The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini, is a novel about power, justice, and both internal and external conflict. The feelings of jealousy and selfishness are continually shown by at least two of the main characters throughout the story. This is also a story of cultural power brought on by the influences of the Taliban within the Afghan society. Power is a constant theme throughout the novel and ties closely with the conflict in the characters. Amir, is the central character and is shaped both in character and intellect by power. He is privileged and wealthy, but also steeped in jealousy and cowardice. He is selfish and guilty of abhorrent behaviors. The one positive strength Amir has is his friendship with Hassan. Considered best friends this is a friendship that is generally one-sided with Hassan showing the loyalty and trust. There is an ongoing conflict for this friendship because Amir shares paternal heritage with Hassan.
Hassan was born into servitude and thus Baba, the boys’ father, cannot lay claim to Hassan’s heritage. The Afghan traditions and culture pose a conflict for Baba regarding Hassan. Hassan for his part is loyal, forgiving, and an all-around pleasant person to be with. The two boys are drawn to each other naturally. Hassan is the family servant and never wavers in his loyalty to the family even with the knowledge that he should be considered part of it. At the same time, Baba struggles with his own morals and the rigid Afghani traditions. He is proud and determined but also emotionally detached from Amir. Amir feels the detachment deeply and constantly strives to receive Baba’s affection. There are several characters that tie into the overall story. Ali is Hassan’s surrogate father and also servant to Baba. Assef is the antagonist for the story along with two other boys; Kamel and Wali. Assef is a bully and an abuser.
Ultimately he sexually abuses Hassan and Sohrab, Hassan’s son. Assef feels no sorrow or remorse for his actions and continues to bully people. In the second half of the novel, Farid, Amir’s driver and friend proves to be a valuable and trustworthy friend eventually helping to search for Sohrab. Sharif, is Amir’s uncle by marriage and also proves to be an asset in bringing Sohrab to the United States. There are many more second class characters within the story that have minor roles to the significance of the story. Communication, or the lack thereof, plays an important part to the story. Baba lacks emotional communication with both Amir and Hassan. For Amir, Baba displays his love with gifts and monetary gains. This leads Amir to feel privileged and entitled. He is a selfish child with no real emotional connection to his father. Amir displays jealousy to anyone receiving Baba’s affection no matter how small the significance. This jealousy is directed at Hassan because Amir is taught to believe that servants are beneath him. Hassan for his part, is a good natured child, he forgives easily and comes across almost as naive.
Amir behaves terribly toward Hassan, using passive-aggressive tactics to goad Hassan, which never really works to Amir’s benefit. It becomes apparent that although Amir considers Hassan to be his best friend, Amir struggles with the communication necessary to show his affection. When Hassan is raped, it is because Amir betrays him. It isn’t until well after the rape that a grown Amir can effectively communicate his guilt regarding his role in the rape. This guilt eventually leads Amir to search for Hassan’s son. Communication plays another significant role that closely ties culture and relationships. Afghani culture seems to have a specific role for males; emotions are not shown although there is a deep value on morals. The fact that culture plays such an important part is evident within the relationship between Baba and Hassan. Baba cannot publicly announce that Hassan is his son but he can do small favors and give gifts.
He can also treat Hassan as a part of the family with deference to direct heritage; son versus nephew. Communication and culture directly affect the issues of power and conflict within the story and the dialogue between the characters. The greatest source of conflict is caused by the fact that Hassan is Baba’s son. Amir is aware of this fact and reacts negatively. Amir is both jealous and cruel to Hassan, yet he also considers Hassan to be his most important friend. The friendship is generally one-sided with Hassan consistently showing his trust and loyalty to Amir even after the next major conflict occurs, Hassan’s rape. Hassan’s rape is brought on by Amir’s actions. He wants to be the best kite runner and tries to prove himself during a competition with Hassan at his side. Assef shows his true character within this portion of the novel by sexually abusing Hassan. Amir fails to intervene in the rape of Hassan and subsequently struggles with guilt. Amir attempts to atone for his actions throughout the rest of the book.
Part of the conflict for Amir is within himself. He allows and unspeakable act to happen to his best friend, then he feels tremendous guilt about not helping him. This guilt ultimately affects Amir’s character and changes the way he sees things. Assef, Hassan’s rapist, shows the magnitude of his power from the beginning towards both boys but eventually directs his power on Hassan. The primary reason for this is because of the culture and way of life and also Hassan’s status within the community. Conflict ultimately leads to displays of power throughout the book. Power is a cornerstone of the events to the story. It is shown in many differing ways from authority and control to and a means to an end. Assef uses his power to prove his social status. He is demeaning, mean, and a bully to those he considers beneath him.
The rape is an effect of Assef’s definition of power. The other real source of power comes from the Taliban regime. The Taliban show power over others because they own it and others do not. Power is exclusive to the Taliban because of control and this allows the Taliban to reign over everyone. Baba feels this power and shows his deference to it by following the rules of the culture. These rules eventually lead to the conflict in the story. Power and control can pave the way for a person to either be held under or to allow them to regain control over themselves.
When Amir finally discloses his guilt in the final portion of the book, he shows his own power. Amir is able to gain self-worth through his actions to help Sohrab and thus begins to forgive himself for his role in Hassan’s tragedy. Self-disclosure has a purpose in life and Amir uses it perfectly. He is able to confront his own issues while at the same time offer assistance to another. This is a novel that is worth reading. It gives a unique perspective on Afghani culture that a person wouldn’t normally see. There is culture of rigid rules, family dynamics and secrets, as well as how society rules over people.