The Kite Runner
How we cite our quotes:
Upstairs was my bedroom, Baba's room, and his study, also known as "the smoking room," which perpetually smelled of tobacco and cinnamon. Baba and his friends reclined on black leather chairs there after Ali had served dinner. They stuffed their pipes – except Baba always called it "fattening the pipe" – and discussed their favorite three topics: politics, business, soccer. Sometimes I asked Baba if I could sit with them, but Baba would stand in the doorway. "Go on, now," he'd say. "This is grown-ups' time. Why don't you go read one of those books of yours?" 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. (2.6)
This is a little heartbreaking. In his devotion to his father, Amir sits by the door of Baba's study for hours. It's easy to see just how central unrequited affection becomes in The Kite Runner. Amir's affection for Baba, which isn't returned, in some ways drives him to betray Hassan. Jealously, as much as cowardice, may motivate Amir to leave Hassan in the alleyway. Here's another example of unrequited affection: Would Sanaubar have slept with Baba if she really loved Ali? What about Amir and Hassan – if Amir stayed as loyal to Hassan as Hassan stayed to him, would the novel change? (Sufficed to say, if Amir didn't betray Hassan, the novel wouldn't be half as interesting.)
Lore has it my father once wrestled a black bear in Baluchistan with his bare hands. If the story had been about anyone else, it would have been dismissed as laaf, that Afghan tendency to exaggerate – sadly, almost a national affliction; if someone bragged that his son was a doctor, chances were the kid had once passed a biology test in high school. But no one ever doubted the veracity of any story about Baba. And if they did, well, Baba did have those three parallel scars coursing a jagged path down his back. I have imagined Baba's wrestling match countless times, even dreamed about it. And in those dreams, I can never tell Baba from the bear. (3.1)
When Shmoop writes its own novel we're going to begin it with the following sentence: "Lore has it my father once wrestled a black bear in Baluchistan with his bare hands." How amazing is that sentence? It's pretty amazing. Amir even goes on to argue this tale is not typical Afghan storytelling and exaggeration. Jeez Louise, Baba sounds like a stud. Imagine if you heard a story about how your father wrestled with a bear when you were a kid. You'd probably alternately fear and adore the guy, just like Amir. But things aren't all rosy in this bear-wrestling world of ours. Amir begins to dream of his father and the bear; and in the dreams he can't tell which figure is his father and which is the bear. Sounds to me like somebody's father is getting a little scary. We mean, a bear is the closest thing to a monster in the wild, besides maybe a rhino or a mutant gorilla.
I read it to him in the living room by the marble fireplace. No playful straying from the words this time; this was about me! Hassan was the perfect audience in many ways, totally immersed in the tale, his face shifting with the changing tones in the story. When I read the last sentence, he made a muted clapping sound with his hands.
"Mashallah, Amir agha. Bravo!" He was beaming.
"You liked it?" I said, getting my second taste – and how sweet it was – of a positive review.
"Some day, Inshallah, you will be a great writer," Hassan said. "And people all over the world will read your stories."
"You exaggerate, Hassan," I said, loving him for it.
"No. You will be great and famous," he insisted. (4.52-57)
If we were to ask you (we're asking you) who admires whom in The Kite Runner, how would you respond? Your first answer would surely be: Amir admires Baba. Most of the events in the novel happen because Amir never gets the love he needs from Baba. Amir's jealousy of Hassan drives him to do some pretty terrible things. But don't forget the other story of devotion and admiration in The Kite Runner: Hassan's unflagging admiration for Amir.