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The Kite Runner | Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini

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The Kite Runner | Plot Summary

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The Kite Runner is set primarily in Afghanistan, but it also includes chapters set in America and Pakistan. Spanning a time period from roughly 1973–2002, The Kite Runner begins with an anonymous narrator reflecting on the ways his past have shaped his personality and life. He struggles with guilt over decisions he made as a child, and many things in his adult life trigger this guilt. He tells his story, beginning with the recollection of his childhood servant and playmate Hassan, whose loyal friendship he never quite deserved.

Twelve-year-old Amir lives in a wealthy district of Kabul and is raised by his father, Baba, with help from the servants Ali and his son Hassan. Amir and Hassan often play together like brothers, yet both are aware that they occupy different classes in society. Their relationship is also complicated by Amir's jealousy of the fatherly attention Hassan receives from both Ali and Baba.

Amir hopes to finally impress Baba by winning a kite-fighting tournament. In Afghanistan kite fighting is a serious sport. In the tournament kites made of bamboo and colorful thin paper are flown by teams made up of two males. The kite line is wound around a wooden spool and is very sharp, being coated with a mixture of ground glass and glue. One person moves the string and the other handles the spool. The aim is to fly the kite so carefully that it severs an opponent's kite line. Cutting down someone's kite depends on the skill of the flier and such factors as the flexibility of the kite's bamboo frame and how hard the wind blows. Any kite that is cut free can be confiscated. When an opponent's kite is cut down, one member of the team becomes the kite runner who finds and claims the kite. When Amir cuts down the kite of his final opponent, Hassan runs to retrieve it. Amir goes looking for him, and he finds him trapped in an alleyway by three bullies. Two bullies pin his arms while the leader, Assef, rapes him. Paralyzed by fear Amir simply watches. Wanting the kite as a trophy, Amir chooses not to stand up to Assef. He runs away and does not return until Hassan is alone. When Hassan limps up to him with the kite, Amir does not acknowledge what he has seen.

Hassan changes after that, rarely smiling or singing, yet he continues to serve Amir and ask him to hang out. This behavior makes Amir feel so guilty that he can no longer bear to see Hassan every day. He frames Hassan for theft, thinking that would cause Baba to send him away. Although Hassan pretends that he is guilty in order to protect Amir, Baba forgives him. When Ali finds out the truth he decides to leave with Hassan in order to protect him against Amir.

A few years later the government of Afghanistan changes when the monarchy is overthrown and a republic is formed. When a communist political party takes over and Soviet troops invade to support the communist party, Afghanistan becomes a very dangerous place, and Amir and his father flee to safety. They move to Pakistan and then to Fremont, California, where they struggle to make a living. While working at a flea market and attending junior college, Amir meets and falls in love with a girl named Soraya. Though suffering from cancer, Baba helps Amir get her father's blessing. A month after Amir and Soraya are married Baba dies.

One day Amir receives a call from his father's old friend Rahim, whom he was always fond of because he encouraged Amir's writing career. Rahim is in Pakistan, and he is dying. He asks Amir to visit him. During their reunion Rahim tells Amir what has happened since he left, which includes the news that Hassan had married, fathered a boy named Sohrab, and was killed by a militant group called the Taliban that had taken over Afghanistan. Hassan was killed for defending his childhood home. Rahim also reveals that Baba was Hassan's father, which puts more pressure on Amir to rescue his orphaned nephew.

Amir returns to Kabul and learns that Sohrab was taken from the orphanage by a Taliban official. The official turns out to be Assef, the childhood bully who had raped Hassan and is now doing the same to his son. To earn Sohrab's freedom Amir agrees to fight Assef. Amir is beaten badly, but the physical pain spiritually heals him.

Unable to get pregnant yet believing in the importance of family, Soraya is eager to adopt Sohrab. But Amir encounters many difficulties, including Sohrab's attempted suicide, while trying to arrange the boy's immigration to America. Once in America Sohrab does not say a word for nearly a year. Then one day the three are in the park for an Afghan celebration. Amir buys a kite and tries to get Sohrab interested. Together they cut down another kite. Echoing words once uttered by Hassan, Amir vows to be Sohrab's kite runner. In so doing Amir both resurrects the past and sets a path for a new future.

The Kite Runner Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675


1 In 2001 Amir gets a phone call from Rahim.

Rising Action

2 Amir recalls a day in his past that changed everything.

3 Amir witnesses first coup of the Afghanistan government.

4 With Hassan's help, Amir wins a kite-flying tournament.


5 Too scared to help, Amir witnesses Hassan's assault.

Falling Action

6 Baba and Amir flee Afghanistan for California.


7 Amir goes to Afghanistan to find Hassan's orphaned son.

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