By Remi Matza
*Disclaimer: this article includes spoilers.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a heartbreaking and eye-opening novel that tells the story of a young boy from Kabul, Afghanistan. Amir has a privileged upbringing by his father, Baba, who is relatively successful and provides Amir with nearly everything he could ever want or need. However, the one thing Baba does not give Amir is his approval and pride. Amir lacks a deep emotional connection with his father, and this drives him to make rash and immoral decisions in an attempt to make his father proud. Amir acts out of jealousy towards anyone that receives Baba’s affection or approval, especially his best friend Hassan. Hassan is a Hazara, which is an ethnic minority. Hazaras are faced with an immense amount of hatred and discrimination, and they hold a very low position in the Afgan social hierarchy. Hassan and his father, Ali, are Baba and Amir’s Hazara servants of many years, but despite their ethnicity, which usually unjustly draws danger and disapproval, Baba respects and loves them as family.
The two boys, Amir and Hassan, grow up with equal love and attention from Baba, and they do nearly everything together. While Amir often acts out of weakness and fear, Hassan is honorable, loyal and brave; he is everything Baba would want in a son. This sparks a constant feeling of inferiority in Amir.
The Kite Runner is told from the perspective of Amir twenty-six years after a life-altering event in his childhood that was sparked by his jealousy of Hassan. Every year, Kabul holds a traditional Afghan event known as a kite-fighting tournament. Young boys run around the streets of the city with kites covered in pieces of broken glass. The goal is to cut off the strings of surrounding kites until only one kite is left. Every year, Amir and Hassan look forward to the kite fight; however, this year, Amir felt extremely pressured. If he was not athletic or strong like his father wanted, he thought that by winning the tournament he could finally make Baba proud. In the tournament, Amir and Hassan worked as a team to fly their kite until it was the last kite standing. They were filled with joy, but in order to truly win, one partner, the kite-runner (hence the novel’s name), must trace where the last fallen kite landed and retrieve it. When Hassan runs to the kite, he encounters older boys that target him for being Hazara. They torment and abuse him, offering to stop only in return for the kite. Knowing how important winning the tournament is to Amir, Hassan remains strong and endures the pain and trauma inflicted by the older boys. While Hassan was so brave in such a dangerous situation, Amir failed to stand up for him. He saw that Hassan was being tortured, but he was too scared to help and instead hid and lied that he did not witness it. Following that day, Amir was racked with guilt, and eventually the two boys drifted apart..
The rest of the story depicts how Amir’s life changes as he and Baba flee to the U.S. when the Soviets invade Afghanistan. His memory of Hassan continues to be ingrained in his head and haunts him. However, through his experiences, he eventually learns that he can be moral again, and that although his past actions were disgraceful and upsetting, they do not define his ability to become a better person. Amir learns that being brave and honorable is not always about winning or being the best, but rather about doing the right thing.
This novel completely altered my outlook on life. It taught me that jealousy can destroy everything, that it is always possible to turn your life around, and that the hardest thing to do is forgive yourself. Sophomore Aliza Hammond recently read The Kite Runner for independent reading, and she agrees that “this novel completely changes your perspective on life.” Following the shattering internal conflict of Amir allowed me to glimpse the experience of coming of age. This novel showed me both strength and weakness, both pain and hope. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to expand their exposure to stories that touch on real-world issues. This book displays life and hardship in a raw, honest, and real way; but, because of this, I learned more from this story than anything else I have ever read thus far.