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The Kite Runner

September 8, 2015

TKR 2Friendship, betrayal and redemption in pre- and post-Soviet Afghanistan, prejudice and marginalisation, guilt, betrayal and making amends.

The Kite Runner is a Khaled Hosseini’s first novel. It tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who befriends Hassan, the son of his father’s Hazara servant. The story is set against the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy. the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.

The American Library Association reports that The Kite Runner is one of its most-challenged books of 2008, with multiple attempts to remove it from libraries due to “offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.”

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Culture banned the film from distribution in cinemas or DVD stores, citing the possibility that the movie’s ethnically charged rape scene could incite racial violence within Afghanistan.

The Kite Runner reminds us how long Khaled Hosseini’s people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence”. It is about “friendship and betrayal” and the arbitrary “price of loyalty”. Themes of “love, honour, guilt, fear and redemption” are all included in this “extraordinary novel”.

Though the child actors enjoyed making the film, they and their families have expressed worries about their situation now that the film is done. Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada (young Hassan) said regarding one scene “I want to continue making films and be an actor but the rape scene upset me because my friends will watch it and I won’t be able to go outside any more. They will think I was raped.”

TKRReportedly the studio accepted responsibility for the boys’ living expenses until they reach adulthood, a cost some estimated at up to 500,000 dollars. After living four months in Dubai, Ebrahimi and his aunt returned to Kabul in March 2008. After threats to his life, Ebrahimi lives indoors and is home-schooled by an uncle. He says he wishes he had never done the movie.

In the scene at the stadium just before the Taliban official gives his speech there is a soccer game going on and most of the players are wearing shorts. The Taliban did not allow shorts or revealing clothes of any kind to be worn, even at an athletic event. They imprisoned and persecuted members of visiting Pakistani teams for wearing shorts.

When Sohrab is first brought in, the Taliban play some music and make him dance, but the real Taliban banned all music in Afghanistan.

In the film, when Amir’s father is buried, a wood coffin is used. Muslim burial rituals do not permit that. Rather, cloth coffin is used to wrap the dead, then he/she is deposited in the grave on the body’s right side with face revealed and directed to

The stoning of adulterers in the stadium is incorrectly depicted. The correct process involves digging two holes. The woman is placed in the hole up to her shoulders with only her neck and head showing out, and the man is placed in his hole up to his knees with the rest of his body showing out.

Baba: There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.

Baba: [regarding the mullahs, who teach that drinking alcohol is a sin] I piss on the beards of all those self-righteous monkeys.

Baba: The Mullahs want to rule our souls… and the Communists tell us we don’t have any.

The novel begins “I became what I am today at the age of twelve.”

Amir had never thought of Hassan as his friend, despite the evident bond between them, just as Baba did not think of Ali as his friend.

It is Amir’s dearest wish to please his father.

After Soraya tells Amir about her past, she says, “I’m so lucky to have found you. You’re so different from every Afghan guy I’ve met.”

There is a noticeable absence of women in the novel.

On the drive to Kabul Farid says to Amir “You’ve always been a tourist here, you just didn’t know it.”

America acts as a place for Amir to rehash his memories and as a place for Baba to mourn his. In America, there are “homes that made Baba’s house in Wazir Akbar Khan look like a servant’s hut.”

During their argument about his career path, Amir thinks to himself: “I would stand my ground, I decided. I didn’t want to sacrifice for Baba anymore. The last time I had done that, I had damned myself.”

Baba and Amir know that they are very different people. Often it disappoints both of them that Amir is not the son that Baba has hoped for. When Amir finds out that Baba has lied to him about Hassan, he realizes that “as it turned out, Baba and I were more alike than I’d ever known.”

The novel begins with Amir’s memory of peering down an alley, looking for Hassan who is kite running for him. As Amir peers into the alley, he witnesses a tragedy. The novel ends with Amir kite running for Hassan’s son, Sohrab, as he begins a new life with Amir in America.

Early in Amir and Hassan’s friendship, they often visit a pomegranate tree where they spend hours reading and playing. “One summer day, I used one of Ali’s kitchen knives to carve our names on it: ‘Amir and Hassan, the sultans of Kabul.’ Those words made it formal: the tree was ours.” In a letter to Amir later in the story, Hassan mentions that “the tree hasn’t borne fruit in years.”

