Don't miss

The Kite Runner Analysis - Everything YOU Need to Know


For anyone studying English AS A Level, you may find it quite daunting to remember everything about Hosseini's novel 'The Kite Runner'. There's a lot you need to know which makes revising extremely difficult to manage. However, after studying the book for the best part of a year now, I hope that by publishing all my notes onto this article you will find everything you want and need to know about the Kite Runner. Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you (it's not in chronological order!).

Narrative Form in The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini uses several different narrative perspectives throughout The Kite Runner. He uses the narrative mode 'First Person Plural Epistolary' in sections of the novel when letters are read and sent from different characters being Rahim Khan, Amir and Hassan: the story is temporarily told through letters. It could also be argued that during the letters, the first person changes from Amir to the person writing the letter, giving us the views of different characters without letting the unreliability of Amir come through.

As well as that, the majority of the novel is in first person unreliable. Amir is an unreliable narrator due to the events in Chapter 7 being the rape of Hassan. Amir's conscience has the guilt of Hassan's rape throughout the whole novel which leads him to become unreliable. Remembering that this novel is told as it happens and not in a conscience of tranquillity, a 7 year old boy is likely to become an unreliable narrator with the shocking events Amir has had to witness and react to. However, there are times when Amir becomes reliable as a narrator and that is mostly nearer the end. As time progresses and the pressure of redemption increases, Amir goes to the further extremes to gain redemption from Hassan. He knows Hassan, even if he is dead, will only be truly happy once Sohrab, his son, is. This is why when Amir states, 'It was only a smile, nothing more...but I'll take it' is so important. After previously attempting to commit suicide, Sohrab is now finally happy. The weight has been taking off of Amir's shoulders which is why he is at his most reliability at the end of the novel.

Going on, Khaled Hosseini uses the narrative mode, 'First Person Stream of Conscious'. This is displayed most in moments where Amir and Hassan talk/think about dreams such as the dream of the lake before the kite tournament in Kabul (start of Chapter 7). The narrative mode is also present at the scene of the rape scene. Amir recalls two memories and one dream during the rape of Hassan by Assef. Amir is attempting to shut off his mind from the disturbance of what is going on with Hassan illustrating the emotional trauma he is going through. By having these memories here also help to slow down time. The memories and dreams of Amir make the rape scene feel like it goes on for much too long making the reader feel disturbed from this trauma. Therefore, Hosseini is making the reader feel the same emotions Amir is feeling from slowing down the time: we have to suffer the rape scene for longer. 

Ideology 

The message of The Kite Runner is didactic (intended to teach). This makes clear that the Hosseini is trying to make the reader learn from Amir's mistakes.

Themes and ideas of the The Kite Runner:
  • War and conflict
  • Guilt
  • Moral conscience
  • Fatherhood
  • Loyalty
  • Prejudice
  • American Dream
  • Love
  • Brotherhood
  • Atonement
  • Sacrifice
  • Truth and lies
  • Honour
  • Forgiveness
  • Faith and religion 
The theme of Brotherhood is one of the most interesting for the fact we later find out that Amir and Hassan are in fact brothers:
  • The novel identifies the relationship between Hassan and Amir.
  • Hosseini gives us hints throughout of Amir and Hassan being brothers, 'Hassan and I fed from the same breast'. This is a healthy clue that they might be brothers considering many sibling feed from the same breast.
  • It's the brotherly relationship that causes Baba to treat his sons the same. 
It's the brotherly relationship that causes Baba to treat his sons the same. 
This is important as Amir and Hassan's friendship was uneven as children because Amir always thought he was superior to Hassan. As it turns out, they were of equality meaning Hassan was mistreated by Amir and shouldn't have been for example when he throws the pomegranates at him even though he says, 'I treated Hassan well...like a brother' (P36). This adds to the pressure of redemption.

Key Quote by Rahim Khan (P194) - 'And why you? I think we both know why it has to be you, don't we?
This makes clear that Rahim Khan knows what happened when Hassan was raped. This adds the pressure of forgiveness onto Amir. Beforehand, if he didn't seek forgiveness, it would have only been himself that he let down and Hassan. Now that others know, he will be letting a lot more people down such as Rahim Khan, 'a boy who can't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up for anything'. Rahim Khan is hoping that although he didn't stand up for himself as a boy, he would have learnt from his mistakes and stand up for himself as a man now.

