Discussion Topic

The impact of environment and setting on the development of characters in The Kite Runner

Summary:

The environment and setting in The Kite Runner significantly shape the characters' development. Afghanistan's political turmoil and societal norms deeply influence Amir and Hassan's lives, shaping their identities and destinies. The contrast between their childhood in Kabul and Amir's later life in America highlights themes of guilt, redemption, and the search for identity, reflecting how deeply setting impacts character growth.

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How does Amir's living environment shape his character in The Kite Runner?

Growing up in Afghanistan, Amir’s living environment influences and shapes his character in the story of The Kite Runner. First, he is the son of a wealthy man. The home he shares with Baba is described as the most opulent in the neighborhood, and Baba finances the construction of a new orphanage because he can afford to do so.

Second, Amir is also a Sunni Muslim, the group that is considered the elite in Afghanistan. As a result of his wealth, his living environment, and his social demographic, Amir grows up with a certain sense of entitlement.

Third, he is accustomed to the cultural norms Afghan society, and he accepts them. For example, when Assef angrily asks Amir how he can Hassan a "friend," Amir’s immediate response is,

But he’s not my friend! I almost blurted. He’s my servant!

This response comes despite how close the two boys are. Ironically, when he and Baba move to America—where they have lost all the status they took for granted in their home country—both this change in their circumstances and the distance from home give Amir the perspective to see how much his environment influenced him and how he must atone for some of his behavior.

Even so, he carries his earlier customs with him in many ways. For instance, when he begins to court Soraya, he is too “American” in his approach, and her father reproaches him. Amir understands and accepts this, ultimately sending Baba to ask for Soraya’s hand in marriage as is the traditional custom. However, Amir also has had the influence of the (in some ways) more democratic American society for many years. As a result of the influence of this living environment, he has the confidence by the end of the story to tell his father-in-law to never call Sohrab a "Hazara boy" again.

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How does Amir's personality and attiude change the reader's understanding of The Kite Runner?

One way in which Amir's personality and attitude impacts the reader's understanding of The Kite Runner is how it shows that redemption is possible.  Rahim Khan's opening "a way to become good again" strikes at the heart of Amir's evolution throughout the course of the narrative.  Seeing both how low Amir can sink and the heights to which he can emotionally climb are examples of how the reader understands the course of redemption in the novel.  Amir's personality and attitude both experience massive change.  This change is where the reader is impacted in the course of the novel's development.

Amir's personality and attitude also impact the reader because it reminds the reader of how individuals can act and how this action is seen in the hopes of what can be.  The reader is impacted by Amir's personality and change because it reflects the capacity for change that exists within the individual.  Amir might believe in the authenticity of his beliefs and the certainty of who he is.  Yet, as evidenced when he finds out the truth about his father and his relationship to Hassan, Amir's personality and attitude become fundamentally changed, reflecting that experience and being in the world can change individual perception.  The reader recognizes that events, revelations, and understand can fundamentally alter the individual's sense of identity.  This impacts the reader for it causes reflection and identification to Amir's personality and attitude.

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How does a change in environment and setting impact Baba and Amir in The Kite Runner?

This is most obviously shown when Baba and Amir move to the United States, and they both have to adapt to a very different way of life that is a new world for them both. What is interesting is that the two react to this challenge in very different ways. Firstly Baba seems "diminished" by leaving Afghanistan. Having been such an important personage there, he finds it very restricting to be a person of such little importance in the United States where he is only able to find work doing menial tasks. The text suggests that Baba's illness was brought on by this change of location. Presumably, having lived in Afghanistan for so long, the change of location and not having the same kind of social capital results in his feeling profoundly out of place and missing his home country greatly.

For Amir, however, the absolute opposite is true. For somebody who always found it difficult to grow up in his father's shadow, America represents a land of opportunity for Amir where he can be who he wants to be and achieve greatness on his own terms rather than in the narrow straitlaced cultural limits imposed by Afghan culture and Baba. He is able to find a livelihood in writing stories, and is liberated by the way that moving to America in some ways acted like wiping the slate clean in terms of his life and his past.

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