Research Paper: Kite Runner Annotated Bibliography Bennett

Pages: 9 (2815 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Penguin, 2003.

More than applying formalist criticism to The Kite Runner, the story seems to cry out first and foremost for a historical or historicist type of analysis, since it would literally make no sense unless the reader had some understanding of the events in Afghanistan from 1975 to 2001, which left the country devastated and millions of its people as refugees. In addition, Marxist analysis of social classes and oppressed ethnic groups as apply, along with the failure of Soviet-style Communism to bring to promised liberation. From a feminist point-of-view, the story is very explicit in its description of the authoritarian and paternalistic nature of this society, and its oppression of women and children, symbolized by the rape of Hassan and his son Sohrab by the same man. In psychoanalytic terms, the novel is also a coming of age story in which the selfish and immature Amir, living as a member of a privileged class, loses everything and then comes to maturity in exile in California. As a grown man, he is given a second chance to redeem himself and make up for the evil he has done to his half-brother Hassan, by saving his nephew from the same fate. As a child, he was jealous of the attention his father Baba paid to Hassan, but as a man he admits his wrongdoing and makes a responsible decision at the risk of his own life to rescue Hassan's son.

Historicist analysis is essential for understanding The Kite Runner since the novel is in fact a highly symbolic narrative about the history of Afghanistan from 1975 to 2001. It covers the entire period from the overthrow of the king and the old regime to the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the American intervention of the side of the Afghan 'freedom fighters'. After the Soviets are driven out in 1989, the Taliban take over, and their ally Osama bin Laden organized the attacks of September 11, 2001 from his base in Afghanistan. At the very start of the novel, Amir makes the observation that "it's wrong what they sat about the past, I've learned about how you can bury it. Because the past can claw its way out" (Hosseini 1). Amir and his father Baba escape from the Soviets to Pakistan and then to the United States, as did millions of other Afghans during this period. Amir returns to Afghanistan right at the time when the U.S. had intervened again to overthrow the Taliban, in order to save his nephew Sohrab. This is the historical context in which these characters must navigate and survive, even though it has left their country destroyed. Repeated invasion, chaos, refugees, death and destruction, this has been their experience, although through most of it Amir and his father were safe in California. His father's old friend Rahim Khan recalls him from California to Pakistan, which leads him to reflect back on the events of 1975 that "made me what I am today" (Hosseini 2). Amir does not particularly like himself or what history has made him. In the end, though, he does find a kind of redemption by bringing his nephew safely to California, thus saving him in order to make up for the wickedness he committed against his half-brother Hassan. Whether the country as a whole can ever been redeemed seems far more problematic, but more than likely it will not.

From a Marxist point-of-view, Amir and Baba come from an upper class family while Ali and Hassan are ethnic minorities and treated as a servant class. Overall, this is a highly authoritarian society in Afghanistan, and even though Amir and Hassan are in fact half-brothers, they are never told this during their childhood. Ali and Hassan are extremely subservient to Amir, who generally treats them with contempt. He does nothing to prevent Hassan from being raped by the three older boys after the kite running contest, nor does he tell Baba and Ali the truth about it. Hassan is extremely depressed and withdrawn after the rape, but when Ali asks if anything happened he simply says "how should I know what's wrong with him?," and then orders Ali to light the stove because he feels cold (Hosseini 81). Baba is also concerned and Amir lies to him as well, and notes that "I couldn't help hating the way his brow furrowed with worry" (Hosseini 82). This is why he finally gets Hassan and Ali thrown out of the house, by claiming that the boy stole some money and a watch. Although the Soviets claim to be Marxists and promise liberation from the traditional society, in reality the oppression and destruction they inflict on Afghanistan is far worse. When Rahim Khan returned to Kabul in 1986 to live alone in the old house, he found the city largely deserted and devastated, and he simply stayed inside "listening to the news, watching the communist propaganda on television" (Hosseini 203). Although the Taliban also promised liberation from both the West and the former Communist allies of the Soviets, in the end they also install an extremely repressive police state. One of the sights that Amir saw upon his arrival in Kabul was "a young man dangled from the end of a rope tied to a beam, his face puffy and blue….Hardly anyone seemed to notice him" (Hosseini 259).

Both feminist and psychoanalytic themes are also important in this story, in the way that families and relationships between men and women are structured, as well as the physical and sexual abuse to which women and boys are subjected. Even in America, the Afghans follow strict patriarchal customs, such as the fact that Amir is not allowed to be alone with General Thaheri's daughter Soraya, or to flirt and gossip with her. Baba reminds him that the General is "Pashtun to the root" and that honor and pride are central to his identity, "especially when it comes to the chastity of a wife. Or a daughter" (Hosseini 145). Women do not have sexual relations before marriage. Even the hint of such conduct meant that "poison tongues would flap. And she would bear the brunt of that poison, not me" (Hosseini 146). As in all patriarchal cultures, a double standard exists for all men and women, although younger men are also required to defer to senior men of higher rank and status. Amir is also jealous of Hassan and the attention he receives from Baba, although he is not certain why, but even as a small child he demands that all of Baba's attention be focused on him. Similarly, his nephew Sohrah also feels shame at having been raped by the same man who raped his father, and tells Amir that he should have simply let him die. In the end, however, Amir cannot abandon him to death like he did with Hassan, and arranges his visa to come to California. He suffers a crisis of conscience and realizes that Baba was wrong in believing that God did not exist, hoping only that He will "forgive that I have betrayed, lied, and sinned with impunity only to turn to Him now in my hour of need" (Hosseini 346).

Overall, this is a very grim and depressing novel about the devastation of a country over a period of thirty years. Although the old authoritarian and patriarchal regime that Baba, Amir and Hassan were living under in 1975 was hardly admirable, the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the takeover by the fascist Taliban made the country downright intolerable. This is the historical and psychological nightmare through which the characters must navigate, and even those who believed they were safe in California, like Baba and Amir, could not escape the weight of history in the end. To his credit, Amir as a grown man does not simply run away from this… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Kite Runner Annotated Bibliography Bennett.  (2011, July 28).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from

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"Kite Runner Annotated Bibliography Bennett."  28 July 2011.  Web.  25 May 2019. <>.

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"Kite Runner Annotated Bibliography Bennett."  July 28, 2011.  Accessed May 25, 2019.