The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Men and Masculinity Quotes in The Kite Runner
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
It was Rahim Khan who first referred to him as what eventually became Baba's famous nickname, Toophan agha, or "Mr. Hurricane." It was an apt enough nickname. My father was a force of nature, a towering Pashtun specimen with a thick beard, a wayward crop of curly brown hair as unruly as the man himself, hands that looked capable of uprooting a willow tree, and a black glare that would "drop the devil to his knees begging for mercy," as Rahim Khan used to say. At parties, when all six-foot-five of him thundered into the room, attention shifted to him like sunflowers turning to the sun. (3.2)
It's safe to say that in the novel – at least for Amir – masculinity and Baba are inextricably intertwined. Baba is what it means to be an Afghan man. Here, Amir recounts the utter presence of his father: a huge man with thick hair and a ferocious glare. But we at Shmoop – at least our psychiatry division – think there might be a tiny problem with Amir's picture of his father. This is the stuff of mythology: Amir's father uproots trees and scares the devil. To what extent does Amir, by mythologizing his father, mythologize masculinity? Does this make masculinity unattainable for Amir?
Of course, marrying a poet was one thing, but fathering a son who preferred burying his face in poetry books to hunting...well, that wasn't how Baba had envisioned it, I suppose. Real men didn't read poetry – and God forbid they should ever write it! Real men – real boys – played soccer just as Baba had when he had been young. [...]. He signed me up for soccer teams to stir the same passion in me. But I was pathetic, a blundering liability to my own team, always in the way of an opportune pass or unwittingly blocking an open lane. I shambled about the field on scraggly legs, squalled for passes that never came my way. And the harder I tried, waving my arms over my head frantically and screeching, "I'm open! I'm open!" the more I went ignored. (3.40)
Amir isn't the masculine Pashtun Baba wanted. He isn't a sports-playing, bear-hunting man of a boy. (Really, Baba wants someone like himself.) Said another way, Baba's dislikes Amir as a son. We might question Baba's definition of manhood (what if you don't like sports?) but, as a boy, Amir doesn't have that privilege. Baba is everything to him. Thus, Amir needs to acquire some manliness if he's going to gain Baba's respect. This, of course, leads to disastrous consequences.
But at the moment, I watched with horror as one of the chapandaz fell off his saddle and was trampled under a score of hooves. His body was tossed and hurled in the stampede like a rag doll, finally rolling to a stop when the melee moved on. He twitched once and lay motionless, his legs bent at unnatural angles, a pool of his blood soaking through the sand.
I began to cry.
I cried all the way back home. I remember how Baba's hands clenched around the steering wheel. Clenched and unclenched. Mostly, I will never forget Baba's valiant efforts to conceal the disgusted look on his face as he drove in silence. (3.45-47)
Baba takes Amir to a Buzkashi tournament. In this sport, a skilled horseman (chapandaz) picks up a goat carcass and tries to drop it into a special circle. The horseman does all this while being harassed by other chapandaz. Sounds pretty gory, right? The chapandaz at this particular tournament is trampled. And Amir cries on the way home, probably shocked by the violence of the sport. This disgusts Baba. (Though, in an odd act of kindness, Baba tries to hide his disgust.) Amir learns his lesson, right? Which is: If you want to be a man, don't cry and don't react to violence. This "lesson" brings up an important question: How does Baba's practice of masculinity actually prevent Amir from confessing his betrayal of Hassan?