Baba expresses a great deal of pride and attachment to the afghan culture so the move to America fills Amir and himself with a loss of heritage and identity. The escape from the previous culture however allows Amir to escape the incident of rape upon his best friend Hassan which has left a bad taste on his childhood. In America Amir doesn’t turn away from his Middle Eastern culture, and asks Soraya’s father, the general for permission to marry her even though he spurns it slightly by talking to her privately without consent. Amir towards the end, becomes proud of his blended culture. Although he enjoys visiting Pakistan, eating the traditional food and hearing references to childhood legends, he also likes the feeling of hope and freedom he gained from America.
From childhood, Amir recognizes the difference in social standing between himself and best friend Hassan. As a Pashtun, Amir enjoys privileges of being a higher class and his father being a successful man whereas Hassan is poor and he and his father face prejudice from people every day. Despite this, Hassan and Ali are content with their lower class life and are good natured human beings. Hosseini is trying to convey that your social standing in society does not determine what kind of person you are and if you are better than someone else. You can only truly be better than someone else morally and having saint-like characteristics.
During Amir and Hassan childhood, they’re differences of social class are conveyed by living standards, Hassan being illiterate and physical appearances. These are individually important but as a whole they all convey irony in the fact that it is Hassan who is content with life and Amir who is not. Later in the novel, Hazara prejudice which is taken to the extreme as they are massacred and abused by Taliban officials, such as Assef. When Sohrab returns with Amir to America, Amir is quick to dispel any mention of class as he believes it is has influenced his and Sohrab’s life too greatly and he perhaps finally sees them as his equals which he was afraid to do so as a child(never referring to Hassan as his friend).
Many of the actions of the main character stem from personal responsibility. Baba takes on the responsibility of Ali from his father, who took him in when he was a child. He lets Ali and his son work for him, offers them shelter and food; making them feel part employees and part family. Air later realises this ‘personal responsibility’ baba showed for Ali may stem from his guilt of betraying Ali and fathering Hassan. Amir feels responsible for all the bad occurrences which happened to Hassan and his father. He feels many of the events which occurred later in the novel are down to him being too cowardly to prevent Hassan being raped.
Though many suffer from the Taliban’s ruthlessness, he believes the events that happened to Hassan’s family are his responsibility/fault. The feeling of responsibility is what drives Amir to return to Afghanistan, to rescue Sohrab. Rahim Khan plants this idea in Amir’s head and suggests this is the way to achieve closure and absolution for the past. After he rescues Sohrab, Amir feels responsible for the boy in a different way and wants to protect him from anymore pain; furthermore, he sees Sohrab as a way to fill the emptiness in the marriage from his and Sorayas infidelity.
Identity and Self- discovery
Throughout the novel the protagonist struggles to find his true purpose and find his identity through noble actions. Amir’s failure to be loyal to his friend at such a crucial moment defines this conflict. His endeavour to overcome his own weaknesses appear in confronting Assef, returning to a war torn country oppressed by the Taliban and even his carsickness whilst during with Farid.
The revelation of baba later in chapter 17, allows Amir to discover who his father really was and how alike they were in terms of betraying people who loved and were loyal to the end to them. The return to Afghanistan allows Amir to find out the type of man he can become and to confront his past which he has so desperately tried to bottle up.
Family, Fathers and Fatherhood
Family relationships play a great part in this novel but mothers are strikingly absent. Amir and Hassan grow up without their mothers and this is exemplified through the tension of Baba’s treatment of his sons. He makes it clear he is disappointed Amir is bookish, cowardly to protect his social standing and stick up for Hassan whilst on the other hand, he never publically acknowledges Hassan as his own son- although he shows a great deal of affection to Hassan.
Likewise, General Taheri is a similar traditional, highly critical father who chafes his daughter for rebellious behaviour. The theme of family is then reintroduced when Amir and Soraya are unsuccessful in starting their own- punishment perhaps for their pasts or that Amir has yet to face up to his. The adoption of the troubled Sohrab however, provides them with the attempt to begin a complete family based on love and honesty.
