The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner Theme of Race
Does racial intolerance bring about our worst moments as human beings? The Kite Runner examines the whole spectrum of racism: out-and-out hatred, religious justification of racism, nonviolent but still nasty racism, racism which coexists with generosity and kindness, and internalized racism which manifests itself as self-loathing. However, the plot suggests, the very ethnicity some people treat so poorly is closer to them than they might think – Amir finds out that his former servant, a member of the ethnic minority, is his half-brother. Thus, the book also explores redemption. Can we atone for a past of intolerance? Or, even further, can we atone for the intolerance of our parents?
Questions About Race
- When Amir sees Assef rape Hassan in the alleyway, he asks himself if he really needs to rescue Hassan because "[h]e was just a Hazara, wasn't he?" (7.140). How much of a role does ethnicity play in Amir's abandonment of Hassan? How much of a role does jealously – since Amir's father often favors Hassan over Amir – play?
- Do you find the character of Assef believable or does Assef strike you as too evil? If you don't find Assef's character believable, do you find Assef's brand of racism believable? Can you think of dictators or historical figures Hosseini might have used to create the character of Assef?
- For Baba, nang (honor) and namoos (pride) are the two central principles of Pashtun men. Does this mean that for Baba Hazara men don't have nang and namoos? Is this why he sleeps with Ali's wife?
- How is ethnicity tied to other identities in the novel like economic class and religion? Do religious differences motivate Assef's prejudice more than ethnicity does? Do class differences motivate Baba's prejudice more than ethnicity does? Or are all these identities inextricably intertwined in the Afghanistan of The Kite Runner?