Wednesday, March 15, 2000

The Kite Runner review

The overall plot of The Kite Runner starts out in Fremont, California in 2001,with the adult Afghan named Amir (protagonist) recollecting that he is “what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg.1) The plot then oscillates to the early years in Kabul, Afghanistan, prior to the Russian invasion.   Amir lives very comfortably with his father, whom Amir calls Baba and two faithful servants, Ali and Hassan, who are also father and son. Amir's mother (Sofia) died giving childbirth and Hassan mother (Sanaubar) ran off shortly after Hassan was born. They both shared the same Hazara nursing woman.  The first words spoken was “Baba” by Amir and “Amir” by Hassan (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 11)  There is one other person in Amir's life named Rahim Khan, who acts like a second father to Amir and is Baba's closest friend (Hosseini, K., 2013). 
The family seems happy and content with each other, however, Amir longs for his father's affections and is jealous that Baba seems to give Hassan more affection. There is some tension in the household.  Both Ali and Hassan are both ethnic Hazara Shi'a Muslims. They are the minority and do not have the status that Amir, Baba, and Rahim Khan has, who are all Pashtuns.  The majority of people living Afghanistan are Pashtuns or Sunni Muslims. With that said, some Pashtun boys in the neighborhood, are not respectful to Hazara Muslims(Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 8-9). Though Hassan and Amir are considered best of friends, Amir knows Baba does not sees Amir as himself, courageous and athletic, but a person, whom just enjoys poetry and writing.  Amir heard his father say to Rahim Khan, “If I hadn't seen the doctor pull him out of my wife with my own eyes, I'd never believe he's my son” (Hosseini, K., 2013, p. 23).
To win his father's love and affection, Amir must win a kite-fighting tournament.  Every Winter, when school is not in session, Kabul has their annual kite-fighting tournament (pg49).  “It start[s] early in the morning on the day of the contest and [doesn't] end until only the winning kite [flies] in the sky” (Hosseini, K., 2013, p.51).  The long kite strings are coated with tar and glass.  “The rules [are] simple: No rules. Fly your kite. Cut your opponents” (Hosseini, K., 2013, p.52).  The prize is honored by the runner, who gets his hands on the last defeated kite.  Hassan was the best runner.  Amir maneuvers the kite and does the cutting, Hassan assists and does the running (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 60-67).  Amir wins the tournament and Hassan obtains the kite, but at a cost.  After looking for Hassan, Amir finally finds Hassan with kite in hand, trapped at the end of the alleyway, among three boys.  While two other boys hold him down, Hassan is rape  by one his adversary, the cruel Pashtun boy, Assef. Amir witnesses Hassan's rape and out of fear, Amir runs away and does nothing.  Both boys say nothing to each other after wards (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 71-78). Later that year, Amir, who is veiled with guilt and cowardice, decides Ali and Hassan must leave. He takes his birthday money and a watch and places it under Hassan’s pillow, then tells Baba that Hassan stole it. When Baba confronts Ali and Hassan, Amir shamefully allows Hassan to admit the guilt. Shortly after, Ali and Hassan move away, breaking Baba's heart (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 104-109).
In March, 1981, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. It was becoming quite dangerous to live in Kabul. Neighbors were beginning to spy on each other, for the Russians. Baba and Amir decided to take the gruesome journey to Pakistan.  From Pakistan, they eventually make it to Fremont, California (Hosseini, K., 2013).
In Fremont, Baba works long hours at the gas station.  Amir graduates from High School and goes to the Junior College.  In the meantime, both spent time going to garage sales and sold the extra goods at a local flea market for extra living money.  At the flea market, Amir meets and falls in love with beautiful Pashtun woman, Soraya.  Baba becomes ill with terminal Cancer.  Because of his failing health, Baba receives consent from Soraya's father for Amir to marry Soraya.  Amir and Soraya are married, but are unable to have children (Hosseini, K., 2013).
The main themes captured in “The Kite Runner” are finding love and acceptance between father and son, friendship, and a search for atonement from the haunting, past sins.  The whole story is enmeshed with the Afghanistan's Islam religion and faith.  Although the Muslim faith has a different meaning to various people in the story, the reference and understanding germinates through the characters, cultural and events (Hosseini, K., 2013).
