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The Kite Runner | Discussion Questions 11 - 20

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How does Chapter 5 further develop the idea that ends Chapter 4 of The Kite Runner, that Afghanistan has "changed forever"?

Chapter 5 opens with Amir's memories of the night he, Hassan, and Ali hear gunshots and bombing because the era of Afghanistan's monarchy has ended. In July 1973 while King Zahir Shah was out of the country, his cousin Daoud Khan ended the monarch's 40-year reign by staging a coup. Even though Amir is too young at the time to understand the implications, as he writes from the future how he is able to see how these events shaped and changed the course of Afghanistan's politics and impending war. In many ways both the innocence of Amir and the innocence of his country are lost and changed forever. Amir states that "the generation of Afghan children whose ears would know nothing but the sound of bombs and gunfire was not yet born." He notes that the concept of childhood no longer exists in Afghanistan the way it did when he was growing up. In addition he ends the chapter with the recollection that two years after the night the new republic is founded, even though for Afghanistan and his own family "life went on as before," another loss of innocence is coming: "That was the winter that Hassan stopped smiling."

In The Kite Runner how does the development of Assef's character throughout the novel compare to that of Hassan and Amir?

Assef is portrayed as a true antagonist to Hassan and Amir, and his actions are cruel and evil. Over the course of the novel he rapes Hassan, abuses Sohrab, and executes countless Hazara people. He seems to experience no remorse for his actions, which might label him a sociopath—someone with the inability to feel empathy for others. Given that his personality largely remains the same, Assef can be considered a static, or unchanging character, who learns no lessons. In many ways Assef also represents the larger evils and atrocities committed by the militant Taliban, who used religious fundamentalism as an excuse to slaughter innocent people. Hassan undergoes a traumatic event that causes him to change by withdrawing. Yet his loyalty and kindness toward Amir never waver; his essential character remains as unchanged as Assef's. As Hassan reaches manhood, however, he opens himself up to find happiness with his wife and son before his death. Amir develops the most over the course of the novel, as he changes from a reluctant friend capable of betrayal to a brave man who risks his life to rescue Hassan's abused son from Assef. Amir's relationships with both Assef and Hassan are very formative for him in different ways. Assef is an antagonist who ultimately challenges Amir to stand up for what he believes in, and Amir's guilt over Hassan is what drives him to make the choice to change.

In The Kite Runner what does Amir's decision to become a writer reveal about his character and relationships, and how do readers know how good he is as a writer?

Amir's decision to become a writer reveals that, despite his fear of disappointing Baba, he realizes that writing is his calling. The reader sees how much Amir is changing by making this choice. By asserting his desire to become a writer he is standing up for himself in a way that should make Baba proud. His decision to become a writer also puts Amir on the path to making decisions that he feels good about and proud of, which paves the way for his decision to rescue Sohrab. Amir is encouraged on his path to writing by Rahim and Hassan. Both of them read the first story he ever writes and tell him that he has a gift, which gives him the confidence he needs to pursue a career as a writer despite Baba's lack of interest or encouragement. Amir's decision to become a writer also points to the breadth and power of storytelling. Amir, as the narrator of the story, is a gifted storyteller who is able to weave a heartbreaking and beautiful story about his life while also informing the reader about the history of war in Afghanistan. This allows the universal themes in his story to be viewed more narrowly through the specific lens of Afghanistan's history. For example, as Amir tells Hassan's story it highlights the abuses that all oppressed people suffer, but particularly the Hazara.

In Chapter 11 of The Kite Runner what is ironic about Amir's description of California homes as making "Baba's house in Wazir Akbar Khan look like a servant's house"?

Chapter 11 is full of the responses of Baba and Amir to their new lives in Fremont. Early in the chapter Amir characterizes America as "a place to bury my memories" while for Baba it is "a place to mourn his." Baba misses Afghanistan as it once was, a place where he had prominence and standing. When those things are taken from him and he flees to America, he is not only fleeing the violence but also the constant reminders of his fall in stature. Yet his loss is still ironically always present in his new home because the outward signs of his status in Afghanistan are, in America, only indicative of "a servant's house."

In Chapter 17 of The Kite Runner what is the significance of this line in Hassan's letter to Amir: "the [pomegranate] tree hasn't borne fruit in years"?

In Chapter 17 Rahim gives Amir a letter from Hassan that he wrote before his death in which he tells Amir about the pomegranate tree they used to play in as children. As children they carve their names into it to mark it as their own: "Amir and Hassan, the sultans of Kabul." This act makes them seem equal, even if it is just an illusion. They feel as though they rule over their tiny domain, making them sultans. In many ways the tree represents their childhood and their friendship, both good and bad. The fact that the tree hasn't borne fruit in years symbolizes both the death of their friendship and the death of their childhood and their lives in Kabul. Without attention and nourishment all of these things withered away, and now the tree is a hollow symbol of what they have lost. Although the tree never bears fruit again and their relationship is not repaired before Hassan's death, both Amir and Hassan make attempts to reclaim Kabul in some way. Hassan moves back in to Baba's house to take care of it, and Amir returns to Kabul to rescue Sohrab.

