Discussion Topic

Motifs and symbolism in The Kite Runner and their relevance

Summary:

In The Kite Runner, key motifs and symbols include kites, which represent the bond between Amir and Hassan, and the theme of redemption. The pomegranate tree symbolizes their friendship, while the slingshot signifies protection and justice. These elements are crucial as they underscore the themes of guilt, forgiveness, and the complex nature of relationships in the narrative.

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What motifs are used in The Kite Runner and for what purpose?

There are many, as with most novels, and I will address one for you.  This story is recognized not only for its literary merit, but for being the first novel written in English by an Afgan author.  Thus, a strong motif centers around culture.

However, I'd like to focus on a mroe universal motif.  Culture aside, this story is a coming of age story at its heart, much like To Kill a Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye.  The motif is personal identity.  The protagonist, as a result of personal and social conflicts, comes to identify his own personality and beliefs about the world and how he will live in it.

Amir's conflict revolves around his betrayal of Hassan and his father's betrayal of his family.  Through these two things, Amir learns how important honesty and forthrightness are to him, and he becomes determined to make things right as an adult.

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Is the kite a motif in The Kite Runner?

A motif is a recurring symbol or element in a work, and Hosseini does rely upon kites as one of his motifs in The Kite Runner.

To identify the kite as a motif, notice the appearance of it throughout the novel.  The first literal kite is the one Baba purchases for Amir for the annual kite contest. The second significant kite is the one that Hassan runs down for Amir (the last fallen kite and prize of the contest) and for which Amir betrays Hassan.  Finally, at the novel's conclusion, Amir runs after a kite for Hassan's son Sohrab.  So, if you are writing a justification for the kite as a motif, you can certainly prove that there is a recurrence of kites.

After you establish an element as a motif, ask what that motif means.  Why would Hosseini choose kites specifically? For the Afghan culture, kites are a tradition, and Amir is willing to sacrifice everything--even his friend's well being--to obtain a "paper-thin" connection with Baba because Baba places a great deal of importance on Afghan traditions and his culture's penchant for winning.  The kite motif serves to advance the theme of winning in the novel.  Amir discovers through kites what winning can cost someone, that winning is not permanent, and that winning is not satisfying if one has nobody to share it with.

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What symbolism is present in The Kite Runner?

One of the key symbols in this novel, as the title suggests, is the kite. This important symbol is used to represent both Amir's guilt and happiness. Initially, it is a very important way for him to connect with Baba, as Baba himself was a champion kite flyer, and Amir's success in the kite flying competitions allows him, albeit briefly, to bond with Baba and gain his approval. However, at the same time, the kite's symbolic significance alters when Amir sacrifices his friend, Hassan, to Assef's physical and sexual abuse in order to gain the kite for his father. The kite becomes a symbol that is fraught with massive guilt and the consequences of inaction. It is only at the end of the novel, when Amir is with Hassan's son, Sohrab, that the kite's symbolic significance is changed. Note that this is only because Amir has managed to redeem himself through his trip to Afghanistan, his confrontation with Assef and his rescue of Sohrab. At the end of the novel, kite flying becomes an important way that Amir is able to reach out to Sohrab and break through his isolation:

Next to me, Sohrab was breathing rapidly through his nose. The spool rolled in his palms, the tendons in his scarred wrists like rubab strings. Then I blinked and, for just a moment, the hands holding the spool were the chipped-nailed, calloused hands of a harelipped boy.

Just as the kite was a symbol of connection with Baba for Amir as a child, at the end of this novel, the kite returns to be a symbol of connection between Amir and Sohrab. Amir's memory of flying kites with Hassan both reinforces the redeemed signifiance of the symbol of the kite and also foreshadows a more hopeful ending, as it suggests that Sohrab will enjoy the same kind of relationship with Amir as his father once enjoyed.

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Is the kite a theme in The Kite Runner? Why?

The above post correctly places the kite as a motif in The Kite Runner.  In addition to the themes mentioned, the kite is also representative of the theme of loyalty and betrayal that runs through the novel.  Hassan runs Amir's kite with everything he has, and this shows his undying loyalty to Amir.  Hosseini places the rape scene at the end of the kite run to suggest the nature of betrayal that occurs when Amir refuses to help Hassan. 

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Is the kite a theme in The Kite Runner? Why?

A physical object repeated over and over again in a novel, and it REPRESENTS a theme of the novel, is called a motif. I believe your kite falls into that category.

The kite motif represents the themes of "protecting innocence," "finding family," "changing culture" but it is not a theme itself.

Speamerfan is correct to call the kite a symbol as well (the words "motif" and "symbol" are nearly interchangable...nearly).

You might also find symbolism in the diamond shape throughout the novel. Look for instances where the author points out the shapes of things that reflect the shape of the motif, such as a pattern on a certain character's clothes, the shape of a house or yard, four people in a conversation each taking a different point of view, the multi-facted character development (the facets of a diamond shape), etc....

The visual quality of a movie makes this shape motif easier to identify. I hope the link can give you a starting point for some great motif discussion.

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Is the kite a theme in The Kite Runner? Why?

