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
- War and conflict
- Moral conscience
- American Dream
- Truth and lies
- Faith and religion
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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?’
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.