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The Kite Runner Themes & Motifs

Khaled Hosseini
This Study Guide consists of approximately 41 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Kite Runner.
This section contains 913 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Living with Guilt

Amir is rescued by some neighborhood bullies by Hassan, a boy who holds the role of servant in his household. Later, when Hassan is being attacked by these same bullies, Amir stands by and allows it to happen. That moment drives the guilt he lives with the rest of his life but also expands the guilt he feels for other actions before and after this event. Amir says that Hassan’s devotion to him is complete and unwavering but that he only plays with Hassan when the wealthy children of his father’s friends aren’t available. It seems that Amir looks back at his childhood through a haze of guilt that actually stems from Amir’s decision to stand by while Hassan is attacked. Amir might have lived with this guilt for the rest of his life if not for Rahim Khan who realized that Amir needed desperately to find a way to atone for that guilt in order to find peace. Amir reluctantly sets out on the journey to find Sohrab but when Assef is beating him with the intention of killing him, Amir finds that peace. He seems to have spent his life seeking some kind of punishment for his inaction on Hassan’s behalf. Enduring that beating helps him come to terms with himself and his guilt. Amir is not the only example of this theme. Baba spends his life hiding the fact that Hassan is his biological son. He allows Hassan to leave his household in shame rather than admitting to the relationship and putting Hassan in his rightful place. Hassan is left behind in America where he eventually dies. It’s Rahim Khan who suggests that Baba spends a great deal of time, money, and energy helping others as a means of trying to live with his guilt over Hassan.

Doing What's Right

Amir and Hassan spend almost all their time together. One day a neighborhood bully threatens them and Hassan stands up to him, threatening back with his slingshot so that the bully leaves without beating them up. Later, Amir finds Hassan surrounded by this same bully and his friends. Amir doesn’t stand up to them but stands by as Hassan is beaten and raped. Amir pretends he didn’t see what happened and lies about it when Ali asks about Hassan’s mental state following the attack. Amir hates himself for his failure to do what’s right but then compounds it by creating a lie around Hassan so that he and Ali eventually leave the household. Amir is taught from an early age that telling the truth and doing what’s right is important. This makes him even harder on himself than he might otherwise have been. Baba preaches to Amir that secrets and lies are unacceptable but Baba himself lies about the biological bond he has with Hassan. Had Baba stood up to that situation, claiming Hassan as his son and giving him his rightful place in the household, the fate of both boys might have been different. When Baba and Amir flee the country, Hassan remains and is later executed by members of the Taliban. Ironically, Baba refuses to do what’s right in that case but when a young girl is threatened by soldiers, Baba stands up to them though it almost costs him his life. When Amir is an adult and learns that Sohrab is in danger, he offers to pay a friend to get the boy out of the country. He’s urged to do what’s right in this case and he travels into Afghanistan where he’s beaten almost to death when he does stand up for the rights of Sohrab.

Devotion and Friendship

Amir, Hassan, Baba, Ali, and Sohrab are all examples of this theme but each relationship has different levels of devotion. Amir and Hassan grow up together, and they are devoted to each other but not in the traditional manner. Amir depends heavily on Hassan for companionship, but he is also jealous of him, especially Hassan’s relationship with Baba. Amir admits that he and Hassan aren’t friends. He says he plays with Hassan when there’s no other option. Hassan, however, is completely devoted to Amir and depends entirely on him for friendship and companionship. Ali is also completely devoted to Baba but that devotion is based on the servant-master relationship rather than friendship. Ali is similarly devoted to Amir. Baba is devoted to Ali but that devotion is probably at least partly because Ali is raising Baba’s son as his own. Baba’s devotion to Hassan is different. It appears early on as if the devotion is only as a master to a beloved servant. It’s only much later that Amir learns that Baba’s devotion is that of a father to a son. The relationship between Amir and Baba is complicated and changes over time. Amir is devoted to his father though he sometimes hates the treatment he receives from his father. Over time, Amir’s devotion deepens and he takes care of his father right to the end of his life. Baba’s devotion to Amir is subtle and he seems unable to express his love for his son except when Amir accomplishes something great, as in the weeks after the kite tournament. Amir is surprised when it turns out his father is proud of his abilities as a writer.

This section contains 913 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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