Voices

There are three distinct voices in The Kite Runner accompanied by evidential quotes:
  • Amir - 'I am what I am today at the age of twelve' and 'Much of it I knew already'. 'it' is the story meaning he is missing out words (elision). This makes clear we as the reader have become familiar with the character and the character has become familiar with us.
  • Rahim Khan - 'There is a way to be good again' and 'The biggest one, Allah forgive me, was that I was lonely'. Through mentioning Allah shows us that he is devotedly religious.
  • Hassan - [through the use of his letter to Amir] 'Amir Agha' and 'I am a very proud and very lucky father'.

AO1 Appropriate Terminology

  • Rites of Passage Novel - A stage in growing up during a novel (transition between childhood and adulthood). It is the key events that transposes you from a child to adult. The Kite Runner focuses on Amir's key events from childhood to adulthood.
  • Bildungsroman - It has near enough the same definition of a rites of passage does. The novel is about the creation and development of Amir.
  • Leitmotif - A repeating symbol/image the author keeps coming back to. 
  • Creative metaphor - An author invented symbol in the novel itself. e.g. the kites are a creative metaphor made by Hosseini.
  • Flashback - Looking before the assumed time happened.
  • Non-chronological - Story has been told out of sequence.

Leitmotifs in The Kite Runner

  • 'For you, a thousand times over' - Hassan is the first one to say this line when he runs to get the Kite. Amir repeats this at the end when kite flying with Sohrab. The roles have reversed with Amir being the kite runner and the closest living thing to Hassan being Sohrab the kite flyer. By Amir repeating what Hassan said to him to Sohrab makes clear that Amir has the love for Sohrab that Hassan had for Amir. This concludes the redemption Amir has been searching for.
  • The Kites - The kites are described as 'paper sharks roaming for prey' and appear in Chapter 7 and at the end when Sohrab and Amir fly a kite together. With the title of this poem being about kites, it could be said this whole novel evolves around them. After all, it is the winning kite that Hassan runs after that causes him to get raped. The kite are a deep part to the story line of the novel.
  • Rape - The two main rape scenes are of Assef raping Hassan and in Afghan Assef raping Sohrab. Due to the fact that Assef raping Hassan fuelled Amir's motivation for redemption, the fact he prevented any further rape from Assef to Sohrab makes the redemption feel half complete. In Afghanistan, rape is not only serious on a criminal side but also a religious side. For the victim, it shows the other person has complete control and dominance over them physically and mentally causing the victim to be emotionally traumatised.
  • The Cleft Lip - The cleft lip of Hassan is significant as it is what Amir describes most about Hassan's appearance. The fact that Baba chooses to pay a surgeon to remove the cleft lip provides early signs that Baba might be his father with Amir as his brother. The cleft clip reappears when Assef, while fighting Amir, splits Amir's lip open is cut by Assef leaving him with a permanent scar just like Hassan. This makes clear that Amir is learning from his mistakes through developing the characteristics of Hassan. He has learnt to stand up for those that he loves just like Hassan did for him against Assef. Amir is becoming more and more like Hassan leading him further towards redemption,
  • The Slingshot - The slingshot is first featured with Hassan defending Amir from Assef and his friends. It is then later used by Sohrab to hit Assef making him blind in one eye. This gives the impression that Amir, by himself, is not capable of standing up for himself even if he tries to. He needs the backing of other characters being Hassan and Sohrab to help him stand up for himself. In both cases, he has come up on top because of the slingshot which was used as a weapon.

Narrative Sequence

Chapter 15
  • Amir is the narrator though its indirect narration (reporting on what someone else has done).
  • Taxi driver is first to speak. This is direct speech as is in speech marks because it was said by the Taxi driver.
  • There is dialogue between Rahim Khan and Amir.
Chapter 16
  • The narration comes in the form of Rahim Khan as the voice. This is direct speech emphasises the importance of him as a voice. 
  • We only see Rahim Khan's perspective now because he is the voice. Therefore, it makes us create an image of Amir's reaction. 
  • Rahim Khan fills in the missing history Amir doesn't know about.
Chapter 17
  • Amir returns as the narrator again.
  • The dialogue continues between Amir and Rahim Khan.
  • Hassan's letter is read making Hassan become the narrator for a short section. The letter fills in more missing history (epistolary).
  • We have a flashback over Amir's life because the reveal that Amir was brothers with Hassan occurs.

