This blog post’s about Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. This book’s subject matter includes the occupation of Afghanistan by the Taliban and the ensuing destruction of Amir, the main character’s way of life. While Amir grew up as a wealthy heir to a sizable estate and son of a respected man in his community, he soon discovers that everything has been taken from him as soon as those first bombs drop. However, at its core, this book was never just about the Taliban.
The central emotional conflict is between the person Amir is and the person he wants to be. Amir constantly wishes he was stronger, ashamed at failing his Baba at every turn. This story continues when he constantly treats his Hazara servant Hassan as lesser than him, but Hassan continually lives to serve Amir, laying down even his dignity for his sake. Amir continues to be frustrated by his own sins, while Hassan seems like the perfect foil to him: completely faithful and sacrificial in every way. Amir completes his sin by deceiving his father into kicking Hassan off the estate, but he has to wrestle and grapple with this guilt for the rest of his life. Amir’s background and the cultural background of Islam definitely play a significant role in the story – though Amir’s father is not particularly religious, he holds very tightly to his morals, leading Amir to spiral into despair.
There are some very significant artful and emotional elements in the storytelling. First, I love how the focus of the book is not on a “good versus evil” sort of story. Instead, it focuses on Amir’s own complete depravity and near sociopathy, and the insane guilt he feels from his own actions. I additionally love that Amir’s explanation for this behavior is a combination of jealousy of Hassan and a burning desire just to finally be accepted by his father. No character in this book is perfect, (except Hassan) and I think that the imperfect motives of each of the characters fleshes out the story in a very artful and complete way. Each character feels sympathetic, even as we dig up all the skeletons in their closets.
Furthermore, I love the ending arc of the story: with Amir completely crippled by guilt, he’s visited by his old caretaker in his new life, who offers him a shot at redemption. Hassan may be dead at the hands of the Taliban, but his son is not – Amir can redeem himself by rescuing Hassan’s son from the Taliban and raising him as his own. Amir even nearly fails at this task, but his actions are very heroic, even if his internal dialogue is not. The entire time there and back, Amir is questioning himself, having had lied to his wife about where he is going. He constantly worries that he’s going to die and leave her a widow. I love the ending, though, where Hassan’s son is shown to be as good with a slingshot as Hassan himself was. Sohrab administers justice to his father’s rapist by obliterating one of his eyes, ironically protecting Amir in the same way as his father, carrying out Hassan’s previous threat to him decades ago.
And I love the ending, how Amir repeats Hassan’s words and undying loyalty shown to him back to his son: “For you, a thousand times over.” The last words spoken to Amir before their relationship became completely broken when Amir allowed Hassan to be raped, failing to intervene because of his own cowardice. This ending, though, shows Amir’s full journey from selfish and insecure kid into faithful and loving man – a full and true ending to Amir’s journey that also pays respect to Hassan. All in all, a wonderful book. 🙂