            Baba has a more secular view of his faith.  One example is when Amir came home from school and told Baba what he learned from Mullah Fatiullah Khan that day.  Amir tells his father that drinking is considered a “terrible sin” in the Islam religion. “Those who drank would answer for their sin on . . .Judgement Day” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg.16). Drinking in Kabul was quite common.  As long as it was done with discretion, no one thought much of it.  Baba was in his smoking room, pouring a glass of whiskey while he listen to Amir and then responded to Amir what he thought of Mullah Fatiullah Khan.  “. . . first understand this and understand it now.  You'll will never learn anything of value from those bearded idiots.” / “They do nothing but thumb their prayer beads, and recite a book written in a tongue they don't even understand.” He takes a sip.  “God help us all if Afghanistan ever falls into their hands.” Baba continues, “Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one.  And that is theft” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg.17).  “Every other sin is a variation of theft.” /  “When you kill a man, you steal a life.” / “When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth.” / “When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.  Do you see”  (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg.18)?  With that said, Amir appreciated what his father just told him.  However, Amir always felt his father dislike him, because he(Amir) was the one who killed his father's “beloved wife”( Hosseini, K., 2013, pg.19).
2 Write a journal entry (1 paragraph) in which you describe your experience in reading this fiction. What happened to you? How did you change? Or what did you learn?
Earlier in this course, I chose and read The Kite Runner, because I wanted to read about something I knew little about and was hopeful that the book would challenge my interest.  I had no idea what I was getting into until I started reading the book.  My final conclusion is that it was a page-burner. I could not put the book down, even when there were other important matters to take care of.  I enjoyed how Hosseini infused the Muslim culture and religion around the personalities of the characters. Most of the action took place in Afghanistan and Fremont, California.  Regardless where the setting was, events and the characters in the story did tap the elements of human emotion, in fact a roller-coaster of universal feelings of love, guilt, friendship, and redemption came through to the reader.  I do not believe the story line has changed me.  What I do feel is that I am very fortunate to be an American.  Family here in America is just as meaning full and important as it is to the Afghanistan family, but without the tragedy from war  (Hosseini, K., 2013).
Every human being has their own culture, even though they may differ in many aspects.  For example, when Amir returned to the war-torn Kabul to seek out Hassan's son, Sohrab, Amir met a beggar sitting on a curb. The beggar, in turn started a conversation with Amir.  To Amir’s surprise, the beggar, Dr. Rasul, was once a professor at the same college Amir's mother taught in. After leaving Dr. Rasul, Amir remember what Baba use to say, “everyone in Afghanistan is part of one family; as Baba says, "Take two Afghans who've never met, put them in a room for ten minutes, and they'll figure out how they're related" (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 251).  I very much favored this quote.  It does show the Afghanistan's concept of the family-line tradition.  In America, I believe the only way an individual can find their family-line is through what is called the Family Tree, needless to say, because of immigration.     
The scene I believe that brings out religion is when Amir is in the emergency room and believes he was going to lose Sohrab. So overwhelmed by his emotions, Amir must have felt so helpless, angry, guilty, and alone, that the only person he knew that could help him was God. “I know what I have to do.  I looked around, my heart a jackhammer in my chest, blood thudding in my ears” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg.345).  He finds a bed-sheet in the linen closet and makes a substitute prayer rug.  Disorientated, he needs to find the direction 'west'. “My throat aches, my eyes sting with sweat, each breath is like breathing fire” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg.345).   A policeman finally points to the right direction.  Amir throws his makeshift prayer rug on the floor and he bows facing west and prays to Allah (Hosseini, K., 2013).
What this scene says about people and religion is that when some unforeseen event happens in our lives, which is not under our control, people will turn to their faith and ask God for help, comfort, and guidance.  Even the unbelievers may also turn to faith, depending on the circumstance and how helpless one feels.  Perhaps, at one time in an individual life, one may feel like Amir.  “I hear a whimpering and realize it is mine, my lips are salty with each tear trickling down my face. . . . I pray, I pray that my sins have not caught up with me the way I'd always fear they would” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 346).
One conflict that is noticed from the very first couple pages in the book “The kite Runner” to the last page is sin and atonement or redemption.  “I thought of the life I have live until the winter of 1975 came along and change everything.  And made what I am today” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 2)  It was Amir's sin, his failed intervention in the rape of Hassan by Assef, that endured over twenty-six years of Amir's life.  Amir's happy memories of his childhood were immediately tainted with the rape and his betrayal.  But Amir was not only character whom needed redemption, so did Baba.  Baba kept own sinful secret from Amir, that Hassan was his son and Amir's half-brother.
