The novel “Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini, is a story of class and ethnic conflict, friendship, family, betrayal and redemption. Released in 2003, the novel became a best seller and in 2005 rose to third on the best seller list for the year.
The novel is significant because of the tense political climate at the time of its publication and because it is the first book published in English by an Afghan-American.
Its inclusion of a story about the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the years prior to 9-11 is remarkable due to its fair treatment of Afghanis. In this era of Muslims portrayed as terrorists in the media, a portrayal of Afghanis as multi-dimensional people is significant and unusual.
The main theme of the story is the relationships between people. Important relationships are those between Amir and Hassan and Amir and Baba. Amir and Hassan, age 12, are best friends and were raised as brothers, but Hassan is also Amir’s personal servant.
The relationship between Amir and Hassan is beneficial for both boys. Hassan loves it when Amir reads to him, while Amir, who enjoys deviating from the written story as a way of mocking the illiterate Hassan, discovers his gift for writing through doing this.
Eventually Amir is inspired to write a story of his own. Baba is uninterested in the story which highlights his distance from Amir. Amir and Baba are different in many ways. Baba, like Amir, is respected for his intelligence, but unlike Amir he is also feared for his imposing strength and bravery. It seems as though Amir and Hassan are each one half of Baba.
Their relationship, although tense at times, is also loving and caring. Baba, at times a tough and distant father, only wants what is best for Amir and wants him to grow up to be a strong, brave and thoughtful man.
Betrayal is a key component of the story, both the betrayal of Hassan by Amir and to a lesser extent the betrayal of Afghanistan by Afghanis, by the communists who aided the Russians in their invasion of Afghanistan or those who joined the Taliban.
The betrayal of Hassan by Amir is central to the story. Class conflicts as well as ethnic and religious differences provide the context for the actions and feelings of the characters in the story. Amir’s first betrayal of Hassan is directly related to their differences in ethnic background.
Hassan, a Hazara (the lower class), is tormented by Assef, a Pushtun (the elite class) for Hassan’s protection of Amir, a fellow Pushtun. In Assef’s mind Amir is a race traitor for his friendship with Hassan, and Hassan is a fool for protecting Amir.
The relationship of the adult Amir and his driver Farid toward the end of the story also highlight class differences. Farid, a member of the lower classes, assumes that Amir, a member of the upper classes who fled the country during the Soviet invasion has returned to Afghanistan only for selfish reasons and is surprised to find out that quite the contrary, he has returned to find an orphan Hazara boy.
According to Farid, the idyllic Afghanistan that Amir remembers was not the Afghanistan of the majority of the country. Poverty and hunger were always a part of the country. The only difference is that now it affects almost everyone. Amir reconsiders his feelings towards Farid, and they eventually become friends of sorts.
Perhaps the best asset of the novel is its rich descriptions of the beauty of Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion and the description of the bombed out and bleak landscape of Afghanistan in the years after the Taliban took over.
This description keeps the reader engaged when the plot takes a seemingly implausible turn toward the end.