Old Afghanistan Quotes

  • 'I love winter time in Kabul. I loved it for the...for the...for the...' This epitomises the sense of naive ignorance.
  • Written for the Afghanistan audience as Hosseini still uses Afghan words throughout.
  • 'Baba and I lived in the same house but in different spheres of existence'. Hosseini is juxtaposing the setting to their relationship.
  • 'Winter was every kid's favourite season'. 

New Afghanistan Quotes

  • Baba used to take me to the Khyber restaurant...I saw a dead body by the restaurant'. There's more aggression and less hospitality in Kabul. This shocks the reader.
  • 'Bullet-riddled sign'. This contrasts against Amir's childhood: he had a good upbringing. 
  • 'Rubble and beggars everywhere' and 'The beggars were most the children now'. The fact the children begged at the orphanage makes the reader fear the worst for Sohrab.
  • 'The front steps had crumbled like so much else in Kabul'.

America Quotes

  • The American section of the novel is written for the America audience. This makes clear that Amir has become American. Relating to the structure, the novel could now be seen as an immigration story.
  • 'For me, America was a place to bury my memories'. This is Amir's escape: his new beginning.
  • 'the traffic noise gave him headaches and pollen made him cough'.
  • 'What kind of country is this?' This makes clear America is hard to adapt to for Baba and Amir.
  • 'No one trusts anybody'. Everyone in America is untrustworthy contrasting to pride, honour and trust of people in old Afghan. 
  • 'Baba loved the idea of America'. Baba was eager for a fresh start and was excited for something new.

Key quotes from Chapter 8 and 9 which reveal Amir's complex response to his feelings of guilt

  • P81 'I wishes he'd give me the punishment I craved, so maybe, I'd finally sleep'. (coward)
  • P77  'I want you to stop harassing me. I want you to go away'.
  • P75 'I watched Hassan get raped'.
  • P92 'I wasn't worthy of this sacrifice'.
  • P80 'I hurled a pomegranate at him'.
  • P92 'I was a liar, a cheat, and a thief'.
  • P91 'Hassan knew. he knew I'd seen everything in that alley, that I'd stood there and done nothing'.
  • 'Strangely, I was glad that someone knew me for who I really was; I was tired of pretending'.
  • P90 'Baba, have you ever thought of getting new servants?'
Amir's behaviour will shock the reader from the way he tries to block Hassan out of his life, 'I want you to go away'. We sympathise as we know Amir was powerless at the rape scene. However, this doesn't explain why Amir would reject Hassan adding to the confusion of the reader. Amir tries to blame Hassan for his own cowardice which is a desperate last ditch attempt of Amir trying to force Hassan to give Amir a punishment. This, to the reader, will come across as frustration from Amir. The reader will therefore evoke sympathy for the amount of suffering Amir is going through at the moment because he simply wants to be punished by Hassan is to nice to punish Amir. Yet, the reader will feel disappointed and angry at Hassan has forced Ali and Hassan away because we will later find out he has forced his brother away.

Chapter 3

In Chapter 3, we gain a more detailed glimpse into Baba's personality as well as Amir. We find Baba's nickname was 'Mr Hurricane' for his strong nature. He also 'wrestled a black bear' with his bare hands highlighting how physically and mentally strong he is. He also made an orphanage in the late 1960s which he halted to watch the World Cup games. From him building an orphanage could suggest Baba wants to get satisfaction from other children and that he is disappointed with Amir and can't get the satisfaction from Amir himself.

It appears Baba gives more attention to Hassan from the way to pats Hassan on his back and puts his arm around him. While, Amir states 'I think I have Saratan' meaning cancer which is an attempt to get Baba's attention in which he failed. This later haunts Amir and Baba when Baba develops cancer in America.

Baba has strong views on religion bringing him across as patriotic and committed. He talks about sins with Amir saying how each sin is a different type of stealing, 'When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth'. He wanted to teach Baba what is right and wrong or, 'black and white'.

Amir speaks about how he had poem wars at school and usually won. However, Baba doesn't approve this and is disappointed from how Amir has turned into nothing like himself (Baba). He talks to Rahim Khan about Amir which Rahim Khan backs Amir. But, the disappointment from Baa is strong as everything he wants Amir to be Hassan has.

