The Kite Runner Characters
The main characters in The Kite Runner are Amir, Baba, Hassan, Assef, and Soraya.
Amir is the narrator and protagonist. As a child, he struggled to win his father’s love and felt jealous of Hassan’s connection to Baba.
Baba is a respected member of the Afghan community who struggles to adapt to life in the US.
Hassan is a servant at Baba’s house and Amir’s childhood friend. He is fiercely loyal to Amir despite Amir’s betrayal.
Assef is a bully with fascistic beliefs. He becomes a high-ranking official in the Taliban.
Soraya is Amir's wife. Her past and rebellious attitude alienate her from the community.
Last Reviewed on May 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1322
Amir is the protagonist and narrator of The Kite Runner. He grows up in a “sprawling white mansion” in the Afghan capital of Kabul, with his father, Baba. Amir loves Baba deeply, but Baba rarely shows him affection. Living in close quarters with Amir and Baba are Ali and his son Hassan, who are their servants and live in a mud shack on the mansion’s grounds.
Despite their differences, Amir and Hassan are playmates, but because Amir is a Pashtun and Hassan is a Hazara, an ethnic minority, Amir is reluctant to publicly call him a “friend.” Racial discrimination is just one of the many elements dividing the pair—and Amir continually reinforces these divisions by letting Hassan claim responsibility for his, Amir’s own actions. Much of Amir’s behavior stems from jealousy, and he feels dejection whenever Baba treats Hassan equally. This string of small betrayals culminates in the ultimate betrayal, when Amir witnesses Hassan’s rape by Assef but does nothing, and when Amir then frames Hassan as a thief. Amir admits that his refusal to intervene during the rape stemmed from his desire for the blue kite Hassan held, which was his “key to Baba’s heart.”
Amir’s journey is therefore one of redemption and personal growth. As an adult, he is haunted by the choice he made as a boy. He atones first through his personal suffering and guilty conscience and then by returning to Afghanistan to rescue and ultimately adopt Sohrab. When Assef beats him with his brass knuckles in their final confrontation, Amir laughs through his physical agony because, in gaining the courage to face Assef’s wrath, his feelings of fear and inertia are transformed into a selflessness that he had never believed himself capable of.
Hassan and his father, Ali, are Amir and Baba’s Hazara servants. As Amir learns later on, Hassan is also Baba’s illegitimate son and Amir’s half-brother. Hassan epitomizes goodness, acting as a loyal servant to Baba and Amir and enduring the humiliation that Amir frequently puts him through, such as pelting him with pomegranates in a bid to force him to react. Although Amir is reluctant to call Hassan a friend, Hassan remains constant in his fidelity to Amir, responding to Amir’s requests with the words “For you, a thousand times over.”
Hassan’s innocence acts in contrast to Amir’s duplicity. Amir realizes that Hassan is entirely honest and means “everything he says,” but this becomes a character flaw, as it means that he believes “everyone else does too.” Consequently, Hassan has learned to behave in a subservient manner and is reluctant to defend himself against Amir.
Hassan’s rape by Assef is the defining moment of The Kite Runner and situates Hassan as the sacrificial lamb. Amir describes how he accepts the assault without protest, bearing “the look of the lamb” in his eyes. He later considers Hassan as “the lamb [he] had to slay” to win Baba’s heart. The lamb is a traditional symbol of sacrifice in Islam, and the slaughtering of lambs is part of the celebration of Eid al-Adha, intended to honor Abraham’s willingness to slay his son Ishmael at God’s request. This association with goodness and sacrifice continues when Hassan claims responsibility for stealing from Amir, even though he is innocent. Hassan’s fidelity endures throughout the years, with him telling his son, Sohrab, that Amir was “the best friend he ever had.”
Baba, Amir’s father, has a strong moral compass, and it is lack of faith in Amir’s ability to do the right thing that causes much of the friction in their relationship. When Amir is just a boy, Baba warns him of the dangers of using religious doctrine to justify all manner of deeds and the importance of not conflating Islam and authentic morality.
Baba’s lesson that “theft” is the only true sin and that “When you tell a lie you steal someone’s right to the truth” no doubt compounds Amir’s guilt, as Amir has “stolen the truth” from Baba, Ali, and Rahim Khan by framing Hassan for stealing.
By being “split between two halves,” however, Baba can never truly love either of his sons in the way they deserve. Baba can spend time with Hassan, but because Hassan is a servant and a Hazara, he cannot give him the education or privileged upbringing that Amir enjoys. Instead, he can only provide him with small acts of kindness, such as arranging the surgery to repair his cleft palate. Conversely, he sees his “legitimate half,” Amir, as so distinct from himself that he can barely recognize him as his own son.
Baba carries the guilt of his infidelity for most of his life and only begins to feel its weight lift when he and Amir settle in California. But once there, Baba experiences another kind of grief: mourning for his beloved homeland and former life. As he adjusts to life in the US, Baba thinks of Hassan less, and his relationship with Amir improves. Having seen Amir find love and begin to achieve success, Baba approaches the end of his life with acceptance and peace.
Ali is Baba and Amir’s servant, Hassan’s father (though not biologically), and a Hazara. In many ways, he mirrors the role of Hassan, fully embracing his role as a servant and remaining loyal Baba and Amir. Although Ali is described as being “like a brother” to Baba, he is forced to live with the reality of Baba’s infidelity and, later, Amir’s devastating betrayal of Hassan.
Sohrab acts as an extension of his deceased father, Hassan, resembling him physically and sharing his talent for shooting slingshots. Like Hassan, Sohrab is sexually abused by Assef and forced to live with the psychological trauma, even after being rescued by Amir. During Amir and Assef’s final confrontation, Sohrab takes out Assef’s eye—a promise that Hassan was unable to fulfill. When Amir adopts Sohrab, not only does he have the opportunity to make recompense for his treatment of Hassan, but it also offers a sense of regeneration, as Sohrab becomes the new “kite runner.”
Assef epitomizes evil and privilege in The Kite Runner. His rape of Hassan is portrayed as an act of shocking violence upon an innocent. As a teenager, Assef holds bigoted views and expresses a neo-Nazi ideology, with his idol being Adolf Hitler. As an adult, he becomes a Taliban leader. This role allows him to indulge in his desire to ethnically cleanse Afghanistan of Hazaras and continue to sexually exploit children like Sohrab in the name of religious despotism.
Rahim Khan is a friend to Baba and Amir. He helps Amir foster his talent for writing by buying him a writing journal and reading his stories. He is also the keeper of both Baba and Amir’s secrets. Years after Amir has left Afghanistan, Rahim Khan calls to ask him to find Sohrab, promising that “there is a way to be good again.” When Amir meets him in Pakistan, Rahim Khan reveals that Hassan was Amir’s half-brother.
Sanaubar is Hassan’s mother and, for a short time, Ali’s wife. Sanaubar is known for being “dishonorable” and eventually abandons her son and husband to run off with a group of travelers. As an old woman, she turns up to meet Hassan, having had her face disfigured by a knife attack. She and Hassan grow close in spite of all the lost years. Hassan’s young son, Sohrab, becomes “the center of her existence.”
Farid is the driver who takes Amir to rescue Sohrab. Farid, who is a former mujahedin fighter, is at first distant and judgmental toward Amir for abandoning his homeland of Afghanistan. But as the two spend time together, and Farid learns more about Amir’s plight, the two become close friends.