Amir is constantly vying for Baba’s attention and often feels like an outsider in his father’s life, as seen in the following passage: “He’d close the door, leave me to wonder why it was always grown-ups time with him. I’d sit by the door, knees drawn to my chest. Sometimes I sat there for an hour, sometimes two, listening to their laughter, their chatter.”

After Amir wins the kite running tournament, his relationship with Baba undergoes significant change. However, while they form a bond of friendship, Amir is still unhappy.

As Amir remembers an Afghan celebration in which a sheep must be sacrificed, he talks about seeing the sheep’s eyes moments before its death. “I don’t know why I watch this yearly ritual in our backyard; my nightmares persist long after the bloodstains on the grass have faded. But I always watch, I watch because of that look of acceptance in the animal’s eyes. Absurdly, I imagine the animal understands. I imagine the animal sees that its imminent demise is for a higher purpose.”

After hearing Amir’s story, Hassan asks, “Why did the man kill his wife? In fact, why did he ever have to feel sad to shed tears? Couldn’t he have just smelled an onion?”

On Amir’s trip back to Afghanistan, he stays at the home of his driver, Farid. Upon leaving he remarks: “Earlier that morning, when I was certain no one was looking, I did something I had done twenty-six years earlier: I planted a fistful of crumpled money under the mattress.”

While in the hospital in Peshawar, Amir has a dream in which he sees his father wrestling a bear: “They role over a patch of grass, man and beast…they fall to the ground with a loud thud and Baba is sitting on the bear’s chest, his fingers digging in its snout. He looks up at me, and I see. He’s me. I am wrestling the bear.”

It is a story which contains sin, remorse, and postponed repentance. It is a tale of a fall but also of redemption. Lastly, it is an account of the destruction and resurrection of a man’s character who is given, in the words of Rahim Khan, “one more chance to be good.”

A gang of teenage Sunni toughs spot him and decide to pay him back for previously defying them. They catch Hassan and assault him. This action is the moral crux of the entire story. Amir witnesses the assault and does nothing to help Hassan. The viewer is reminded of his father’s words that “A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.” His father is a man who will stand up for a principle, even at the risk of his own life. Hassan, the son of his father’s servant, is also such a person. The contrast between son and servant is striking and tragic. The viewer is able to like Amir, in spite of his fault, because heroism is a quality so rare that we don’t despise people who don’t have it. Heroism is like unconditional love, whose presence in a person is not an indictment of others without it.

Amir’s cowardice eats away at him until it drives him to injustice against Hassan. He tempts Hassan to do things that it is not in Hassan’s character to do. Amir wants Hassan to be guilty of a moral failing, so that he doesn’t feel like such a failure himself. In a final act of characteristic bravery, Hassan takes the guilt of a false accusation upon himself, even though he is innocent. Rather than shaming Amir into telling the truth, this last sacrifice hardens Amir’s heart against Hassan. And that is the last Amir ever sees of Hassan.

Freedom – We can appear to be free, politically and domestically. Likewise, on the surface we may look safe. However, long-held inner conflicts can continue to enslave us and leave us deeply insecure. Amir is the privileged boy in his father’s household, but he is emotionally less secure than Hassan.

Prejudice and marginalisation – In every culture, it seems, dominant groups use their influence to maintain and share power among their own while others are poorly treated. Those who are clearly identifiable by appearance or behaviour are especially vulnerable. When Amir’s father migrates from Afghanistan to the United States he loses his ‘insider’ status for that of an outsider.

Childhood patterns – People reap what they sow. Childhood fashions our behavioural patterns and some of us never break free of our worst inclinations.

Guilt, betrayal and making amends – Recognising our own failings may go so deeply against the grain that we seek to hide our own guilt by placing it on some other innocent person. Sometimes it is only when we are confronted with further information that we can take steps to make amends.

TKR 3Family, friendship and loyalty – Amir and Baba both ultimately betray Hassan when the cost of loyalty proves too high for them. Yet Hassan’s loyalty is never in doubt. Amir is haunted by his failure until he has a chance to repay Hassan.

As Muslims, the film’s characters would have their own understandings of what constitutes friendship. According to the Quran, when the Prophet Mohammad was asked,‘ ‘What person can be the best friend?’ he replied ‘ ‘He who helps you remember Allah and reminds you when you forget Him”.

The kite needs human co-operation for it to lift off and guidance when in the air.

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From → Film, Inter Faith

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