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The Kite Runner | Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini

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The Kite Runner | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


What is the significance of the lamb imagery throughout The Kite Runner?

In many religions, including Islam, a lamb symbolizes a sacrifice. When Amir witnesses Hassan being raped by Assef in the alleyway, he catches a glimpse of Hassan's face and notes that it looks the face of a lamb he saw right before it was slaughtered: resigned to its fate. The image of the lamb being slaughtered in Amir's memory is closely tied to the notion that, in some way, he has sacrificed Hassan's innocence in order to get Baba's approval. The fact that he sees Hassan's face as "resigned" in Chapter 7 is equally heartbreaking, as it means that Hassan is willing, in a way, to sacrifice himself in order to stay loyal to Amir. Much later Amir travels back to Kabul to rescue Hassan's son, Sohrab. During his attempt to extricate him from Assef, he observes in Chapter 22 that "Sohrab's eyes flicked to me. They were slaughter sheep's eyes." In the same tragic way as Hassan, Sohrab seems resigned to his fate as an abused orphan, and he represents many of the children whose childhoods were sacrificed by the Taliban. Later Amir also acts to stop Sohrab from sacrificing himself when he tries to commit suicide, which in a way closes the loop from Amir to Hassan to Sohrab and allows Amir another act of redemption on Hassan's behalf.

In The Kite Runner why is Hassan's goodness and loyalty so difficult for Amir to accept?

Hassan's traits of being loyal, kind, and good are difficult for Amir to accept because they contrast with his own jealousy and cruelty. On one level Amir deeply admires and appreciates Hassan, such as when Hassan praises Amir's writing and encourages him. Yet Amir is full of complicated and contradictory emotions, mostly owing to his difficult relationship with Baba. Amir is jealous of Hassan's relationship with Ali, as well as of any attention that Hassan receives from Baba. Once Amir betrays Hassan, his loyalty and inherent goodness become even more difficult for Amir to bear because they fly in the face of how cruelly he betrayed him. Hosseini invites the reader to wonder how Hassan can be so "good" in the face of his life's circumstances—he's born into servitude and belongs to an oppressed class of people who aren't allowed to read, write, or improve their station in life. Yet Hassan remains optimistic and loyal to a fault, which says something about his true nature and his loving relationship with his father, Ali. Hosseini also seems to be making a point that ethnicity, religion, or social status have no bearing on wisdom and kindness.

In the last chapter of The Kite Runner Amir refers to an Afghan saying "Life goes on, unmindful of beginning, end ... ." What is the significance of this reference?

The context of this reference is a scene in a video store, when Amir reveals the ending of a movie to a fellow shopper. Amir is surprised by the man's bitter anger at his "spoiler" remarks, which leads him to think about the difference in what people in Afghanistan want to know about movies. For them, "the ending was all that mattered." They want to see happiness at the end, regardless of "crisis or catharsis." Amir hopes for happiness at the ending of the story of Hassan, Sohrab, and himself, but having experienced life as he has he now believes it is naive to be sure of it. Still it is significant that Hosseini opens the novel with the memory of a horrible event following a kite-fighting event and ends it with a joyful moment of hope following a kite-fighting event.

In The Kite Runner how does Hosseini convey the psychological toll that Sohrab has experienced in his short life?

Hosseini links Hassan and Sohrab by having them experience the same physical trauma. The effect on Sohrab, however, is a much deeper psychological toll. Hassan and his son, Sohrab, experience horrific assault and abuse at the hands of the same person, Assef. Hassan experiences a physical assault that leaves him withdrawn and confused, yet he recovers enough to find happiness. While Sohrab's abuse is never described his reactions to adults and to being touched makes it clear that he feels unsafe around most adults and finds it difficult to trust them. He believes himself to be unclean and worries that he is damaged in some way. His mental anguish comes to a head when he tries to take his own life. Even upon his arrival in America and beginning his new life with Amir and Soraya, he withdraws from them so completely that it is evident his abuse has affected him on a very deep psychological level.

In Chapter 13 of The Kite Runner why does Amir believe "maybe this was my punishment, and perhaps justly so" when he finds out he and Soraya can't have children?

