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The Kite Runner | Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini

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The Kite Runner | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In The Kite Runner how do the different levels of education of Amir and Hassan affect both their childhood relationship and their individual goals?

Education, and the lack of it, creates a big division between Amir and Hassan. Amir is born into a wealthy Pashtun family and is given every opportunity that this status affords, including a good education. Because Hassan is Hazara, he is born into servitude, and it is expected that he will remain illiterate for his whole life. This affects their childhood relationship because even though Hassan is just as intelligent as Amir, as revealed by Hassan's astute analysis of Amir's first story at the end of Chapter 4, he simply cannot be viewed as such because it does not fit into cultural expectations: "A voice, cold and dark, suddenly whispered in [Amir's] ear, What does he know; that illiterate Hazara? He'll never be anything but a cook. How dare he criticize you?" As expected Hassan looks up to and admires Amir to a great degree because of his education and literacy. Amir plays into this by taunting him for not knowing certain words. The boys' different levels of education affect their individual goals in that, while Amir is expected to go to college and have a career, Hassan's illiteracy all but determines that he will remain a servant. Amir is expected to be happy and successful; Hassan's prospects seem much less satisfying. Yet the different privileges given to Amir and Hassan do not correlate with their individual senses of morality, and their moral choices ultimately define their ability to find happiness. Even though Hassan is less "educated" than Amir, his sense of moral duty is strong, as shown by his unwavering loyalty to Amir and an ability to stand up to Assef for bullying. Happiness is not elusive to him because he lives a good life. As Amir looks at a photograph of the grown Hassan in Chapter 17, he sees "a man who thought the world has been good to him." In contrast Amir's inability to match Hassan's high moral standards creates shame that gets in the way of his happiness until he finds redemption in saving Sohrab, his "way to be good again."

In The Kite Runner how do the changing politics in Afghanistan affect Amir, Hassan, and Assef differently?

The changing politics in Afghanistan over the course of their lives affect Amir, Hassan, and Assef differently. Amir is raised in a privileged, wealthy household, but Baba's liberal beliefs force them out of the country when the Taliban begins to enforce more conservative laws. Even though Baba and Amir are part of an ethnic and religious majority, Baba doesn't agree with the Taliban's interpretation of Islam, and he senses the danger in not conforming. The Afghanistan that Amir returns to as an adult is fundamentally different from the country he remembers as a child—it has become much more violent and unstable. As the Taliban has taken over, they have banned traditions such as kite fighting, and they are quick to execute anybody who does not adopt their views. Hassan is the most deeply affected by the changing politics since he is executed by the Taliban merely for being a Hazara—an ethnic and religious minority—living in Baba's old house. The Taliban want to get rid of anyone who does not believe in their interpretation of Islam, and they resort to violent measures to ensure it. The changing politics benefit Assef the most, as he becomes a powerful leader of the Taliban who is able to carry out sadistic and abusive acts in the name of the government. His single-minded beliefs about eradicating ethnic and religious minorities is directly in line with the Taliban's goals for Afghanistan.

In Chapter 7 of The Kite Runner what does Amir mean by "I opened my mouth, almost said something. The rest of my life might have turned out differently"?

Amir recalls this moment after witnessing the rape of Hassan by Assef. He first alludes to this moment at the beginning of the novel when he mentions a day that changes his life forever. The fact that Amir hesitates but says nothing confirms Baba's fears about him—that he doesn't know how to stand up for himself or anyone else. His decision to do nothing affects his relationships with Hassan, Baba, and ultimately himself—he is haunted by guilt for years to come, and he is never able to tell Hassan he is sorry. This aligns with Baba's observation that one decision can change a lifetime. In a way this moment is a rite of passage in Amir's life that he fails. Most people face a moment of growing up when they are tested to do the right thing in spite of difficulty, and here Amir fails to do the right thing in a way that stunts his personal growth for a long time to come.

In Chapter 23 of The Kite Runner what is the significance of Amir's dream in the hospital where he sees Baba wrestling a bear?

In Chapter 23 Amir has a series of dreams while he is in the hospital. In one of the dreams he sees Baba wrestling a bear: "Baba is sitting on the bear's chest, his fingers digging in its snout. He looks up at me, and I see. He's me. I am wrestling the bear." The dream is significant because it symbolizes Amir's realization that not only are he and Baba more similar than he has realized, but now he knows that he is just as strong as Baba, both physically and morally. Amir has long felt that he doesn't measure up to the powerful and brave Baba, but his fight with Assef and the risk he took to rescue Sohrab show him that he is able to wrestle his own symbolic bears because of what he learned from Baba. When Amir sees Baba turn into himself in the dream, it symbolizes that Amir has transformed into Baba, stepping into his role both as a father to a son (Sohrab) and as a man who stands up for what he believes in even when it is difficult. He is taking over where Baba left off, and he realizes that he is strong enough to wrestle the bear as well.

In The Kite Runner how do Amir and Soraya's different relationships to their pasts affect how they relate to each other?