 The least likely candidate for atonement is Assef. This man does not have a conscious, and who sees humanity as a pathological loss.  This is an example how he interprets the Islam religion: “He leaned toward me [Amir], like a man about to share a great secret. “You don't know the meaning of the word 'liberating' until you've done that, stood in a roomful of targets (the Hazaras) let the bullets fly, free of guilt and remorse, know you are virtuous, good, and decent. Knowing you're doing God's work. It's breathtaking." He kissed the prayer beads, tilted his head”' (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 277).
How are atonements resolved?  For Amir and Baba, atonement resolved through self-forgiveness. It was clearly portray through Rahim khan's letter: “I cannot describe to you the depth and blackness of the sorrow that came over me when I learned of [Baba's] passing. I loved him because he was my friend, but also because he was a good man, maybe even a great man. And this is what I want you to understand, that good, real good, was born out of your father’s remorse. Sometimes, I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good” (Hosseini, K., 2013).
“I know that in the end, God will forgive. He will forgive your father, me, and you too. I hope you can do the same. Forgive your father if you can. Forgive me if you wish. But, most important, forgive yourself” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg 301-302).  Amir's atonement also involves Hassan's son, Sohrab. Amir will give him a new family who cares, a new life free from discrimination, and a chance to be happy again. 
Personally, I think humans are fallible and each one has his/her own flaws.  I like the bible quote from (Ecclesiastes 7:16, ESV) “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself”?
Amir is the protagonist who narrates the story.  I would describe Amir as very complex character, burden with guilt and in need of affection.  His early childhood with Hassan is charmed with adoration and affection.  Amir loves his father Baba.  For Amir, sometimes his father's love has not been forthcoming.  What then stands out is Amir's yearning for his father's affection. Amir is aware that his mother died at his birth and he feels he is responsible. What's worse, he believes his father Baba blames him.  Baba often wonders what sort of child Amir is, “A boy who won't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up to anything” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg. 22).  Consequently, Baba does question Amir's manhood. Baba does seem to give more attention to Hassan, because in reality Hassan is his son, but Amir has no idea that Hassan is his half-brother.  So Amir is somewhat jealous of Hassan (Hosseini, K., 2013).
The kite-fighting tournament is viewed, according to Amir, as a way to retrieve some kind of affection from Baba.  Amir wins the tournament, but also loses. He indeed receives his father's love for winning the tournament, but is complicated with the guilt Amir feels from failing to protect Hassan being raped by Assef.  Not once, but again Amir adds to his already guilty conscience by allowing Hassan to take the blame for stealing the watch and money that Amir himself placed under Hassan's mattress.  At this time in the book, one might question Amir's morals (Hosseini, K., 2013).
When Amir and his father escaped Afghanistan and immigrated to Fremont, California, Amir became more of a moral and caring person.  Amir meets a wonderful Pashtun lady and marries.  When Baba becomes ill from Cancer, he comforts and cares for him (Hosseini, K., 2013).
Amir's manhood is tested when he returns to Kabul, Afghanistan.  He finds out that Hassan was married and had a son named Sohrab.  The Taliban murdered both Hassan and his wife and Sohrab is at an orphanage in Kabul.  Amir also learns for the first time, that Hassan is his half-brother.  Amir's adored father also has been living with a secret and guilt of his own making. The result is Amir does find, fights the Taliban official (who is Assef), and rescues Sohrab from a very inhospitable, degrading environment (Hosseini, K., 2013).
Amir's religion is Islam. As a child Amir study Islam through a Mullah at school. “He lectured us about the virtues of zakat and the duty of hadj; he taught us the intricacies of performing the five daily namaz prayers, and made us memorize verses from the Koran – and though he never translated the words for us, he did stress, sometimes with the help of a stripped willow branch, that we had to pronounce the Arabic words correctly so God would hear us better” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg.15-16). As mentioned earlier, Amir's father had a great influence on the Amir's traditional values. Thus religion for Amir took more of a back-seat position until his father became ill, at which time he started to start saying his prayers. Last, religion became the most meaningful for Amir when he thought Sohrab would die after cutting his wrist. “There is a God, there has to be, and now I will pray, I will pray that He forgives me for neglecting him all of these years” (Hosseini, K., 2013, pg.346).

Engelbrecht, E., & Deterding, P. E. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible: English Standard Version. Saint Louis: Concordia Pub. House.
Hosseini, K. (2013). The kite runner (10th ed.). New York: Riverhead Books.

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