In The Kite Runner, why is Assef evil?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are numerous aspects of Assef's personality, behavior, and perspective that depict him as an evil character throughout the novel. While Hosseini does not directly answer why Assef is evil, one could surmise that it has something to do with his uninhibited emotions, inherent disregard for humanity, and lack of consequences growing up.

Assef is the wicked, cruel son of Baba's friend, Mahmood, who continually ridicules Hassan because he is a Hazara. Amir mentions that Assef is a sociopath with a reputation as a fierce, brutal fighter. Assef even earned the nickname "the Ear Eater" after he bit a boy's ear off during a fight. Assef demonstrates his evil personality by brutally raping Hassan after the kite tournament and molesting Sohrab. When Amir returns to Afghanistan to rescue Sohrab, he discovers that Assef is a leading member of the Taliban terrorist organization and is in charge of executing Afghans who do not comply with Sharia law. Assef looks up to Hitler, enjoys murdering civilians, and sexually molests Sohrab. Fortunately, Amir is able to defeat Assef with the help of Sohrab during a violent fight between the two characters towards the end of the novel. Overall, Assef is a violent sociopath, who admires Hitler and takes pleasure in harming others.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hosseini shows evil to be a complex combination between the desire for power and a cunning ability to justify it.  Assef is evil because he is able to display both tendencies.  Initially, Assef's evil nature is evident because he believes himself to be superior to others.  Elements of his life are his justification for this.  His family's status as wealthy and privileged, the fact that his mother was German, and that he embraces Hitler's idea of racial purity.  Assef is evil because he is able to justify his beliefs of personal superiority and impose them on anyone who opposes him.  His denigration of Hassan as well as his rise to power as a Taliban official reflects this.  Evil is shown to be something that involves both an emotional lack of empathy and a political means of justification.  For Hosseini through his depiction of Assef, both are needed in order to fully develop the characterization of evil.  In Assef, evil is shown to contain both elements.  Assef ends up embodying evil because of a world view in which power and control are the most important elements.  It is for this reason that his final confrontation with Amir is highly relevant and meaningful.

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The Kite Runner

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