The Kite Runner Loyalty

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“For you, a thousand times over!” (Hosseini 67) is one of the most memorable lines from Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner. It demonstrates the undying loyalty, comradery, and love expressed by Hassan, a young foreign boy in Afghanistan, to his closest friend and main protagonist of the novel, Amir. Throughout both novels written by Hosseini, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, the theme of familial loyalty plays a very prominent role in the overarching structure and plot of the novels, resulting in a message most readers would take to heart. This is further exemplified in A Thousand Splendid Suns’ main characters, Mariam and Laila, whose relationships with other characters in the novel such as their children, husbands, parents, and each other, demonstrate their quality of undying familial loyalty.

Khaled Hosseini was born in Afghanistan, the setting of both novels, in the city of Kabul on March 4, 1965. Hosseini lived with his father and mother. His father, a wealthy Afghan diplomat, was a member of the Afghan Foreign Ministry and Hosseini’s mother was a high school teacher who taught the language Farsi and history. Hosseini’s family was one of many families who was affected due to the various invasions and violent events that were happening in the country during this time. Hosseini’s father was given orders to relocate to Paris in 1976 and took his family with him to ensure their safety. However, instead of returning to their home country of Kabul, in 1980 the family decided to seek political asylum in the United States (Ghilazi). This was because of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, an event that plays a role in both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

In The Kite Runner the protagonist, Amir, is forced to flee Afghanistan with his father as a result of the invasion, separating him from everything he has grown accustomed to: his home, his culture, and his closest friend. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Laila, one of the main characters of the novel, is affected by the war against the Soviets because both of her brothers leave to join the war and end up being killed in battle, and a rocket strikes her house as her family is planning to flee, resulting in the death of her parents and Laila becoming severely injured. It is apparent that in writing these novels, Hosseini projected his childhood experiences into these characters, resulting in an almost autobiographical depiction. While his childhood wasn’t as violent or tumultuous as those of the characters, it is obvious that Hosseini’s separation from his childhood home and culture affected him greatly.

Hosseini’s family was granted asylum and given permission to move to San Jose, California in 1984. Hosseini proceeded to graduate high school and pursued the study of Biology at Santa Clara University where he graduated with a Bachelors in the field. Hosseini then attended the University of California’s School of Medicine, obtaining his medical doctorate in 1993. He soon became a practicing physician from 1996 to 2004. It was during this period that the idea for Hosseini’s first novel, The Kite Runner, began to form. His novel was published in 2003 and was met with critical acclaim in America and was then published in 70 countries. However, it was never published in Afghanistan, the setting of both novels.

This was because the novel was not received well in these countries due to the way that its people were depicted, and topics of rape and homosexuality were not accepted culturally. However, due to the fact that the events of 9/11 had happened just a couple years prior to the publishing of the novel, the novel’s message resonated with Americans, and helped them to put a “human face” on the Middle Eastern people and understand that they were people who valued the same ideals, such as family and loyalty, that Americans do. According to Hosseini, he received many messages from readers that stated something along the lines of “I have to be honest with you, I really didn't know much about Afghanistan and I frankly didn't care much, and then somebody said you have to read this book and then I kind of reluctantly agreed, and all of a sudden Afghanistan has become a real place to me and the Afghans have become real people and I see the parallels between my life here and the life of the people in this completely remote country, and now when there's a news story about Afghanistan -- be it a bombing or an attack on a village -- it registers on a very personal level.” (Milvy).

According to an author of the New York Times, Edward Hower, The Kite Runner provides a “vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence – forces that continue to threaten them even today”. A Thousand Splendid Suns was met with similar reception stateside, being cited as “Another artistic triumph, and surefire bestseller for [Hosseini]” (Syonitz). However, this novel differs from that of The Kite Runner, as it focuses on women’s role in Afghan society, something that Hosseini felt needed to be addressed after revisiting his home country in 2003 (RFE/RL 2018).

