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The Kite Runner | Symbols

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Kite

The kite is a vivid symbol from the opening of the novel, conjuring up both painful and happy memories for Amir. Kite fighting was his favorite activity as a child—it was the only sport he excelled at and had in common with Baba. Winning a kite-fighting tournament became a goal to gain Baba's approval. Kites also bonded him and Hassan, until the day of the tournament when Hassan is raped while kite running and Amir witnesses it. Then the kite becomes a symbol of Amir's guilt. Yet the novel closes with Amir and Sohrab, Hassan's orphaned son, flying a kite, which coaxes a tiny smile from the depressed Sohrab. In that way the kite again becomes a symbol of hopeful peace.

Bear

A local legend says that Baba once wrestled a bear and won. Amir believes this legend because he believes his father is strong and courageous. Whether or not the legend is true the image of the bear comes up time and again for Amir when he thinks of his father—every cause his father believes in becomes a bear that he must wrestle, and the cancer that ultimately kills him becomes the final bear he tries to defeat. The bear represents all the evil that Baba tries to win out over, as well as the intimidation that Amir feels when he believes himself incapable of standing up for himself.

Pomegranate Tree

The pomegranate tree is one of the few locations to which characters return throughout the novel. It is a food source, playhouse, and refuge for Amir and Hassan, so they carve their names into it, making them momentarily equal as "sultans of Kabul." In this way the tree symbolizes the common ground they are able to find in their friendship despite the divisions of ethnicity and religion. The tree also serves as a source of tension when Amir throws pomegranates at Hassan in an attempt to make Hassan hit him. When Amir returns to Kabul and the pomegranate tree after Hassan dies, the tree no longer bears fruit, symbolizing the death of an old way of life.

Slingshot

The slingshot in the hands of two generations—Hassan and then Sohrab—is used to attack the same enemy, Assef. In both instances the shot is aimed at his eye by a brave young man. Both shooters are protecting the same person: Amir. Although Hassan does not have to shoot, only make the threat, Sohrab does blind Assef with his shot. A brass ball is the missile he uses, bringing to mind the brass knuckles that the twisted Assef prefers to use when inflicting violence.

Scarred Lip

Hassan is born with a harelip, which his family cannot afford to repair. It is a defining feature until Baba pays to have it fixed, a not-so-subtle sign of what money can buy. Even though Amir does not know Baba is Hassan's father, Baba's act makes Amir jealous in his constant desire to have Baba show him similar outward signs of love and acceptance. Later Amir himself has a scarred lip as a constant reminder that he finally had the courage to stand up to Assef's evil, fighting him to protect Sohrab. The scar joins him to Hassan as Amir finally achieves some redemption for his act of betrayal so many years before.

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