The novel “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini vividly portrays the impact of culture on personality and even destiny of the main characters. Khaled Hosseini describes unique Afghan culture, its traditions and rituals, social norms and human relations which have a great influence on decisions of the protagonist and his life. Thesis using different themes and motifs, Hosseini creates a powerful life story portraying that culture and national identity determine destiny of a person, his life choices and relations with others.
The book is based on the ideas of friendship and family relations, generation gap and immigration, cultural assimilation in America and cultural identity. In the interview Hosseini comments that “Because the themes of friendship, … the uneasy love between fathers and sons are universal themes and not specifically Afghan, the book has been able to reach across cultural, racial, religious, and gender” (cited Azad 2004). The protagonist of the novel, Amir, is faced by cultural traditions of his nations, misunderstanding with his father and feeling guilt.
Hosseini portrays family relations typical for many Afghans based on a man’s power and dominance and oppression of women in this culture. This theme is closely connected with generation gap and inability of Amir’s father to understand his only son. In contrast to many young people of his culture, Amir loves literature and poetry. He is portrayed as a radical whose circumstances and temperament lead him into a very different experience. Literature and story writing are not considered as a good profession for a man like Amir belonging to high social classes.
The conflict between this cultural tradition and Amir’s desire to become a writer creates a tension and misunderstanding between Amir and his father. The idea of friendship and close peer relations between men is another theme which runs through the novel. When he was a child, Amir betrayed Hassan and defamed him. Many years have passed, but he feels guilty because of his weakness and disloyalty. Using this theme, Hosseini portrays that much human behavior is based not on the underlying values people hold, but on their compliance to the pressures exerted by the social world around them which can be resisted only at a high price.
Everyone lives by cultural and social rules whose existence they are well aware of, but that they cannot resist their social world mostly rules them. In the explanations that the people in this book give of their lives, the dominant form personal level takes is that of the world of other people. Amir ponders: “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded … with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night” (Hosseini 198). The novel vividly portrays a conflict between Afghan culture and the Soviet Union traditions spread in this land.
On the other hand, through minor characters of Afghan military, Hassan and his wife, Hosseini depicts different cultural traditions and national identity of two opposite cultures. Patriotism is not always a delusion and there may be values in one’s country that are worth defending, even dying for. However, states’ molding of their citizens into a common way of life is under challenge today. It is under challenge in part because of the resurgence of ethnicity and ethnic identity.
These ideas of self echo Hosseini’s interpretation of culture: both self and culture are seen by some as belonging to a particular place, bounding and shaping the beings therein, and by others as radically open and free. In his interview Hosseini comments: “It’s hard not to feel some guilt in a country where privilege and poverty are basically next door to each other” (Jolly 2006). The themes of immigration and assimilations help readers to perceive cultural differences between Afghan and American cultures based on different values and religious traditions.
In contrast to Afghanistan, American culture is based on collective consciousness. This contradiction can best be resolved by considering self and culture in a common phenomenological framework: a framework based on how people experience the world. For Afghan people, their experienced are based on revolutions and military struggle, constant tension to be killed and master-servant relations. Through the character of Sohrab, a nephew of Amir, Hosseini depicts a strong bond between relatives and importance of blood relations. In spite of great risk and Taliban rule, Amir returns to Kabul and saves his nephew Sohrab.
Through this theme, Hosseini depicts that this choice of values and identities is not really free. People pick and choose themselves in accordance with their class, gender, religious belief, ethnicity, and citizenship, as well as all the exigencies of their own personal molding, from a cultural frame; they pick and choose themselves in negotiation with and performance for others. “Hosseini gives his readers credit by being subtle about his metaphors, such as the fact that Afghanis live among war and kite flying is children playing at war, preparing for it” (Most Readers Loved This Novel 2005, G3).
For Amir, his half-brother Hassan, choice is not free, but it seems to be free: as if, from the vast array of available cultural choices as to what one might believe, how one might live, they make their choices and live and believe accordingly. For the most part, these men characters shape themselves in ways close to home, in congruence with their membership in home societies. Following Makhmalbaf (2001) “transformation changes the socioeconomic infrastructure that in turn breaks the traditional culture and creates a more modern one, exporting oil and consuming the products of industrialized countries” (29).
The facts, events and destinies of the characters described by Hosseini show that culture is the main factor which determines human life and personality. According to Hall and Gay (1996): “The cultural shaping of self occurs at what may analytically be viewed as separate levels of consciousness” (34). In the novel, lives of all characters are shaped by a particular language and set of social practices that condition them as to how they comprehend self and world.
All characters think in language and behave in accordance with Afghan cultural values and norms of their ethical group. In sum, the novel portrays that the self universally is made of past memories and future anticipation linked to an ever-shifting present. Amir’s experience in America shows that human self-identity does not disappear in the other country determining life goals and behavior. Human personality is culturally shaped: people of different cultural backgrounds clearly have different ways of experiencing the world.