The topic of gender was not touched on in The Kite Runner, with the only prominent female character being Amir’s wife, Soraya. However, it is an underlying motif in A Thousand Splendid Suns that helps reinforce the theme of familial loyalty that is prevalent in the novel. In middle eastern countries, such as Afghanistan, women are treated very poorly, resulting in them basically becoming property to the men from these countries. This issue began to become more prevalent in these countries when the Taliban seized control, forcing women to cover their faces and bodies and become completely subordinate to men. Examples of this are displayed in A Thousand Splendid Suns through one of the main characters, Rasheed. After marrying Mariam, Rasheed forces Mariam to wear a burqa stating that “A women’s face is her husband’s business only” (Hosseini 70). This is also reinforced by the fact that Rasheed becomes increasingly frustrated with Mariam as she is unable to bear the child that he so desperately wants, resulting in her being abused and treated awfully by him. One night, Rasheed abuses Mariam physically because he does not approve of the dinner that she had prepared and forces her to eat rocks – resulting in some of her teeth shattering. Mariam’s feelings toward Rasheed is apparent in the quote from the novel: “It wasn’t easy tolerating him talking this way to her, to bear his scorn, his ridicule, his insults, his walking past her like she was nothing but a house cat. But after four years of marriage, Mariam saw clearly how much a woman could tolerate when she was afraid” (Hosseini 98). Rasheed’s treatment of women is further exemplified through the way he treats Laila. While the Mariam and Laila do not get along through the beginning of the novel, they begin to trust and additionally love each other as the novel progresses. Mariam makes a sacrifice for Laila when she stays behind in Herat so that Laila can begin a ‘new life’. Additionally, both Mariam and Laila also sacrifice their safety when they come together to end Rasheed’s abuse by killing him with a shovel (Hosseini 348). Killing someone is no small event, and shows the lengths to which they are willing to go. They develop almost a mother-daughter relationship of love and trust that is really the centerpiece of the novel, and the events that they go through together and for each other show how much that they will sacrifice in order to protect the other.

A similar relationship is presented in The Kite Runner through Amir and Hassan. Amir, a young Pashtun boy, along with his father, Baba own two servants Hassan and Ali, two Hazaras. The Pashtuns and Hazaras are two classes that are present in Afghanistan, the Pashtuns representing those who believe in Sunni Islamic beliefs, and the Hazaras being those who follow the Shi’ite beliefs of Islam. Despite the fact that one party is in servitude to the other, they all share a very close familial bond, that is only shattered due to Amir’s biases and fear of action. This is displayed in the way that Baba treats both Ali and Hassan as family, and never refers to them as servants, and becomes extremely upset with Amir when he refers to them as such. Baba even goes as far as paying for surgery to fix Hassan’s cleft lip, another feature that sets him apart from his counterpart in the novel, Amir. When they were younger, Amir and Hassan were close friends, and as later revealed to Amir in the novel, half-brothers. Hassan has an undying dedication to Amir. He looks up to him, and almost idolizes Amir. This is exemplified in instances such as when Amir reads to Hassan and they bond over a favored story, and through the turning point of the novel, the sport of Kite Running.

Hassan and Amir work tirelessly on their kites throughout the years and end up winning the cultural event. Amir flies the kite, while Hassan helps him ‘run’ by feeding the string and chasing after the final opponents cut kite: a prized trophy showing the feat the boys had pulled off. It is during this event where Hassan is brutally assaulted by another young boy from the community, Assef. Assef and two other boys corner Hassan and demand the kite, but when Hassan refuses to give it up because he does not want to let down Amir, Assef and the boys force Hassan to pull down his pants. Assef then rapes Hassan. Amir sees all of this unfold, but is fearful to act, resulting in a chasm that separates the boys for the rest of their life. Amir cannot deal with the guilt he has to face from betraying Hassan and gets both Him and Ali sent away by framing Hassan as a thief.

Years later, Amir knows he has to make up for his failure to act and stick up for his friend and brother. He travels back to Afghanistan years later and discovers that Hassan and his wife have passed, but left behind a child, Sohrab. Amir is determined to save Sohrab from the tumultuous war-ridden landscape that is Afghanistan and make up for his past mistakes. These events help strengthen the theme of familial loyalty in the novel, since Sohrab is his nephew. Despite Amir’s failure to act when he was younger, he regrets the situation deeply and feels that he must make up for his betrayal of Hassan. This is ultimately displayed in the last spoken line of the novel, where Amir asks Sohrab if he wants to fly the kite and if he should run the kite for him. Sohrab nods, and Amir replies with “For you, a thousand times over” (Hosseini 371), the echo of Hassan’s dedication to Amir that is still prevalent in Amir’s current life and his familial dedication and loyalty to Sohrab.

