Amir recalls an event that happened twenty-six years before, when he was still a boy in Afghanistan, and says that that made him who he is. Before the event, he lives in a nice home in Kabul, Afghanistan, with Baba, his father. They have two servants, Ali and his son, Hassan, who are Hazaras, an ethnic minority. Baba’s close friend, Rahim Khan, is also around often. When Afghanistan’s king is overthrown, things begin to change. One day, Amir and Hassan are playing when they run into three boys, Assef, Wali, and Kamal. Assef threatens to beat up Amir for hanging around with a Hazara, but Hassan uses his slingshot to stop Assef.
The story skips to winter, when the kite-fighting tournament occurs. Boys cover their kite strings in glass and battle to see who can sever the string of the opposing kite. When a kite loses, boys chase and retrieve it, called kite running. When Amir wins the tournament, Hassan sets off to run the losing kite. Amir looks for him and finds Hassan trapped at the end of an alley, pinned with his pants down. Wali and Kamal hold him, and Assef rapes him. Amir runs away, and when Hassan appears with the kite, Amir pretends he doesn’t know what happened. Afterward, Amir and Hassan drift apart. Amir, who is racked by guilt, decides either he or Hassan must leave. He stuffs money and a watch under Hassan’s pillow and tells Baba that Hassan stole it. When Baba confronts them, Hassan admits to it, though he didn’t do it. Shortly after, Ali and Hassan move away.
The story jumps to March 1981. Baba and Amir are in the back of a truck as they escape from Kabul, which was invaded by the Soviets and has become a war-zone. After a hellish journey, they make it to Pakistan. Two years later, Baba and Amir live in Fremont, California. While Baba works at a gas station, Amir finishes high school and goes to college. Baba and Amir sell things at a flea market on Sundays, and Baba sees an old friend, General Taheri. Amir notices General Taheri’s daughter, Soraya. When Amir finally speaks to her, General Taheri catches him and tells him there is a proper way to do things. Not long after, Baba is diagnosed with lung cancer. Amir asks Baba if he will get General Taheri’s consent for Amir to marry Soraya. General Taheri accepts the proposal. They hold the wedding quickly because of Baba’s health, and Baba dies a month later. Amir and Soraya try unsuccessfully to have a baby while Amir works on his writing career.
Amir gets a call from Rahim Khan. Rahim Khan is sick and wants Amir to see him in Pakistan. Amir meets him a week later, and Rahim Khan tells Amir about the devastation in Kabul. He says things only got worse after the Soviets were forced out. Now the Taliban rule by violence. He has a favor to ask of Amir, but first he needs to tell him about Hassan. When Baba and Amir left Afghanistan, Rahim Khan watched their house. Out of loneliness and because he was getting older, he decided to find Hassan. He convinced Hassan and Hassan’s wife, Farzana, to come back to Kabul with him. Farzana and Hassan eventually had a little boy, Sohrab. A few years later Rahim Khan went to Pakistan for medical treatment, but he received a call from a neighbor in Kabul. The Taliban went to Baba’s house and shot Hassan and Farzana and sent Sohrab to an orphanage.
Rahim Khan wants Amir to go to Kabul and bring Sohrab back to Pakistan, where a couple lives that will take care of him. He tells Amir that Baba was Hassan’s father, and Amir agrees to do it. In Afghanistan, Amir finds the orphanage where Sohrab is supposed to be, but he is not there. The orphanage director says a Taliban official took Sohrab a month earlier. If Amir wants to find the official, he will be at the soccer stadium during the game the next day. Amir goes to the game, and at half-time, the Taliban put a man and a woman in holes in the ground and the official Amir is looking for stones them to death. Through one of the Taliban guards, Amir sets up a meeting with the official.
When they meet, Amir tells the official he is looking for a boy, Sohrab, and the official tells the guards to bring the boy in. Sohrab is wearing a blue silk outfit and mascara, making him appear more feminine and suggesting that the men sexually abuse him. The official says something Amir recognizes, and suddenly Amir realizes the official is Assef. Assef says he wants to settle some unfinished business. He beats Amir with brass knuckles, breaking Amir’s ribs and splitting his lip. Sohrab threatens Assef with his slingshot, and when Assef lunges at him, Sohrab shoots him in the eye, allowing Amir and Sohrab to escape. As Amir recovers in the hospital, he finds out there never was a couple that could care for Sohrab. Amir asks Sohrab to live with him in the U.S., and Sohrab accepts.
The adoption officials tell Amir that adopting Sohrab will be impossible since he can’t prove Sohrab’s parents are dead, and Amir tells Sohrab he may have to go back to an orphanage. Amir and Soraya figure out a way to get Sohrab to the U.S., but before they can tell Sohrab, Sohrab tries to kill himself. He lives, but he stops speaking entirely. Even after they bring Sohrab to California, Sohrab remains withdrawn. One day, they go to a park with other Afghans. People are flying kites. Amir buys one and gets Sohrab to fly it with him. They spot another kite and battle it. Using one of Hassan’s favorite tricks, they win. Sohrab smiles, and as the losing kite flies loose, Amir sets off to run it for Sohrab.
What Role Does Religion Play in the Lives of Baba, Amir, and Assef, and in the Novel as a Whole?
