The “Kite Runner” written by Khaled Hosseini, is set in 1975, in Kabul, Afghanistan. At the time Afghanistan was an Islamic monarchy with some western influences. during this novel the internal revolution begins in Afghanistan, the USSR invades and the Taliban takes over.
Our story is narrated by the main character, Amir, who is retelling the story of his childhood growing up with his best friend in Kabul before the Russian invasion. Amir is a Pashtun, high caste, Sunni Muslim, along with his father, Baba, who works as a successful businessman in Kabul. Amir’s best friend, Hassan, is described in the novel to lie a brother to Amir, they have grown up together and been best friends since birth. Hassan is a low caste, Hazara, Shia Muslim. He is also Hassan’s servant and the son of Ali, Baba’s servant. Unlike Amir, Hassan is uneducated.
Throughout this essay I am going to talk about how the different language features, shown within the novel, “narrative point of view, foreshadowing, and symbolism” help to develop the main character, Amir and how Amir helps us, the reader to understand the themes of betrayal.
In the novel “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, narrative point of view helps to develop the character of Amir throughout the novel and helps us to understand the central theme of betrayal. At the beginning of the story, Amir reveals how the consequences and guilt over a decision he made as a young boy have followed him through to adulthood. Although we don’t know at this stage what that decision was, we can guess that it involved a betrayal of his friendship with Hassan. As we see numerous times in the novel this betrayal has followed him through his life growing up and has greater consequences that he is aware of at this time.
The betrayal of Hassan starts in chapter 7, the rape scene. This is the scene where Air watches his best friend, Hassan being raped by Assef, and chooses not to defend or save him from the situation. This first betrayal of Amir’s friendship with Hassan escalates into further betrayals that cause life to change events to happen to both Amir and Hassan later on in the novel. The next betrayal that follows on from this event is Amir trying to avoid contact with or any communication with Hassan after the rape because he doesn’t know how to deal with the guilt of what he had done, he chooses to shut Hassan out of his life as he thinks this will help. Amir even goes to the lengths of accusing Hassan of theft, to try force Hassan and his father Ali to leave, in order to assuage his feelings of guilt.
Another betrayal is that bt Assef, the betrayal of Muslim values through the rape of Hassan and also the rapes that occur later in the novel of children at the orphanage including Sahrab. Assef sins against two of the main principles of Sharia law, which he is supposed to be promoting: upholding public and private morality; and preventing oppression. He is also going against the teachings of Muhammad which states one should not harm himself or others.
This is also the betrayal of Amir’s father Baba. Baba betrays his servant, also his friend, Ali by sleeping with his wife and fathering Hassan. This is also a betrayal of Amir, as Baba does not tell Amir that Hassan is actually his half-brother.
All the betrayal in The Kite Runner are major in themselves, but as Amir grows up they all start to add together and result in the event of Hassan and Alis deaths. By Amir not owning up or dealing with his initial betrayal straight away he caused the consequences to snowball over time. Had Amir been honest and owned up what he witnessed, his friendship with Hassan may have survived and thus Hassan himself might have survived. But alienating Hassan and betraying their friendship even further, Amir’s path yo redemption becomes even harder.
Eventually, Amir has to face his guilt from the past and travels back to Afghanistan after 20 years and tries to find redemption for his decisions. Over this period of time, Afghanistan has been over by the Taliban and new rules and regulations, based on Sharia law have been introduced. These lead to harsh punishments for those deemed guilty, often resulting in a death sentence. Hassan was one of the Taliban victims.
One of the main things that Amir learns on his journey is that Sohrab is the nephew and that his father, Baba was not the moral, upstanding person he had believed him to be his whole life. When Amir found out that he and Hassan were half-brother he knew that he had to go back to Afghanistan, find Sohrab and try to redeem himself from abandoning his brother by finding his nephew and saving him from the dangerous life in Kabul. When Amir returns he puts himself at huge risk by re-entering a country now run by the Taliban. Amir also has to face Assef and the resulting violence that is inflicted on him.
The second language feature that Khaled Hosseini uses in the book is foreshadowing, which is a way of predicting or indicating that something is going to happen in the future. It is a tool that helps create suspense and is used effectively during the telling of Amir’s story, especially when used in combination with flashbacks to his childhood.
