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The Kite Runner | Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini

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The Kite Runner | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In The Kite Runner how does Hosseini develop the characters of Soraya and her mother to reveal some Afghani attitudes toward women?

The author implies through characters such as Soraya and her mother that there is a double standard in the way that men and women are treated in Afghan culture. If a man flirts with a woman or fathers a child with a married woman, he is not punished, but if a woman is seen talking to a man (such as Soraya talking to Amir when they first meet) her honor is at stake. Soraya is considered "unmarriageable" by her culture since she once ran away with a man before marriage. Amir has difficulty understanding this way of thinking, noting in Chapter 13 that "I hadn't grown up around women and had never been exposed firsthand to the double standard with which Afghan society sometimes treated them." Although their relationship is ultimately marked by their ability to be mutually honest with each other, Amir does show some more conservative attitudes at times, such as when he doesn't tell Soraya about his plans to rescue Sohrab until he is already in Afghanistan. Women are also seen as property, such as when a soldier demands that a husband hand his wife over at a checkpoint in Chapter 10 so he can "have some fun." Jamila Taheri, Soraya's mother, is a traditional Afghan wife who obeys her husband, the general, even when she disagrees. Hosseini depicts the contrasting attitudes of Soraya and Jamila Taheri to show the friction between different generations in how they see the proper role of Afghan women and also to reveal that attitudes toward women are slow to change.

In The Kite Runner how is Baba's morality developed?

Baba speaks often to Amir of his sense of morals, and he is a man of action as well. Although Baba is liberal in many ways, he sees the world in "black and white," as Amir notes in Chapter 3. He tells Amir that the only true sin is to steal, and that all other sins derive from it. Baba also believes in standing up for yourself and others, as proven when he stands up for the woman at the security checkpoint in Pakistan. But Baba is not perfect, and part of what drives his need to be virtuous may be dealing with the moral mistakes that he himself has made—such as fathering Hassan without acknowledging that he is his son. Baba's sense of moral superiority is ultimately damaging to his relationship with Amir, since as a child Amir worships him and believes him to be brave and just and morally forthright. Yet when Amir learns Baba's secret about fathering Hassan his view of Baba is forever changed. Amir's realization that he and Baba are more alike than he previously thought is not a good realization at this point—he's upset to know that both he and Baba are capable of the same kinds of betrayals of their morality.

In The Kite Runner why isn't Amir happier after he wins the kite-fighting tournament and Baba's approval?

In Chapter 8 Amir seems to know on a subconscious level that his fleeting moment of connection with Baba will not be worth the guilt of betraying Hassan. Although he cherishes the moment when Baba gives him a hug, he immediately is overcome by guilt and shame at what he has done. Because Amir is young he can't anticipate the ways that this decision will haunt him until much later, when he mentions that he is "done sacrificing" for Baba since the last time "damned" him. But up until this point all he has longed for his whole life is Baba's attention and approval. It's significant that Baba warns Amir earlier that the worst sin is theft, since here Amir "buys" a fleeting moment of Baba's approval by sacrificing Hassan's happiness and well-being when he leaves him in the alley. In effect Amir steals Hassan's happiness, which makes Amir the worst kind of thief. In a chilling moment before Hassan is raped in Chapter 7, Assef asks him "But before you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would [Amir] do the same for you?" The answer is no.

In Chapter 19 of The Kite Runner what is the significance of Amir's placing money under the mattress of Farid's brother in Pakistan?

Amir says in Chapter 19, "Earlier that morning, when I was certain no one was looking, I did something I had done twenty-six years earlier: I planted a fistful of crumpled money under the mattress." The date he refers to 26 years earlier is the day that he hid his birthday money under Hassan's mattress in an attempt to frame him for stealing money. This was Amir's deliberate betrayal of Hassan after guilt haunted him for his passive betrayal of not coming to Hassan's aid in the alleyway. But this moment in Pakistan marks a turning point for Amir: he is becoming a man who "stands up" for what is right, just as Baba hoped he would. It is also one step of many toward Amir's sense of redemption in righting the wrongs he has committed. Here Amir is literally retracing his steps of his past in order to make his way toward redemption. Where once he planted money as a shameful act that betrayed his loyal friend, he now plants money in order to help someone. His acts of cowardice are slowly being replaced by acts of kindness and bravery.

How is silence entwined with betrayal throughout The Kite Runner?

Betrayal plays a large thematic role in the novel; it occurs between fathers and sons as well as between friends. Some of the betrayals are deliberate one-time events, such as when Amir tries to frame Hassan for stealing his money. Other betrayals are much farther reaching. Amir betrays Hassan when he does nothing while witnessing his being raped by Assef, and he betrays Hassan yet again when he frames Hassan for stealing money. The silence that is part of these betrayals impacts both of the boys' lives irrevocably. The purpose of Amir's betrayals are connected to his passiveness and guilt. He is so eager to please Baba during the kite-running tournament that he "sacrifices" Hassan for a fleeting moment of approval. His framing of Hassan for stealing money comes from his sense of guilt. Both betrayals cost him not only his relationship with Hassan but also his peace of mind. He is only able to find redemption after Hassan's death by rescuing his son, Sohrab. Baba betrays Ali by fathering Hassan, which is considered hugely dishonorable in Afghan culture and so is kept secret by Baba. Baba's betrayal costs him an honest relationship with both of his sons—Amir and Hassan. It also costs Amir and Hassan the knowledge while they are both still alive that they are half-brothers, a relationship that, had they known about, would likely have resulted in a much different outcome for their friendship and in the course of their lives.

