The strong underlying force of this novel is the relationship between Amir and Hassan. Discuss their friendship. Why is Amir afraid to be Hassan’s true friend? Why does Amir constantly test...

The strong underlying force of this novel is the relationship between Amir and Hassan. Discuss their friendship. Why is Amir afraid to be Hassan’s true friend? Why does Amir constantly test Hassan’s loyalty? Why does he resent Hassan? After the kite running tournament, why does Amir no longer want to be Hassan’s friend? What major themes does the nature of their friendship explore?

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Amir and Hassan grow up as close as brothers, differences in ethnic group, religious belief, and economic status cause rifts between them. Their relationship is preceded by that of their fathers, Baba (Amir's father) and Ali (Hassan's father), who also grew up as friends, but Ali was servant to Baba's family. In the next generation, Ali still serves Baba and his son, Amir, and Hassan also serves the family, particularly Amir. The relationship between Amir and Hassan is complex because of this master-servant dynamic, which is also grounded in the ethnic/religious/class differences between them. Amir and Baba are part of the Pashtun ethnic group and the Sunni Muslim religion, both of which are the majority in Afghanistan. Hassan and Ali, on the other hand, are Hazara and Shia, both of which are minority groups that are disrespected and oppressed in the country. In terms of social class, Amir and Baba are well-to-do, as Baba (and Amir's mother, who is now deceased) is educated, financially successful, and influential, while Ali and Hassan are illiterate servants. These differences make Amir sometimes feel embarrassed to be seen with Hassan in public. Other characters, like the bully Assef, degrade Hassan mercilessly, but Amir is too afraid to come to his friend's defense. On the other hand, Hosseini repeatedly depicts Hassan protecting and defending Amir.

Amir's increasingly heartless treatment of Hassan seems to result from Amir projecting his own insecurity. Amir feels guilty and feels that Hassan is morally superior, so he seeks to take Hassan down a notch. While there were some hints of this earlier, the climactic moment in their relationship occurs when Amir witnesses Hassan being sexually assaulted by Assef at the end of the kite-fighting/kite-running tournament and does nothing to help Hassan or to stand up for him (even though he knows that if the situation were reversed, Hassan would come to his rescue). Amir is a meek, introverted child and even though he knows he should help Hassan, he can't follow through with any concrete action. Amir is also sensitive and so feels extremely guilty about his inaction. Instead of making amends with Hassan, though, he continues to project his own anxieties onto Hassan, testing his loyalty in scenes like the one in which Amir throws pomegranates at Hassan and begs him to throw something back, to fight back in some way. This is a clear example of Amir projecting his own inability to act onto Hassan. 

The friendship between Amir and Hassan could be related to a number of possible themes. One is that differences in class, religion, ethnicity, or other facet of a person's background can lead to serious conflicts in this person's relationships with those of other classes, religions, or ethnicities. The relationship between the two characters also shows us how betrayal can ruin a friendship and can go on to haunt the traitor for the rest of his life; on the other hand, this betrayal can present opportunities for redemption, and we see Amir taking advantage of that opportunity in the second half of the novel. 


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The Kite Runner

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