Hassan one of the despised minority Hazaras. Amir is guilty of "the petty cruelties that privilege invites, the risk of these escalating into betrayals with far-reaching consequences, and the way loving devotion can become masochistic submission" is evident in the way Hassan serves Amir. Their relationship is further strained because Hassan is a servant. He and Amir are "friends" and play together but there are many evidences that Amir abuses this friendship and "plays" with Hassan's devotion to him. The friendship is put into further strain when Amir observes Hassan being raped and does nothing to stop it and later does not tell anyone what he has seen. The guilt that Amir suffers from creates an insurmountable wall between the two boys.