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Explore how Hosseini Creates a Vivid Sense of Place in The Kite Runner

The novel ‘The Kite Runner’ is told non-chronologically to make the significant scenes such as the rape scene more tragic to the reader. This structure to a novel makes it possible to contrast between the settings in the novel from old Afghanistanto America then to new Afghanistan. The setting in the Kite Runner at first makes it clear how foreign Americais to Afghanistanand Afghanistanis to America. However, as the novel progresses, the relationship between the two settings improves even though Afghanistanbecomes worse off with the Taliban in control. Yet, it is clear from Baba and Amir that they see Americaa more attractive place to live in than Afghanistanfrom the way they flea to Americawhen the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Throughout the novel, Baba is seen as a powerful man from the way he had control and authority in Afghanistan. This makes the reader value his opinion to move away from Afghanistan: to save his and his son’s life. Either way, the setting the Kite Runner is what creates the corruption and is important in being a simile to character’s lives and relationships.

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             The novel starts off in Afghanistanin the 1970s where Amir is still a child. Old Afghanistancontained many leitmotifs to the novel such as the pomegranate tree. The tree which Amir used to read stories to Hassan has significance from the way it was the first time really where Amir use to use his intellectual superiority over Hassan and mock Hassan for not being able to read. As the novel progresses, the way Amir mocks Hassan under the pomegranate tree increases and increases up to the point where he throws pomegranates at him. As much as it represented the relationship Amir and Hassan use to have, it also represented the uneven friendship Amir and Hassan had. The other leitmotif was the stories that come up throughout the time in Old Afghanistan. As well as reminding the reading that ‘The Kite Runner’ is just a story, is also reflects the unhappiness that is going to happen further on into the play. By giving us an early hint from stories that have tinges or sadness in them helps prepare the reader for the unexpected.
            Old Afghanistanwas a place of innocence where Amir and Baba could live in peace. Amir described how much he enjoyed winter in Kabul, ‘winter was every kid’s favourite season’. Winter was a time where children such as Amir and Hassan could have fun which again shows how innocent Afghanistanwas in the 1970s: before any invasions happened. Old Afghanistanhelps use see the naivety of children such as Amir back in the 1970s, ‘I love winter time in Kabul. I loved it for the… for the… for the…’ The use of a list is a form of persuasive technique. Here, Amir is trying to persuade us that Kabulis a place of happiness which highlights how Amir is biased towards Kabul. As well as Kabul being all Amir said, there was a lot of corruption still in Kabulwhich Amir blanks out epitomising the sense of ignorance. Yet, Amir always had doubts about his relationship with his father, ‘Baba and I lived in the same house but in different spheres of existence. Kites were the one paper-thin slice of intersection between those spheres’. This link between the setting and Amir and Baba makes it clear that it doesn’t matter where Amir and Baba are: the only thing keeping them together is an activity that can happen anywhere. This emphasises the decision Amir has to make at the rape scene whether to help Hassan or not.
            Old Afghanistanis followed then by the next setting being America. Amir uses the setting of Americato hide away his past life in Afghanistan, ‘For me, Americawas a place to bury memories’. It was an escape: a new beginning. This makes it clear that Amir saw running away from his mistakes fine when from Baba’s perspective, you are meant to stand up to them and face them just like he did for the women who nearly got raped by the soldier. The American part of the novel is written for the American audience from the way it is an immigration story. This helps the American audience relate to Amir especially how many Americans have ancestors that immigrated from their troubles to Americato achieve the ‘American Dream’. The ‘American Dream’ relates very much to Amir and Baba who travelled to Americawith nothing, hoping to make a life over there. This creates juxtaposition between Amir and Baba where in Afghanistan, Baba was successful and Amir was living from his success where in America, Amir is now successful writing and selling books while Baba works on a stool in a market. The only thing Baba has now is his dignity which is still enough to gain the respect of the Afghanistanpopulation in America. As much as America made Baba excited for a fresh start and to do something knew, ‘Baba loved the idea of America’, America contrasts against Old Afghanistan in different ways, ‘what kind of country is this?’ clearly telling the reader that America is different and hard to adapt to. With Baba a man of dignity, for Americato be a place where ‘no-one trusts anybody’ is a reason Baba will find it hard to adapt to. However, with Amir’s relationship being untrustworthy with Hassan in Old Afghanistan, he will be able to adapt more easily to this new lifestyle. He could lie to Hassan but Hassan would know he’s lying: Amir thought he knew. This friendship forced Amir to trust nobody, just like Americans.
New Afghanistanappears as a setting where Amir is on a mission to seek Hassan’s forgiveness by saving his son, Sohrab. Since Old Afghanistan, a lot has changed with the Soviet Union invasion and Taliban dominance, ‘Baba used to take me to the Khyber restaurant…I saw a dead body by the restaurant’. There’s now more aggression than hospitality in Kabulwhich will shock the reader. The memories Amir kept close to him throughout his childhood are now being scarred by war and corruption. This will give him more determination to save Sohrab from this warfare setting. It goes on where he sees a ‘Bullet-riddled sign’. This contrasts to his childhood again where Amir had a good upbringing. However, for the children to beg at the orphanage makes the reader fear the worst for Sohrab. The level of description for new Afghanistanmakes it clear Hosseini wants to create two vivid settings for one place like a before and after. This strengthens the viewpoint that Afghanistanhas turn into an inhabitable place to live: Hassan’s death is the proof along with the detailed description of the surrounding areas of Kabul, ‘Rubble and beggars everywhere…The beggars were most the children now’. Amir relates between the two contrasting settings of Afghanistanwhen he sees his sentimental home, ‘The front steps had crumbled like so much else in Kabul’. Hosseini is emphasising the sentimentality Kabulhad for Amir by comparing to the steps of his previous home. Kabulis not a home for Amir anymore. It is warfare.
Ultimately, the way Hosseini creates a vivid sense of place by relating the characters very much to the setting they are in. It could be said that the setting reflects some of the characters too. Baba’s power and pride can be seen in the old Afghanistanwhere there was peace and happiness. The conflict and corruption between Amir and Hassan is easily compared to the racism of Hazaras and Pashtun. In America, Amir relates to the ‘American Dream’ of starting fresh. However, it seems as if Baba stays locked to the setting of old Afghanistan, slowly dying just like old Afghanistanwas by the Russians. In new Afghanistan, Assef’s corrupted and powerful mind is at the heart of the Taliban: the unfortunate future for new Afghanistan. The link between characters and setting produces a strong mood and atmosphere from the way the characters are just like the settings they are in. When Hosseini starts mixing up the characters with setting (i.e. place dying Baba in America), it creates confusion for the reader seeing that the reader would hope Baba would adapt to the stereotypical way of American life. The settings are also extremely important in developing leitmotifs throughout the novel. Amir liked Americabecause he could erase his memory of the past he regrets doing. Having leitmotifs in the novel reminds him that these memories can never be forgotten and need to be corrected (which links with why Amir saved Sohrab). If there were no leitmotifs in the novel, it would have been much easier for Amir to get over what he had done wrong back when Hassan got raped. Furthermore, the setting makes it possible for Hosseini to portray a message across to the reader. You can make right from wrong: this is clearly displayed in Amir’s case. As corrupted new Afghanistanhas become, he still finds the desire to make right from what he had done wrong all those years ago.

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