What major themes are dealt with in The Kite Runner?  Identify and comment on them as they relate to the plot.

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Kite Runner is rich in themes, which is one reason it is such an wonderful book. I am going to discuss one of its major themes, which is sin and redemption, that of Amir, a theme that is reflected throughout the entire plot, a theme that is introduced on the very first two pages  of the novel. 

As the book begins, in December of 2001, Amir says,

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975 (1).

He has just received a phone call from Rahim Khan, an old family friend from the land of his birth, Afghanistan, and he says that it is not simply his old friend on the line, but also his "past of unatoned sins" (1).  At nearly the end of the conversation, Rahim tells Amir, "There is a way to be good again" (2). Thus the reader knows that Amir has sinned, most grievously on that particular date, and that Rahim has offered him a chance at redemption.

The reader then begins to read the childhood story of Amir and Hassan, Amir the son Baba, a wealthy man of the Pashtun ruling class, and Hassan, the son of Ali, a servant of the Hazara underclass.  Both boys are motherless, Amir's mother having died in childbirth and Hassan's mother having deserted the family.  Amir is a troubled child, unsure of his father's love and affection and jealous of Hassan, who seems to get Baba's attention and appreciation effortlessly. 

In Amir's relationship with Hassan, Amir persists in focusing on the fact that Hassan is a servant and not his equal, always being sure to be clear that Hassan is not his friend, although they have wonderful times together and Hassan is a great friend to Amir.  Their childhood together shows Amir in a series of betrayals of Hassan, not defending him against bullies, for example.  But the very worst betrayal comes when Hassan is raped by Assef, a young Afghani, who has previously tormented Hassan.  This is the date of which Amir speaks at the beginning of the book.  He fails to go to his friend's aid at all, cowering and hiding instead.  From this point on, Hassan represents Amir's guilt, which he cannot confront, and he manipulates Ali and Hassan out of the household. When war comes to Afghanistan and Baba and Amir flee, Ali and Hassan are left behind to face war, chaos,  and death.

Baba and Amir make a life in the United State, but Amir knows, deep down, that he is not worthy. When the call comes from Rahim Khan, he struggles, but he knows that he must heed the call to redemption.  He returns to Afghanistan, where he finds that Hassan has died and left a son, Sorhab, who is in the hands of the Taliban, who have taken over the country.  Amir finds that he must this time face down Assef, who has joined the Taliban and is now a bully with an army, in order to save Sorhab. When he does so, at great physical cost to himself, he takes Soharb home to America, where he becomes part of Amir's family.  And it is in doing so that Amir finally redeems himself and is able to be whole.

There are other instances of sin and redemption in the novel, for example, the sin and redemption of Baba.  What drives this plot, though, is largely the wrongdoings and redemption of Amir.




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The Kite Runner

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