The Kite Runner Analysis
by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner book cover
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The Kite Runner Analysis

  • The Kite Runner is a bildungsroman, as it focuses on the growth and development of the narrator, Amir, from childhood to adulthood. Amir’s story involves an exploration of ideas of belonging, family, and redemption.
  • Afghan history is interwoven throughout the narrative, from the overthrow of the monarchy to the communist takeover, the Soviet occupation, and the rise of the Taliban, to 9/11 and the subsequent US invasion.
  • Amir’s sense of identity is shaken by his regrets, the revelations about his family, and his return to a homeland he no longer recognizes. Ultimately, he is able to redefine himself by confronting the past.

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The Kite Runner is a bildungsroman, as it follows the narrator, Amir, from boyhood to middle age, focusing on his psychological and moral growth as he seeks redemption for his past actions. Author Khaled Hosseini combines considerations of history and origin, identity, and family in order to interrogate questions of belonging and selfhood.

The novel takes place between 1975 and 2002, interweaving the social and political narrative, as devastation is wrought upon Afghanistan, with Amir’s personal narrative. At the beginning of the novel, Afghanistan is ruled by King Zahir, and its capital of Kabul exists in relative peace. Amir’s father, Baba, prospers, and Amir and his playmate, Hassan, spend their days climbing poplar trees in an idyllic neighborhood of Kabul.

1973 signals the disruption of peace, as guns “[light] the sky with silver,” and Afghanistan becomes a Republican state. In the years that follow, the fighting between various factions and the eventual invasion by the Soviet army results in “the death of Afghanistan” as Amir knew it. As Amir puts it, “There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.” For children such as Sohrab, this is true. For Amir, his childhood memories up to the winter of 1975 are mostly carefree, but like his father, he becomes “split between two halves” as he tries to escape his past and effectively abandons the part of his identity that resided in Afghanistan.

Amir’s return to Afghanistan as an adult threatens to remove the residual parts of his identity that still think of Afghanistan as home. With the invasion of the Taliban, not only have the customs changed to the extent that one risks death for looking the Taliban in the eye, but the very landscape of Amir’s childhood has become unrecognizable. Where once there were lines of poplar trees, there are now “puffy and blue” corpses. As Amir takes in the sights of the broken and dilapidated city, the horrifying images of the present are interspersed with flashbacks to his childhood.

Amir recalls a memory of discovering a turtle with Hassan and pretending to be “daredevil explorers” as apple and cherry trees loomed like “skyscrapers.” Through recourse to his childhood imagination, he can block out some of the trauma of the present while grasping onto the vestiges of the Afghanistan of his childhood. Yet when Amir discovers that even his father’s orphanage has been destroyed and that the orphanages of Afghanistan now sell children into slavery to survive, it becomes clear that the identity that Amir associated with Afghanistan is now one that exists only in his memory.

The idea of a homeland remains central to the novel, and no character feels this more keenly than Baba. When Amir and Baba are forced to flee Afghanistan for the United States, Baba feels an intense rupture and loss. Although he had loved “the idea” of America, its fast-paced atmosphere and mistrustful attitude toward immigrants is a thousand miles away from the traditional customs of kinship and brotherhood that Baba is used to. Amir, in contrast, sees the move as an opportunity to forget the past and rebuild his life. For him, America represents liberty, as he can receive an education and begin to establish himself as a successful author. The fact that this new world is completely...

(The entire section is 1,279 words.)