The Kite Runner details the courtship and marriage of Soraya and Amir. She is one of the very few female characters in the novel, most of whom have only minor roles. Discuss Hosseini’s portrayal of his female characters. Does he present women in a positive light?

Three important female characters in The Kite Runner are Soraya, Sanaubar, and Fazana. Hosseini depicts Soraya and Fazana in positive terms, but Sanaubar has many negative characteristics. Soraya, the most fully developed female character, relates to Amir as an equal. Fazana is presented as a wife and mother and then is killed. Sanaubar apparently suffers for her uncontrolled sexuality more than her infidelity.

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Although there are very few female characters in The Kite Runner, those who are included play critical roles in the lives of the male protagonists and contribute substantially to the plot development. The three main female characters are Soraya, who ends up marrying Amir; Sanaubar, Hassan’s mother; and Fazana, Hassan’s wife. The most fully developed of these is Soraya, who is provided with a complex backstory that predates her involvement with Amir. Both Sanaubar and Fazana seem to exist primarily in relationship to men, whether as wives, unmarried sexual partners, or mothers. Neither of them survives.

The more nuanced portrayal of Soraya is further complicated by her association with American society. Author Khalid Hosseini seems to imply that Afghan female experiences of living in the United States contribute to the women become more independent in positive ways, which then enables them to form equal partnerships with their husbands. Her sexual activity is condoned because it was premarital and did not produce a child. After marrying Amir, Soraya gains the opportunity not only to help with his redemption but to become a mother to his nephew. The underlying assumption is that motherhood leads to fulfillment.

Sanaubar, a woman who lives only in Afghanistan, offers a stark contrast. She is punished for her sexual activity—in part by an injury that eliminates her physical beauty—because it involves marital infidelity, contributes to her abandoning her son, and continues during her life alone. Although she is a bad mother, she provides the opportunity for the adult Hassan to be a good son as he cares for her upon her return. Fazana is a flat character who seems inserted almost entirely to provide a mother to Sohrab, who will function as the agent of Amir’s redemption.

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