How does Amir change by the end of The Kite Runner?

Amir changes greatly by the end of the novel. Even though the book ends not long after it initially begins, having Amir narrate from the future shows how much he is able to reflect on his past and how it has shaped him. In many ways Amir's journey as a character mirrors the typical hero's journey. As a young boy Amir is sheltered, wealthy, and privileged, though he has experienced loss and uncertainty. Baba is not wrong when he worries that Amir might not become a man who stands up for what is right, as the reader witnesses Amir's silent betrayal of Hassan. Like a typical hero Amir's courage and confidence are tested, and he doesn't pass every trial he faces. Yet after Baba's death (and also with his defiant decision to become a writer), Amir begins to find the courage and bravery he once lacked. He flies to Pakistan and rescues Sohrab from the hands of his abuser, which is the ultimate test he must face in order to be transformed. He also finds a way to take Sohrab back to the United States and adopt him. These actions show that Amir has grown and changed—into the man that Baba hoped he would become.

In Chapter 8 of The Kite Runner what is the significance of Amir thinking, "there was a monster in the lake ... I was that monster"?

In Chapter 8 Amir thinks back to Hassan's prophetic dream about them swimming in the lake. In his dream on the morning of the kite tournament, Hassan dreams that they are in a boat on a lake, where everyone is afraid to go swimming because there is a monster in the lake. But Amir and Hassan jump out of the boat and swim to show that there is no danger. "There is no monster," Hassan says, "just water." Afterward the lake is renamed "Lake of Amir and Hassan, Sultans of Kabul." Hassan's dream is full of significance, with a sense of foreboding of the threat that lurks under the surface of his and Amir's relationship. It's clear that in the dream Hassan sees himself and Amir as a formidably brave team of equals, able to conquer any fear together. But Amir's haunting realization in Chapter 8 after he sees Hassan raped and does nothing shows that he believes himself to be the monster lurking under the surface of their friendship, ready to hurt or betray Hassan in the blink of an eye. It also shows that Amir realizes the gravity of his action and how he sees himself now—as a danger to his closest friend.

In The Kite Runner how does Amir's childhood family in Afghanistan compare to the one he creates with Soraya and Sohrab in America?

Amir's childhood in Afghanistan is markedly different from the one he creates with Sohrab in America. Amir spends much of his childhood trying to impress his father, and he is also fairly sheltered from the harsher elements and inequalities of the world around him due to his Pashtun status. Amir's mother dies in childbirth, and so he is raised with one parent who doesn't seem to understand him very well. Amir's childhood is also built on a secret—the secret that Hassan is his half-brother. That knowledge would certainly have changed his relationship with Hassan, perhaps preventing the betrayal that is so devastating the rest of their lives. Sohrab, on the other hand, has undergone a great deal of trauma in his short life—the loss of both of his parents, abuse at the hands of an adult with power, and a suicide attempt. In Chapter 25 Sohrab tells Amir that he just wants to go back to the way his life was with his parents before they died, and since he can't, the safest thing he can do so that he doesn't lose someone else is to not get attached. Thus he keeps his distance from Amir and Soraya, and he tries to make his presence as small as possible. Sohrab needs to heal from his past trauma before he can begin to trust in people and happiness again, and Amir attempts to create that space for him and to try to understand Sohrab in a way that Baba never understood him. Amir also vows to never keep any secrets from Sohrab and Soraya, which is a marked difference from his childhood, with the secret that Hassan was his half-brother.

In The Kite Runner what does Amir mean when he says "there are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood"?

Amir makes this observation in Chapter 24, upon his return to Afghanistan as an adult. Many of the children in Afghanistan have lost their fathers due to Taliban fighting, and they have been abandoned to orphanages or turned into beggars because their mothers are not allowed to work under the Taliban's regime. The Taliban decree that women are not allowed to work outside the home or be educated in schools. The irony that Amir notes is that, while Afghanistan is full of children, they have no semblance of a childhood, particularly not the childhood that Amir enjoyed growing up in Kabul with Hassan. This younger generation has witnessed bombings, executions, and fighting, and many don't even know the Afghan traditions—such as kite fighting—that Amir grew up with. His childhood was full of playing, watching western movies, and exploring, while these children will never know anything like that since they are forced to grow up at a young age. Western culture has been banned by the Taliban, which sees it as a threat to their rule and as a pollution of their view of Islam, and they use fear and force to keep Afghan citizens in line with the Taliban strict code of Islam.

How does The Kite Runner trace the changing response of the people of Afghanistan to the Taliban?

In Chapter 15 Rahim fills Amir in on the impact of the Taliban since he and Baba fled the country. At the time Amir was too young to understand the impact and dangers of the Taliban, and he asks Rahim why he didn't also leave then. Rahim tells him that Kabul will always be his home, and that initially its citizens celebrated the Taliban's arrival in 1996 because they "kicked the Alliance out of Kabul." This was considered a good thing because the Northern Alliance had made it incredibly dangerous to travel due to warring factions trying to claim different parts of Kabul. So people stayed put, and "prayed the next rocket wouldn't hit their home." They were tired of the constant fighting and danger, and so they danced in the streets when the Taliban arrived. The people hailed them as heroes when they drove the Alliance out. But eventually the Taliban responded with violence toward anyone who did not agree with their religious moral code as Sunni fundamentalists, and they slowly dismantled many of the cherished customs and traditions of the Afghan people. The Taliban were a group of Pashtun supremacists—people who believe in the superiority of one ethnicity—who banded together and took almost complete control of the country. The welcome changed to fear.

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