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The Kite Runner | Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini

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The Kite Runner | Themes


In the opening chapter of the novel Amir notes, "the past claws its way back out," meaning that the past will always find a way to make its effects known on the present. This idea serves as the basis for the novel's themes.

Betrayal, Guilt, and Redemption

Betrayal is a common occurrence in The Kite Runner, and many of the characters spend the rest of their lives living with guilt and trying to redeem themselves. Baba betrays his loyal servant Ali by fathering a child with his wife. Baba spends his life helping others in an attempt to make up for what he has done. Amir betrays Hassan by not coming to his aid when he is assaulted, and he also betrays him by framing him for stealing money. Amir ultimately finds redemption when he rescues Hassan's orphaned son and gives him what he could never give Hassan—loyalty and love.

Father-Son Relationships

The relationship between fathers and sons is a common thread throughout The Kite Runner. Amir spends his childhood looking for Baba's approval, only to be met with disdain and aloofness. Their relationship improves as Amir gets older, and Amir realizes they are more alike than he had imagined. Ali and Hassan are another father-son pair, and their relationship is marked by love and loyalty. Yet the twist is that Ali is not Hassan's biological father—Baba is. Baba feels guilty for not owning his relationship to Hassan, which informs much of the way he treats Amir. Lastly Amir finds redemption when he goes in search of Hassan's son, Sohrab, and tries to adopt him. For the first time Amir is honest and open, and his relationship with Sohrab is characterized by patience and understanding.

Memory and the Past

The novel also opens with Amir's memory being triggered by the sight of twin kites flying in the sky. Amir's past haunts him for much of the novel, especially when he learns more about the repercussions of his decisions and actions. The past also haunts Sohrab, Hassan's son. Having been abused he feels dirty. And when Amir tells him he might need to spend a little time in a Pakistani orphanage, his memories of the Kabul orphanage terrify him so much that he's driven to an attempted suicide. For Amir and Sohrab their main struggle is finding a way to reconcile the horrors of the past with peace in the present and hope for the future.

Politics and Culture

The class differences that are a defining element of the culture of Afghanistan mold the relationships between the novel's main characters. Particularly in the case of Amir and Hassan, the pervasive belief that one ethnic and religious group is superior to another creates a scenario in which Amir simply cannot admit to his friendship with Hassan. Similarly Baba is held back by tradition from admitting his fathering of Hassan. Thus the fates of the two boys are greatly impacted by their culture. Another layer of complexity is added by the changing political scene in Afghanistan during the time frame of the novel. The status of Baba and Amir changes, forcing them to flee the country, and the extremism of the Taliban results in Hassan's death.

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