The Kite Runner is a controversial narrative novel written by Khaled Hosseini – an author of the Afghan-American heritage. The story revolves around the life of Amir and is set throughout such events like the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan, the military intervention of the Soviet Union, mass departure of refugees to the U.S. and Pakistan, and the Taliban regime establishment. This narrative is known for its familial settings and clearly expressed father-son relationships, as well as for raising the themes of guilt, redemption and atonement. The story itself enables the reader to get a thorough insight into the daily life of the Afghani people and into their culture. Even though it is not the main theme of the novel, religion is always there, and its influence on the lives of the characters is vivid. Author approached the topic of religion from two sides – from the point of view of religious characters and from the point of view of those, who have their own understanding of religion, and, as a result, he was able to portray the process of Amir’s finding his own religion amongst these two sides.
Amir, who is as well a main protagonist, tells the entire story in The Kite Runner. The narration is set in such a ways that a reader starts to feel compassion towards Amir, but not because of his personality, but rather because of the events that he gets involved into. Therefore, one gets an insight of the importance of religion in the life of ordinary Afghani family first of all through the perception of Amir, and religion might seem to not be a major focus for him, but it is always present there. Since religion is an inalienable part of the Afghani culture, it is present in each aspect of the protagonist’s everyday life. Throughout the narrative, reader is able to see both positive and negative aspects of religion. In the story, the negative side of religion is expressed mainly through the fundamentalists who use religion beliefs as a tool to exert violence onto other people and to spread their control onto other people’s freedom (Hosseini, 2003).
The reader can also grasp the views towards religion from Baba – Amir’s father. He is a respected wealthy businessman. What is peculiar about him is that he is a freethinker, who always strives to do what is right and to think for oneself. What is more, Baba is not a supporter of the fundamentalism in the Islam religion, but he does have his own moral code that he follows throughout life and tries to raise Amir according to it. One of the first important episodes concerning religion in the lives of Amir and Baba is an occurrence when Ali, comes home from school and tells his father that he was taught that drinking alcohol is a sin. As a response, in order to teach Amir a lesson, his father pours himself a glass of whiskey (Hosseini, 2003). This scene is one of the many that contradistinguishes Baba and his views from the ones preached by mullah. Further, Baba tells his son “I see you’ve confused what you’re learning in school with actual education,” he then proceeds and calls the mullah and others like him ‘bearded idiots’, and tells Amir that it will be impossible for him to learn anything of value from them. Baba’s difference from the majority and his core attitude towards the fundamentalism in Islam is expressed in such a manner: “They do nothing but thumb their prayer beads and recite a book written in a tongue they don’t even understand,”… “God help us all if Afghanistan ever falls into their hands” (Hosseini, 2003). Afterwards, Baba tries to explain Amir that theft and all the variation that it has is the only real sin. Growing up with this kind of moral grounds, Amir gets confused and questions the existence of God. When the reader follows Amir through his childhood, it is possible for one to see that he was not a very religious child, but still he is able to develop a Muslim faith, yet with the solid moral grounds that his father had preached to him. Throughout his life, when Amir was in the need of comfort – after Baba’s CAT scan or when Sohrab tried to commit suicide – he turned to Allah, trying to find reassurance in the prayer (Hosseini, 2003).
It is impossible to detach the life of Amir’s family from the events happening in Afghanistan. Amir and his father were forced to leave the country and to immigrate to the U.S. There is no detailed description given by the narrator of the political events happening in Afghanistan, but the reader knows about the conflict that was continuing within the country after the Soviet troops left. When Amir narrates about the Taliban being in control of the country, the reader learns that the controlling group is using religion only for justifying the violence and authoritarianism (Hosseini, 2003). In the novel, there is Assef, a character who shows the reader the clear and vivid image of the Taliban. He was born into the Afghan-German family, and as the plot develops, it becomes clear that he possesses strong fundamentalist views on religion. It is obvious that Assef is the antagonist of the novel. Since childhood, he is portrayed to be a sociopath and a generally quarrelsome person. When he wanted to hurt Amir, he raped his closest friend Hassan, and he gave Amir Adolf Hitler’s biography as a birthday present. As he was growing up, his views on religion became stronger, even though they are usually contradicting with the main principles of Islam. Regardless of screening himself as a Muslim, Assef is a cruel racist, incapable of remorse, who is just using religion to justify his violent actions because he believes that the God is on his side (Hosseini, 2003).
The Kite Runner is a rather controversial literary piece that answers many questions, but rises even more. The reader follows the life of what might seem a typical Afghan family, but as the plot thickens, the things are more complicated than they seemed. Author raises many themes and religion, even though it is not clearly stated, is one of them. The reader can observe three views on religion – Baba’s free interpretation of what it really means to be a religious person; Amir’s confusion and ability to find his religion after all; and Assef’s radicalism that contrasts the religion as a whole.
Hosseini, K. (2003). The Kite Runner. Retrieved from http://www.bestlibrary.net/classics/The_Kite_Runner/
O’Rourke, M. (2005). Do I Really Have to Read The Kite Runner? Retrieved from
Wilson, C. (2005, April 19). ‘Kite Runner’ Catches the Wind. USA Today. Retrieved from
Khaled Hosseini, the author of the novel Kite Runner, shows his readers a gap between religion and morality and faith in his book. The protagonist Amir hesitates between the canon of Islam and the principles of his father Baba. This choice is a basis of his individuality and affects all his decisions. This Kite Runner essay is not only about influence of religion on a person’s life. The writer presents it as a powerful force that can change the destiny of the whole country together with its population. The essay includes strong argumentation that you may use for your own paper. Just don’t forget about citing!
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