I disagree.  I think that the kite is not a theme of The Kite Runner, although it is at the root of the main themes of the novel, which are hope and freedom.  The kite is a very personal symbol for Amir, but it is also a symbol of Afghanistan, as well.  Just like the other response, the kite represents both success and failure to Amir; to Afghanistan, the kite is a representation of freedom and hope.  Pre-Taliban Afghanistan is a happy and hopeful place where kites fly freely every day.  One the Taliban take over, however, kite flying is not allowed.  By the end of the novel, the kites are flying once again.  What a beautiful image that is. 

While I think the kite is the most important symbol in the novel, I do not think I would go so far as calling it a theme.  Like many things in literature, however, this could be a matter of opinion.

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Is the kite a theme in The Kite Runner? Why?

The kite is most certainly a theme in this wonderful book.  It does not just operate as a plot device, although it certainly is important in the story. I will share with you a few of the ways in which the kite is a symbol.

Early in the story, the kite is a symbol of Amir's success and failure. In winning, he has managed to please his Baba at last, but he has also managed to fail Hassan miserably. His sole concern, after Hassan has been attacked, is with returning that last fallen kite to his father.

When Amir and his father move to America, the kite is a symbol of Afghan culture, which has been transported by the immigrant Afgan community.  This sets the scene for the next bit of symbolism.

When Hassan's son, who has been damaged beyond belief, flies a kite at the end of the book, the kite is a symbol of hope for the child and a symbol of redemption for Amir.  He has paid for his failure to help Hassan all of his life, so this scene of hope for Hassan's son redeems him, at least to some degree, from his failures and sins against Hassan.

Even if we consider the kite as a kite, without examining the plot and themes of this particular story, I think it is a powerful symbol. It reminds us of happy childhoods. It rises above us with beautiful shape and decoration and seems to take away our troubles. Like many objects that are light and rise up into the air, balloons, for example, the kite is a symbol of hope.

I hope this helps you. Good luck! 

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What are the main motifs in The Kite Runner and their relevance?

The most significant motif in The Kite Runner is rape. The cases of rape that are most significant to the plot are experienced by Hassan and Sohrab. Hassan is raped by Assef in childhood, which is the price he pays for Amir to win the kite. As an adult, Amir carries guilt over his failure to prevent Hassan's rape. Amir then travels to Pakistan where Sohrab, Hassan's orphaned son, is being held by the Taliban. Amir learns that Assef has been sexually abusing Sohrab, making him doubly guilty of preventing Assef's sexual attacks. Amir faces Assef in a physical fight, defending Sohrab, and by extension Hassan. This is the first part of his redemption, followed by Amir taking in Sohrab and raising him in America.

Rape is a crucial motif because of the trauma and emotional aftermath associated with sexual abuse. After Sohrab is rescued from the Taliban, believing he will be sent to an orphanage, he physically harms himself. While recovering in the hospital, Sohrab ceases to talk as a consequence of his trauma. Related to the connection between Hassan's rape and the kite motif, the ending of the novel features Amir flying a kite with Sohrab. Amir repeats Hassan's famous words to Sohrab, "for you, a thousand times over," giving the impression that the story has come full circle.

While irony is a figure of speech, note that it can also function as a motif. As Amir recalls his childhood, he acknowledges the irony contained within his life. Irony is intricately connected to the rape motif; Amir fails to prevent Hassan's rape, and later Sohrab is sexually abused by the same person. Contributing to this irony is the fact that Amir atones for his sins against Hassan by saving Sohrab from the same sexual abuse and abuser (Assef). Moreover, Hassan wins the kite so Amir can impress his father, before Amir discovers that Hassan is his half-brother.

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What are the main motifs in The Kite Runner and their relevance?

Scars and kites are two of the primary motifs in The Kite Runner. Nearly everyone has scars in the story--either physical or psychological. They represent the savagery and horrors of the various political regimes that rule Afghanistan during the story. IN some cases, like Baba's scar on his back, they represent courage; in others, like Amir's psychological scars, they represent weakness. Kites serve several purposes: For one, they represent freedom from the political and religious repression found in the country. Kites also serve as a reminder to Amir of better days and his life as a boy with Hassan; they also remind him of his one great conquest, winning the kite-flying contest. In the end, when Amir finally runs a kite with his nephew, Sohrab, it signifies the end of his guilt and the beginning of a new life with Hassan's son.

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What are the main motifs in The Kite Runner and their relevance?

Two of the most recurring motifs in The Kite Runner are those of scars and dreams. Many of the characters have scars--both physical and mental. Ali's whole family is scarred: Ali is crippled physically; emotionally, he lives with the knowledge that his wife has given birth--via Baba--to a son, Hassan, who has a cleft lip. Hassan also has emotional scars: His closest companion, Amir, betrays him, yet he bears him no malice. Hassan's mother, Sanaubar, returns after a long absence, and she, too, is terribly scarred and toothless; her life since leaving Ali has been one filled with horror. Hassan's son, Sohrab, eventually bears the emotional scars of being a sexual play toy of the Taliban. The scars serve as a visible reminder to the Afghani people's decades of war and ethnic violence.

Amir's dreams are used to remind him of his past. Many of them are nightmares, but some recall the good life he experienced as a boy. They also serve to reveal his desires and aspirations as well as to show the metaphorical difference between appearances and reality. In one memorable example, Amir dreams of Hassan's death at the hands of the Taliban. For Amir, it is merely a terrifying dream-state; for Hassan, it is truly a living nightmare followed by his, and then his wife's, death.

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