Journey and Quest
The novel is mostly based around Amirs departure from Afghanistan as a young teenager and his return as a middle aged man to the war-torn country. At the same time, it is a symbolic quest. Amir makes great sacrifices to pursue his quest to atone for past sins by rescuing his nephew Sohrab in the hands of the Taliban. Symbolised at the beginning of the novel with Amir cutting his fingers with the kite string in order to sacrifice himself for his father’s love, sacrifice plays a big theme also.
Amir towards the end of the novel again, willingly cuts his fingers, to revive his spiritually wounded nephew who is suffering from depression. By the end of the novel, this significant symbol of sacrifice shows how much Amir has morally developed as he is willing to sacrifice much in order to save Sohrab from a similar fate and to protect him. The most part of the novel is Amir hiding from his past and by returning to Kabul he is taking that all important journey to have complete redemption.
Political power and Abuse
The events of the novel occur against the backdrop of political change, the rise of the Taliban government. Assef, Hassans rapist and bully, who becomes a high ranking Taliban officer, embodies the consequence of abuse of power and violence and oppression caused by the Taliban. Assef is a sociopath who thrives in the atmosphere of chaos. Interpersonal violence leads to the split of Hassan and Amir; on a national scale the abuse of power by communist backed soviets results in massacres and Afghanistan forces to go into exile.
The abuse of power and abuse is an important reference to how the hazara’s have been treated. From humiliation at the beginning of the novel for their looks to being massacred and horrifically abused. When General Taheri demands an explanation for their adoption of Sohrab, he echoes the discrimination against this entire ethnic minority and in a sense, Baba also condones the attitude towards Hazara’s by not admitting that he fathered a Hazara son.
After Hassan gets raped while running his kite, Amir cannot separate kite fighting and running from his own betrayal and cowardice. Therefore, even after all of his injuries and trials on Sohrab’s behalf, it is the act of kite running that finally makes him feel redeemed. Beyond their significance to the plot, kites have multiple layers of symbolism in the story. One of these layers involves the class difference between Amir and Hassan, which largely dictates and limits their relationship. In kite fighting, one boy controls the kite while the other assists by feeding the string. Just as Hassan makes Amir’s breakfast, folds his clothes, and cleans his room, so does he cater to Amir in kite tournaments.
Even though Hassan shares in the excitement of kite fighting, he does not actually have control over the kite. Hassan may help the kite “lift-and-dive,” but Amir is the one who claims a victory. Hassan may catch a cherished rival kite and hold it in his arms, but always to bring it back to Amir, to whom it then belongs. His joy is vicarious, just like his experience of wealth and privilege while living in Baba’s household. In order to free himself of selfishness and cowardice, Amir must go from being merely a kite fighter-someone who seeks glory-to a kite runner, someone who genuinely does things for others.
The activity of kite fighting is violent by nature. The kites battle and so too do the children flying them. The string, which is covered in ground glass, carves deep gashes into the fliers’ hands as they try to cut each other down, and once kites fall out of the sky, the kite runners retrieve them with the same furious determination as, say, a hunting dog does a slain bird. In its violence, kite fighting represents the conflicts that rage Afghanistan nearly throughout the course of the novel. When Hosseini paints us a picture of hundreds of kites trying haphazardly and with great determination to cut each other down, he shows us also the warring factions of Afghanistan overthrowing one another.
At the same time kite fighting is violent, the mere act of kite flying is innocent and speaks of freedom. Amir and Hassan do not have control over the differences between them; in fact, they are both the victims of a lie, and their relationship would have been different had they known they were brothers. Yet despite their differences and the symbolism of their respective kite-fighting roles, flying kites is an activity that brings the boys together. For a moment, they are part of a team.
For many years, Amir feels as though he and Hassan are adversaries for Baba’s love. After the rape, Hassan’s very existence infuriates Amir because it reminds him of his cowardice. Despite all this, when the boys fly kites together, they are on the same team. They are more like brothers then than perhaps any other time, because the activity is somewhat mutual. It allows them to momentarily escape their differences and enjoy a shared sense of exhilaration and freedom.