At a Glance

The Kite Runner key themes:

  • In The Kite Runner, Amir seeks to forge his identity following his failure to protect his friend. He sets out on a spiritual quest to uncover his family’s past.

  • Family ties define the characters in this novel. Baba and General Taheri expect obedience and loyalty from their children while Amir and Soraya try to create a family of their own.

  • The importance of heritage is reflected in Amir’s connection to the immigrant community in San Francisco. Amir eventually returns to Afghanistan and revives his belief in Islam.

  • Amir and Baba represent different experiences of assimilation. While Baba struggles to adjust to his lowly social status in the United States, Amir sees his new country as a source of potential.

  • Discrimination and abuse of power are apparent in the violence and social unrest caused by the Taliban. The Kite Runner portrays the discrimination and abuse created by those in power.

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Themes

(Literary Newsmakers for Students)

Identity and Self-Discovery

Throughout the novel, the protagonist struggles to find his true purpose and to forge an identity through noble actions. Amir's failure to stand by his friend at a crucial moment shapes this defining conflict. His endeavor to overcome his own weaknesses appears in his fear of Assef, his hesitation to enter a war-torn country ruled by the repressive Taliban, and even his carsickness while driving with Farid into Afghanistan. Late in the novel, Amir discovers his father's lifelong deception about his half brother Hassan, a revelation that leads to a deeper understanding of who his father was and how he and his father had both betrayed the people who were loyal to them.

Family, Fathers, and Fatherhood

In this novel in which family relationships play a great part, mothers are strikingly absent. Although Soraya is a loving mother to Sohrab, Amir and Hassan grow up without their mothers. Meanwhile, the tension of father-son relationships is exemplified by Baba's treatment of his sons, Amir and Hassan. While Baba is disappointed in Amir's bookish, introverted personality, to protect his social standing, he does not publicly acknowledge his illegitimate son Hassan whose mother is a Hazara. Likewise, General Taheri is a traditional, highly critical father who chafes at his grown daughter's sometimes rebellious attitudes. The theme re-emerges in the marriage of Amir and Soraya, who try unsuccessfully to start a family of their own. Their adoption of the troubled and parentless Sohrab at the end of the novel marks an attempt to recreate a complete family based on relationships of love and honesty.

Journey and Quest

A novel of immigration and political unrest, The Kite Runner is punctuated by Amir's departure from Afghanistan as a teenager and his return to his war-ravaged home country as an adult. At the same time, it is a novel of symbolic quest. Amir makes great sacrifices to pursue his quest to atone for past sins by rescuing his half nephew. Symbolized by the bleeding fingers of kite-fighters who cut their competitors'kites out of the sky with string embedded with glass, sacrifice is an important theme of the novel. Near the beginning of the novel, Amir willingly cut his fingers to impress his father with a kite-fighting victory; at the end he cuts his fingers flying a kite to revive his spiritually wounded nephew from a profound depression. Whereas the young Amir compares Hassan's resignation to his attackers'assault to the resignation of a sacrificed animal, by the end of the novel, Amir is prepared to sacrifice much in order to save Hassan's son from a similar fate.

Heritage and Ancestry

Before leaving Afghanistan, Baba fills a snuff box with soil from his homeland. As refugees in the United States, Baba and Amir live in an Afghan immigrant community in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even though much of the action takes place in the United States, most of the characters there are Afghan, emphasizing how Amir and Baba thrive in and contribute to an immigrant community that reminds them of home....

(The entire section is 1,054 words.)