The Kite Runner Characters
by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner book cover
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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.

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Characters

Amir

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

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,...

(The entire section is 1,322 words.)