Foreshadowing is shown throughout the whole text but especially in the beginning chapters. We are introduced to foreshadowing in the very first part of chapter 1 when Amir is an adult and has been living in America. “I became what I am today at the of 12, on a frigid overcast day in winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alleyway near the frozen creek. This was a long time ago but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way back. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into the deserted alleyway for the past 12 years.” This flashback scene is telling the reader about the very moment in the past when he became the man he is today. This part of the book sets the scene to the entire story: Khaled Hosseini used this quote to foreshadow that later on in the novel we are going to see a major event occur that changes Amir’s life.
Another place where Khaled Hosseini has decided to use this idea is in chapter 6, where foreshadowing predicts who Hassan actually turns out to be. In this scene, Amir describes a strange feeling that he frequently gets when he looks at Hassan. “That’s when I had it happened again: Hassan’s face changed… I had the feeling I was looking at two faces, the one I know, and another second face, his one lurking just beneath the surface. I’d seen it happen before, it always shook me up a little… it just appeared, this other face, for a fraction of a moment, long enough to leave me with the unsettling feeling maybe I’d seen it someplace before.” This quote is a clever one that Hosseini has put in the novel because he is foreshadowing what we later learn in the book, that Hassan and Amir are half-brothers. The second face that Amir is describing is his own, when he catches that glimpse of Hassan’s second face he is seeing himself.
A further example of foreshadowing shown in the book is in chapters 7 and 22. In chapter 22 we learn that Assef, Hassan’s rapist from earlier on in the novel, is keeping Hassan’s son, Sohrab, as a sex slave. Sohrab being sexually abused by Assef is foreshadowed from earlier on in chapter 7 when Assef rapes Hassan, as his best friend Amir stands there watching, too scared to help or do anything, “The look of a lamb” he said as he was staring at Hassan’s face. The language used to describe Hassan’s face is foreshadowed later on in the novel to describe his son Sohrab. In chapter 22 is when Hassan’s son Sohrab is kept as a sex slave by Assef and Amir is the one to try and save him.
Symbolism is another language feature that Khaled Hosseini shows us in “The Kite Runner”. Symbols are used in this novel to represent ideas. A symbol that we are introduced to is that of the kite. In “The Kite Runner” the kites symbolize friendship, childhood, and happiness, but for Amir, they also symbolize the betrayal of Hassan. When Amir tries to remember something happy in the fuel truck while he is fleeing Afghanistan, he thinks of the old days flying kites with his best friend Hassan. However, after Assef raped Hassan the thought of flying kites just reminds Amir of his betrayal and guilt, the next time Amir flies a kite again is with Sohrab at the very end of the story. The kites also represent Afghanistan’s “glory days” the days before the Taliban, as we find out later in the book that flying kites has been banned by the Taliban, but is carried on by the emigrants in America.
Another symbol that we see throughout the novel is the lamb. In the Islamic, but also Christian and Jewish faiths, the lamb represents innocence and sacrifice: lambs are slaughtered during times of festivity. We first see this symbolism when Amir is describing the look on Hassan’s face when he is being raped by Assef. Also when Amir finds Sohrab for the first time with Assef, he describes Sohrab as ‘looking like a slaughter sheep.’
In the novel, Hassan becomes the sacrificial lamb to Amir: “maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba” and “then I understood: this was Hassan’s final sacrifice for me”.
Although Hassan is an unwilling, powerless but resigned victim during his rape, he offers himself willingly as a sacrifice when Amir accuses him of theft. He shows himself to be the stronger, the more loyal friend.
In the text ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini, language features, such as; the narrative point of view, foreshadowing and symbolism help the main character, Amir to develop throughout the book. Amir also helps the reader to understand the theme of betrayal, which is portrayed through his life in Afghanistan and follows him to America.
Throughout the book, the reader gets to witness Amir grow as a person and try to redeem himself. Making a wrong decision in his past caused his guilt to escalate dramatically and ended with his half-brother’s death. The language feature of narrative point of view shows Amir’s perspective on the numerous betrayals that have occurred in his life. Amir’s betrayal of Hassan, the betrayal done by Amir’s father and Assef’s betrayal to his faith. All of these betrayals lead to Amir later in life wanting to redeem himself and seek redemption. This shows that Amir has at last grown and matured as a person.
The author uses foreshadowing, symbolism and narrative point of view in a very effective way. We become interested in Amirs past history, how it has shaped him and where this will lead him. We get hints of things to come, and how past directly impacts on the future. The three language features compliment each other and develop the character of Amir into a person we can engage with and want to follow along with as his story draws to its conclusion of redemption