The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Amir meets Soraya at the flea market – isn't that romantic? We think it kind of is. In the course of a few chapters, she and Amir get hitched. She's beautiful, kind, and has a complicated past. What more could anyone want in a spouse? She and Amir build a quiet, enviable life in California. Even though Soraya can't have children, it seems like the best of marriages – almost like a close friendship.
With that in mind, we think it's important to note that Soraya has a birthmark just above her jaw. Why? Because it identifies her with Amir's childhood friend who had a harelip. Yes, none other than Hassan. It's possible that Soraya's physical similarity to Hassan attracts Amir to her. (Did we say she's incredibly kind? That's another way she's like Hassan.) But it's also possible Soraya simply fits into Hosseini's larger narrative pattern. So, like Ali and Hassan, Soraya's birthmark signifies an essential goodness (see Ali's "Character Analysis" for more on this). Or, on the other hand, it could just be a birthmark without any special significance. But we think that third option is unlikely.
Soraya almost seems like a combination of both Hassan and Amir. She's like Hassan, because of the harelip and the being nice stuff. She resembles Amir because she also has a checkered past. Amir finds this out pretty early on in their courtship and, perhaps, finds it attractive. Unlike Amir, though, Soraya actually fesses up to her checkered past (OK, Amir eventually does, but it's very late in the book):
"When we [the Taheris] lived in Virginia, I ran away with an Afghan man. I was eighteen at the time...rebellious...stupid, and...he was into drugs...We lived together for almost a month. [...]. Pader [General Taheri] eventually found us. He showed up at the door and...made me come home. I was hysterical. Screaming. Saying I hated him..." (12.207-12.208)
The General goes crazy when he finds Soraya living with her boyfriend. So, we guess that's another similarity with Amir: they both have domineering fathers. To sum up: Soraya brings some measure of peace to Amir's life, but she also reminds Amir of his not-so-good past.