The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner Theme of Warfare
In The Kite Runner, Hosseini directly compares the arrival of war to a loss of innocence. (Soon after an invading army shows up, the narrator watches his best friend get raped.) The book also explores war as experienced from a distance, either through memory or through the media and televised war. Hosseini interrogates the effect of war on our social structures as well: Do economic class and ethnicity dissolve in the face of war or do these categories become even more rigid? It's not all horror and gloom, though. In the end, Hosseini wants to show us how honor and dignity can survive in the midst of war.
Questions About Warfare
- Amir writes a story early on in the novel in which a man kills his wife because he found a magic cup that turns his tears into pearls. By killing his wife, the man weeps and becomes rich. When Amir reads this story to Hassan, Hassan asks Amir if the man really had to kill his wife in the story. Hassan says, "In fact, why did he ever have to feel sad to shed tears? Couldn't he have just smelled an onion?" (4.61). Does Hosseini unnecessarily write about not only Afghanistan's violent history but a brutal act? Or does Hosseini write about a necessary topic? Is Hassan missing the point?
- Hosseini explores the American experience of the Afghan wars, which is filtered through the news media. He writes: "Now Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and people sipping lattes at Starbucks were talking about the battle for Kunduz, the Taliban's last stronghold in the north" (25.106). Is the book itself a mediated experience? Does Hosseini comment on his own book (and his readers) in this quote? Is this quote also a criticism of himself and Amir?
- The book talks a lot about nang and namoos, the Afghan principles of honor and pride. These principles survive (and even flourish) despite the multiple wars of the novel. Even though these principles redeem certain characters from the horrors of war, can these very principles cause wars?
- In the middle of the book, we find out that Ali has stepped on a land mine and is dead. In addition, Talib soldiers execute Hassan and his wife. Even further, Sohrab is (more or less) abducted and forced to be a sex slave for a Talib official. All of these characters have an air of innocence about them. War, for Hosseini, it seems, is indiscriminate and often murders the blameless. At one point, Baba, Amir, Ali and Hassan even celebrate Eid-e-Aorban, the holiday commemorating Ibrahim's near-sacrifice of his son to God. Is this celebration intimately tied to Hosseini's concept of war?