Soraya and Amir are similar in that they both harbor secrets in their past, yet they differ in how they handle those secrets. Amir has his secret about Hassan, which he has told no one. And Soraya has a secret about running away against her father's wishes to live with a man, an act considered dishonorable in Afghan culture. But the difference between Soraya and Amir is that Soraya tells Amir her secret because she wants their relationship to be honest. In Chapter 12 Amir realizes that "I envied her. Her secret was out. Spoken. Dealt with." But their relationship is unequal because Amir keeps his secret from Soraya until he brings Sohrab home—it's only then that he decides to be honest with everyone in his life about everything that has happened. These differences affect how they relate to each other since they do not initially share a mutual trust, but their bond is ultimately strengthened when Amir is finally able to confide in Soraya. The power of their mutual honesty helps to erase the legacy of secrets and betrayals that run through their families, and it transforms them as a new generation who prizes honesty even if it is uncomfortable.

In The Kite Runner how do Rahim and Baba view Amir differently?

Although Baba is Amir's father, Amir has a closer relationship with Rahim for much of the novel. This is mostly due to the fact that Rahim sees Amir's strengths and gifts in a way that Baba cannot—perhaps because they are not related and so there are no familial expectations. Rahim notices and encourages Amir's gift for writing, and he also believes that his sensitivity can be an asset in how he interacts with the world—not everyone needs to be as tough as Baba. Baba is much more critical of Amir, largely because of their personality differences. Baba is loud, headstrong, and brave, and he is worried that Amir is too weak and won't stand up for what he believes in. He doesn't understand Amir's gift for writing, and he is disappointed that he does not choose a different and more pragmatic career. In a way Rahim serves as an alternate father figure to Amir, giving him the nurturing and acceptance that Baba cannot. His belief in Amir helps him grow as a writer and gives him the bravery to ultimately do right by Hassan by rescuing Sohrab. The message here may be that having different role models is essential to becoming a well-rounded person.

In Chapter 11 of The Kite Runner why does Amir say, "I didn't want to sacrifice for Baba anymore. The last time I had done that, I had damned myself"?

In Chapter 11 Amir says this in the context of deciding to pursue a degree in writing, much to Baba's chagrin. It's one of the first inklings the reader has of Amir standing up for himself—which, ironically, is the very thing that Baba wishes for. The sacrifice that Amir refers to is his betrayal of Hassan. The point is not that Baba makes him sacrifice Hassan—or even knows about it—but that Amir knows that he sacrifices Hassan's innocence in order to impress Baba with the kite. This is a decision he has regretted and lived with ever since, and for which he considers himself "damned." Amir feels that he has been living in a kind of hell that he cannot escape since he cannot atone for what he has done to Hassan. This has led him to feel frustrated at himself and resentful of Baba, since Amir has been trying to please and impress him for all these years. By admitting to himself that he no longer wants to sacrifice anything for Baba, Amir begins to pave the way toward making more decisions in which he stands up for what he believes in. Once he starts on this path, he is led to rescue Sohrab in order to "make things right" with Hassan.

In Chapter 14 of The Kite Runner what do Rahim's words "There is a way to be good again" show what he knows about Amir's character and actions?

Rahim's words in Chapter 14 imply that he knows what happened between Amir and Hassan, and that he knows the guilt that has tortured Amir ever since. Yet Rahim also believes that Amir is a fundamentally good person who will do the right thing if given a second chance. His words offer Amir a chance at redemption and self-forgiveness and foreshadow the events to come—that Amir will find Hassan's orphaned son, Sohrab, and adopt him, rescuing him from a fate of abuse and abandonment. In that way Amir will be able to atone for his sins. Rahim seems to sense that Amir has been searching for redemption ever since the day he betrayed Hassan, but that it has taken him until now to be able to confront what that redemption will take. The guidance toward redemption that Rahim offers Amir is not only fatherly figure guidance but spiritual as well. Even though Rahim doesn't mention religious justification, he seems to sense how heavily Amir's actions have weighed upon his soul and knows that in order to be free of it and move on with his life, Amir will need to feel a personal sense of atonement.

In The Kite Runner is Baba's claim that "A boy who won't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up to anything" true of Amir?

Baba's claim in Chapter 3 is in regard to his observation that as a boy, Amir rarely stands up for himself with bullies. Baba finds this difficult to understand since he was a very different boy and has always stood up for himself, even in the face of difficulty. His worry about Amir echoes through Amir's development as a character from a boy to a man, and there is a sense that Baba might be right as Amir betrays Hassan by not standing up for him on more than one occasion. Slowly however Amir begins to demonstrate that, even though it it difficult for him, he is able to stand up both for himself and for what he believes in. Examples include when he defies Baba in becoming a writer, his decision to fight Assef, and his rescue and adoption of Sohrab.

How does the kite change as a symbol over the course of The Kite Runner?

The kite changes as a symbol in a few ways. First the kite acts as a triggering memory for Amir as he walks through Golden Gate Park, and it brings up overwhelming feelings of guilt for him. The kite is also a symbol of the happier days of his childhood, when he and Hassan excelled at kite fighting and kite running. But after Hassan is raped while attempting to retrieve the fallen kite, it becomes a dark symbol for Amir, who does nothing to defend Hassan because he wants the kite to make Baba proud. By the end of the novel the kite becomes a symbol of hope again, as it begins a bonding moment for Amir and Sohrab. Many of the book's characters, events, and settings also reflect this shift over the course of the book from good to bad and innocent to guilty and back again. In this way the symbol of the kite is meant to mirror the ever-changing nature of a person, place, or thing. The symbol of the kite becomes polluted much in the same way that Amir's character becomes polluted by his actions, but both are ultimately seen in a more positive and redemptive light by the end of the novel. This offers a message of hope for an individual's ability to change, as well as for the possibility of a country's ability to change.

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