In Chapter 1 of The Kite Runner what does Amir mean when he says "the past claws its way out"?

It's significant that this quotation comes at the beginning of the novel because it frames one of the larger themes of the book: the way the past affects the present. The book opens with Amir reflecting on his past and the ways in which hearing the voice of an old friend or seeing a kite in the sky can bring back a flood of memories for him. Yet the way that Amir frames the words is not necessarily positive: by using the verb claws he seems to imply that the past can force its way into the present whether a person wants to recall it or not—that the bad parts are just as present as the good. In this way he personifies the past—gives it human qualities—to show that the past is as much of a character with power over the present as a real person. There are many memories and actions that haunt Amir when he recalls his childhood, and that haunting aspect is embodied in this quotation. The quotation also personifies the past as an animal that won't remain quiet, that keeps asserting itself.

What role do secrets play in The Kite Runner?

Secrets play a large role in the novel. The first secret is what Amir witnesses happening to Hassan—he is raped by Assef. Rather than tell anyone—even Hassan—that he knows what has happened, Amir keeps it to himself. He goes even further by framing Hassan for stealing money because he is so racked by guilt when he sees Hassan that he wants him out of his sight. Hassan knows what Amir has done, but he also keeps this secret. Another secret is that Baba is Hassan's father. Amir only discovers this after Baba's and Hassan's deaths, and it helps him better understand Baba's actions. Amir's and Baba's secrets eat away at both of them for years, weighing heavy upon their consciences. Amir is haunted by guilt for betraying Hassan, and this guilt is what causes him to further push Hassan away by framing him for stealing money. Even with the physical distance of moving to America, Amir's secret betrayal won't let him go. The weight of Baba's secret is always with him as well, as witnessed by his kindnesses toward Hassan while he is a child and by how bereft Baba feels when Ali and Hassan leave his house.

Why should readers of The Kite Runner not be surprised to learn that Hassan names his son Sohrab?

In Chapter 4 the preferred daily routine of Amir and Hassan as boys is described. A significant part of it is going to a grassy hill, where Amir reads aloud stories to Hassan, who is illiterate. Their favorite story is "Rostam and Sohrab" from the Persian epic Shahnamah. Hassan has an especially deep love of this story and an emotional response to the father-son relationship that seems to elude Amir. When Rahim tells Amir the story of Sohrab's birth in Chapter 16 and reminds Amir of Hassan's love for the story from their childhood, the connection is clear. Although Hassan seems to choose this name because of the good memories he has of those times hearing the story read, on a deeper level the choice is very symbolic, especially to Amir. Just as Hassan will never know his true father is Baba, in the story the tragedy revolves around the fact that Rostam does not know his own son is Sohrab.

In The Kite Runner how is Soraya's relationship with her father similar to Amir's relationship with Baba?

Soraya's father, General Taheri, and Baba are great friends. Much of their friendship is based on shared cultural values and the bond of trying to uphold those values while living in a foreign land that does not share them. General Taheri holds conservative values about a woman's place in society, and when Soraya disobeys him by running away with a man she disappoints him greatly. This disappointment overshadows their relationship in much the same way that Baba's disappointment in Amir colors their relationship. Both fathers expect certain things from their children, and both Soraya and Amir experience guilt and shame in disappointing them. There is also a cultural and generational divide in that both Soraya and Amir are more adapted to American customs than their fathers. The similarity between their fathers helps Amir and Soraya to forge a bond, since each understands what it is like to feel as if you are a disappointment to such a significant figure in your life. In Chapter 13 Amir says, "I think a big part of the reason I didn't care about Soraya's past was that I had one of my own. I knew all about regret." Soraya feels relief that she can tell Amir her secret and that he accepts her, and although it takes Amir much longer to tell Soraya his secret it ultimately makes their bond stronger since he no longer feels shame.

In The Kite Runner what attitudes toward religion does Hosseini reveal through the development of his characters?

Religion—particularly religious differences—plays a significant role in the novel. The strife over religion, so deeply ingrained in the Afghanistan culture, can be difficult for a Western reader to comprehend, especially when it comes between the young Hassan and Amir. One of the main reasons that Hassan is considered to occupy a lower status is because he is a Shi'a Muslim, which is a minority, outsider religious branch of Islam. He is born into the religion, and therefore it is expected that he will stay a Shi'a Muslim. Amir is a Sunni Muslim, which is the predominant and more widely accepted branch of Islam in Afghanistan. His religion gives him another form of superiority over his servant Hassan, another reason for not openly claiming Hassan as his friend. Religious differences play another role when the Taliban take over, since they are fundamentalists who want to rid Afghanistan of everyone who does not practice this extreme form of Islam. In Baba, who distrusts religious fanaticism that leads people to declare edicts, Hosseini offers readers a glimpse of a more practical approach to religion that results in fewer differences. Hosseini's characters also suggest that personal connections can triumph over religious differences. This occurs in Chapter 25 when Amir demands that the general treat Sohrab as a member of their family.

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