Chapter 4

  • Concentrates on story telling: story of Afghanistan's history.
  • Story of the past of 'Shanamah' (classic Persian literature).
  • Hassan liked the story 'Rostam and Sohrab'. He later names his son after Sohrab from this story. The tragedy of the story was that the father kills the son in a battlefield. This can relate to Amir and Baba's complicated relationship.
  • Hosseini layers these stories on top of each other.
  • The amount of stories being told forces the reader to think they are all stories, including 'The Kite Runner' the reader is reading now.
  • The narrative form is self-referential - a story that draws your attention to the fact its a story.

Chapter 7

In the old testament, there is a story of Abraham and Isaac. God speaks to Abraham and says 'if you love me, sacrifice your son Isaac to me'. Abraham when he's just about to kill his son is stopped by God who is merciful and says to Abraham he has proved his love and can sacrifice a lamb instead. 

Hosseini is symbolising Hassan as the 'look of a lamb' who is a sacrifice to Amir. It is not a clear symbol and links in with him being a Hazara: servant. Hassan has passive strength just like Jesus had. In the emotional trauma, Amir tries to think of other memories while Hassan is getting raped. The narrative form changes to a stream of consciousness.

Chapter 22

  • Form - Rites of passage such as an adventure or quest.
  • The climax appears in this chapter where the hero (Amir) confronts the monster (Assef).
  • Structure - History is repeating itself with this time having a different outcome: rerunning events with a different outcome. 
Most important events in Chapter 22
  • Assef wearing the John Lennon glasses - severe juxtaposition is occurring here because the John Lennon glasses are known to be linked with peace but they are being worn by a socio-path.
  • The brass ball and slingshot - this links with chapter 4 where Hassan threatens to use his slingshot at Assef.
  • Foreshadowing the future with the grape that is will be 'the last whole thing' he would eat in a long time suggesting he is going to get injured.
  • Sohrab - 'a slaughtered sheep's eyes'. 'Sohrab is being abused'. There is comparisons between Hassan as a child and Sohrab.
  • The reveal that Amir's beard is fake creates tension.

Epilogue (Resolution)

  • The Kite Runner has a long epilogue. 
  • Sohrab tries to commit suicide.
  • Chapter 22+ builds upon Sohrab's character: what Sohrab feels can relate to what Hassan felt.
  • Redemption is not fully complete at the end of chapter 22: it needs to be completed as the novel is a rites of passage.

Character of Assef

  • Well earned reputation for being savage.
  • Owns a pair of brass knuckles.
  • Has obeying friends.
  • Presented as a socio-path (doesn't understand the difference between right and wrong).
  • Racist towards Hazaras.
  • Aspired to Hitler.
  • A Pashtun who has an influential family. He has mixed parents: his dad is Afghan while his mum is German.
  • 'One Eyed Assef'. Later on in the novel he fulfils this name when Sohrab flings a stone at him using a slingshot.

If The Kite Runner was a Tragedy...

  • Assef - Antagonist
  • Amir - Protagonist
  • Hassan - Victim
  • Hero - Amir
  • Amir's fatal flaw would be jealously, guilt and cowardice.
I hope this article has benefited you in some way or another. Be sure to check out other helpful articles I have on Ask Will Online.

About Will Green

A student in England studying Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Will created Ask Will Online back in 2010 to help students revise and bloggers make money. You can follow AskWillOnline via @AskWillOnline.

17 comments so far:

  1. omg i really needed this .. thankss soo much :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. thanks so much i wish i had found this earlier : )

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanku very helpful :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. omg thank you so much! My exams in two days and I barely know anything, this is exactly what I needed! thankyouuuuuuuuuu:))

    ReplyDelete
  5. My exam's in four hours! This is precisely what I needed! Thank you so much!

    - Howard

    ReplyDelete
  6. This blog is a life saver, filling in the gaps of some very shaky teaching. Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is PERFECT!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yasss!! I am reading this book for English class and this expanded my knowledge so much!!! Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I did kite flying when I was a child and I remember we made our own kites too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Absolutely brilliant analysis. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Amazing for last minute revision... Thank you very much!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you so much I have my exam tomorrow and this really helped. I've also told all my English lit friends about your site.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Absolutely amazing resource to look at just before the exam...thank you!

    ReplyDelete