How could one write a research paper about psychology in The Kite Runner? What would be a good thesis based on the given topic?

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There are a number of ways to approach psychology in The Kite Runner. Depending on your focus and on your research, you may want to apply a Freudian pscyho-analytical reading, a Jungian psycho-analytical reading or use a contemporary psychology approach. 

Whichever approach you take, the paper will most likely focus on the protagonist, Amir, and his troubled relationship with his past. Much of the paper will focus on Amir's suppression of guilt toward his friend Hassan, but you can also write about Amir's strained relationship to his father during childhood. 

Taking a Freudian approach, you might argue that Hassan represents Amir's id and that in repressing his memories of his failure to rescue Hassan, Amir is developing a neurosis and anxiety relating to being accepted by his father. 

"Nothing was free in this world. Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba. Was it a fair price? The answer floated to my conscious mind before I could thwart it: He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?"

Ironically, the limits that constrain Amir's behavior work against his aims. Baba prefers the brash and brave actions of Hassan over the timid and intellectual character of Amir. Thus, in order for Amir to truly find the acceptance he seeks, he must embrace Hassan's legacy, accept his guilt and attain a balance of emotion and intellect. 

In a Jungian context, you might argue that Amir is seeking individuation when he returns to his home country. Going back, Amir finds himself on a journey that will acknowledge his connections to a social world and that will realize his identity as a notion that is derived socially. He will become a mature person by taking responsibility for Hassan's son, a figure of his own history representing a part of Amir's identity that had formerly been denied. 

The real challenge in developing a thesis for this paper is to determine the essential question you are going to answer. 

  • Does Amir demonstrate any classic Freudian models of psychology in his relationships to Hassan and his father?
  • Is the Oedipus complex at work in the text in complex ways? (In a motherless household, does Baba become the object of the boy's love?) 
  • Is the relationship between Hassan and Amir appropriately seen through the psychoanalytical lens so that Amir's psyche becomes expressed metaphorically in his denial/betrayal of Hassan? If so, what does this mean exactly? 
  • Is Amir's narrative animated by a fundamental anxiety regarding the attainment of his father's acceptance? If so, does this explain the story arc wherein Amir ultimately seeks out a surrogate fatherhood in order to become psychologically whole?

There are many approaches available. In generating your thesis statement, you will be challenged to take one, specific approach and find details in the text that support it. The best advice is probably to choose the approach that seems most obvious to you -- the one that is most clearly present in the text -- and argue for that interpretation of the novel and its psychologically oriented themes. 

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