Amir's thoughts on fatherhood in Chapter 13 reveal his anxiety and guilt about his own relationship with his father and Hassan and also how focused on himself he is. Amir has carried around a burden of guilt for betraying Hassan, and he has been looking for his punishment for years. Since he wants this punishment so badly, on some level it feels just that he is being denied fatherhood. His emotions are also wrapped up in his fraught relationship with Baba and a worry that he could never be the inspiring and brave father that Baba was. Yet Amir must also realize that the world doesn't only revolve around his relationships and desires, and his ultimate decision to rescue and adopt Sohrab reflects that realization. This father-son relationship heals past and present and provides a model for the healing of a country.

In The Kite Runner how do Amir's courageous acts compare and contrast with those of Baba and Hassan?

Baba consistently shows bravery throughout the novel—he is constantly standing up for what he believes in and defending the defenseless. He is a character who believes in moral truths, and he tries to live by that code. Hassan is another character who consistently shows bravery—he defends Amir without wavering, even when that means he risks physical harm himself. Although Amir at first comes off as cowardly in many ways, his actions toward the end of the novel show that he has learned a great deal from Baba and Hassan about bravery. Amir makes brave decisions when he goes to Pakistan, when he confronts Assef, and when he rescues and adopts Sohrab. By finally returning Hassan's loyalty, despite great personal risk, Amir is able to redeem the decisions he made as a boy.

In The Kite Runner what is significant about Amir's revelation after Baba's death that "Baba couldn't show me the way anymore; I'd have to find it on my own"?

Amir's revelation in Chapter 13 is significant because Baba has been a looming and overpowering force in his life up until this point. Amir feels that he has relied on Baba his entire life for moral guidance and lessons, and nearly everything he has done has been an attempt to please and impress Baba. But this moment is a turning point in Amir's life, as he realizes that he will need to make his own decisions—and also that Baba wasn't necessarily a perfect human being. Even though Amir will mourn the loss of Baba, his death is important because it signifies that Amir is becoming more independent and able to stand up for what he believes in, which was always Baba's primary wish for him.

In The Kite Runner how does Amir incorporate aspects of his Afghani upbringing into his life in America?

Amir can consider both America and Afghanistan home, though the Afghanistan he grew up in is long gone by the time he returns as an adult. Nevertheless the culture and traditions of Afghanistan have helped shape who he is—the concept of honor and the ritual and memories of kite fighting. He is still deeply connected to his homeland even if he doesn't live there. In many ways Amir has assimilated into America, though he is connected to a community of other Afghan refugees who remember the same customs and traditions. For instance, he must follow the Afghan traditions of engagement and marriage when he asks Soraya to marry him. But he is also able to take advantage of college and a writing degree to become an author—something that probably wouldn't have happened if he had remained in Afghanistan because of how unstable the country has become. Blending these two cultures is important for him as he becomes an adult and must find a way to reconcile his past with his future.

In The Kite Runner how does the final kite scene between Amir and Sohrab compare and contrast to earlier kite scenes between Amir and Hassan?

It is significant that Amir runs Sohrab's kite in Chapter 25 since it was Sohrab's father, Hassan, who ran Amir's kite while Amir was the fighter. In this way Amir is repaying Hassan for his loyalty, friendship, and sacrifice by letting his son kite fight. Amir's kite fight with Hassan results in Amir's betrayal of him, an event that changes everything that comes after. Amir's kite fight alongside Sohrab is an attempt at getting closer to Sohrab and earning his trust. It also links Hassan, Amir, and Sohrab as father and son since Sohrab is now Amir's adopted son. Amir is passing on the tradition but is changing the rules—in Afghanistan a Hazara would probably not be a kite fighter. With this act Amir is aligning old and new traditions and beginning a new cycle of connection.

In The Kite Runner what is the significance and impact of the Taliban's banning kite fighting?

Politics and religion are never far from the center of the novel, and the Taliban plays a definitive role in how drastically life in Afghanistan changes over the course of the novel. Though Amir is only a young boy when the government begins to shift power, he understands after the first time he hears gunfire and bombing that Afghanistan will never be the same. The Alliance gains control of Afghanistan and then the Taliban leaves the region unstable and violent. It's not until Amir returns as an adult that he is shocked to see just how dramatically different things have become: men must wear beards, people are executed at soccer games, and men like Assef hold the majority of power—all because the Taliban hold extremely conservative Sunni Muslim beliefs and want to rid Afghanistan of any religious or ethnic minorities. When the Taliban bans kite fighting as well, it shows how dramatically this group is able to control the very culture of Afghanistan. To stay powerful, the Taliban believes any emphasis on the celebration of traditions must be eradicated. Fear must replace joy, which could lead people to hope—the feeling the kite evokes at the end of the novel.

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