Hosseini is able to effectively communicate the theme of familial loyalty through his writing style and the use of rhetorical strategies and devices. In an interview, Hosseini was questioned if he “envisioned the cinematic possibilities of an uplifting ending when he wrote the books” (Milvy). Hosseini claimed that he never intended for the books to be turned into movies, that most of the action in the books occurred inside characters heads. In reference to The Kite Runner, Hosseini states “it wasn’t until I read the novel a couple of more times that I saw that there was a cinematic quality about it. When writing, I need to see exactly how the scene is choreographed and where characters are in relation to each other… [the novel] lends itself to cinematic adaptation” (Milvy). When reading the novels, it is very easy for the reader to imagine the events of the story happening inside the mind, due to the vivid use of imagery that Hosseini’s cinematic approach to writing conveys.

Examples of imagery in The Kite Runner are during the Kite fighting scenes. An example of this is when Hassan and Amir are about to win the kite fight at the beginning of the novel. Hosseini writes, “The tension in the air was as taught as the glass string I was tugging with my bloody hands. People were stomping their feet, clapping, whistling, chanting…Music blasted. The smell of steamed mantu and fried pakora drifted from the rooftops and open doors” (Hosseini 65). This imagery allows for the reader to feel as if they are part of the action, standing in the street, hearing the chants and smelling the cooking meat from the street vendors. Another example of effective rhetoric is in the scene where Assef rapes Hassan. While controversial, it conveys to the reader how shameful, apprehensible, and painful the scene is. Hosseini uses short, choppy sentences in this scene to help dramatize the scene through suspense and to emphasize the imagery. This is exemplified in the quote “He unzipped his jeans. Dropped his underwear. He positioned himself behind Hassan. Hassan didn't struggle. Didn't even whimper” (Hosseini 75). Hosseini also uses a metaphor in this scene: “It was a look I had seen before. It was the look of the lamb” (Hosseini 75). This metaphor is used to show how helpless Hassan is in the scene, and the he is resigned; he knows that there is nothing he can do to stop this.

Hosseini also uses effective rhetoric in A Thousand Splendid Suns. One rhetoric device that is very prevalent in this novel is the symbolism of pebbles. This symbolism often appears when Mariam is experiencing pain. In this instance, the pebble demonstrates how Mariam felt isolated from her family since her father was ashamed of her: “…she added a fourth column. A solitary, eleventh pebble” (Hosseini 29). Another example is when Mariam’s home is destroyed by the rocket, where a “shower of dirt and pebbles and glass” hurt her. Finally, the symbol of pebbles representing Mariam’s pain is apparent in the scene where Rasheed makes Mariam chew on pebbles because he is displeased with the rice that she cooked.

Rasheed “snatched her hand, opened it, and dropped a handful of pebbles into it…His powerful hands clasped her jaw…forced the cold, hard pebbles into it…Mariam chewed. Something in the back of her mouth cracked…he was gone leaving Mariam to spit out pebbles, blood, and the fragments of two broken molars” (Hosseini 103-104). This scene where Mariam is forced to chew the pebbles is also an example of Hosseini’s vivid use of imagery, with phrases such as “A gust of his smoky breath slammed against her face” (Hosseini 104) and “Dread pressed on her chest. She tried taking a few deep breaths. She caught her pale reflection in the darkened living-room window and looked away” (Hosseini 103). The imagery in this scene allows the reader to share in the discomfort and pain that Mariam is experiencing from her abusive relationship with her husband.

In closing, the relationships between the titular characters of these novels, Amir and Hassan and Baba, and Mariam and Laila and Rasheed allow for the development of the prevailing theme of familial loyalty. The Kite Runner uses fatherhood and brotherhood to demonstrate the broken and then reformed pacts of trust and loyalty. Likewise, A Thousand Splendid Suns uses parental relationships through fatherhood with Mariam and her father, and motherhood through Mariam and Laila to demonstrate the effects to which loyalty can affect ones’ outlooks and ideals. Additionally, both Mariam’s and Laila’s spousal relationship with Rasheed exemplifies how loyalty to family can be unhealthy at times, despite good intentions. Hosseini conveys this theme effectively in both novels due perhaps to firsthand experience and because he grew up in Afghanistan and experienced atrocities years later upon his return. Khaled Hosseini presented both Afghanistan and its people honestly and efficaciously.  

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The Kite Runner Loyalty. (2021, Jun 05). Retrieved July 13, 2024 , from
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