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Jan 12, 2018

Narrative Techniques Used to Illuminate the Theme in The Kite Runner

What creates a meaningful story? What factors are used to illuminate a theme? The Kite

Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini, tells a thrilling and adventurous story about a boy named

Amir and his journey to redemption. A privileged boy, Amir was born to a wealthy father who

was perceived as a hero throughout the community. Amir’s best friend, who was also a servant,

Hassan, is constantly with Amir, as they read and fly kites together. One day during a kite

running tournament, a tragic incident occurs. Their bully, Assef rapes Hassan in an alley, with

Amir witnessing the occurrence. During that time, Amir decides to flee instead of saving Hassan

which heavily affects his life by driving his feelings of guilt. Soon, the friendship between him

and Hassan breaks apart. From then on, Amir looks for ways to redeem himself throughout his

life and into adulthood. Within the story, the author conveys the themes of the story through

the efficient use of imagery, symbols, and motifs. The usage of imagery displays the theme of

betrayal when Amir reflects back on his past and hears devastating news about Hassan. With

the use of symbolism, the author emphasizes the theme of friendship between Amir and

Hassan. Finally, the recurring image of Hassan’s rape in Amir’s mind shows the development of

Amir’s redemption and betrayal through his past mistakes.

To begin with, the theme of betrayal is a recurring image throughout the novel, with

Hassan’s rape as the significant event that causes Amir guilt towards Hassan for betraying him.

Due to the incident, both Amir and Hassan’s lives drastically changed which soon drove them

apart. As Amir felt guilty for not saving Hassan, he wanted to get rid of him and hoped that the

feelings would go away. “My suspicions had been right all those years. He knew about Assef,
the kite, the money, the watch with the lighting bolt hands. He had always known”. (Hosseini,

202) Shown from this quotation are all the things that Amir had done to cope with his guilt. If

the rape had occurred in reverse, Hassan’s bravery would have saved Amir. This led to Amir

feeling ashamed for his lack of bravery. Due to his shame, Amir opted to get Hassan out of the

house to not be reminded of the incident, rather than face his shortcomings. Amir tried many

ways to get Hassan out, such as accusing Hassan of theft of his birthday money and gifts.

Hassan had a surprising response, as he decided to take the blame, showing the loyalty he

displays for Amir. While talking over the phone with Rahim Khan, Amir suspected that Rahim

knew everything that happened between Amir and Hassan, which brought back his feelings of

guilt and again reminded him of his betrayal. Yet another time, betrayal was also shown during

Amir’s fight with Assef. “My body was broken – just how badly I wouldn’t find out until later –

but I healed. Healed at last”. (Hosseini, 303) The quote displays how Amir felt “healed” after

being beaten up by Assef. Throughout Amir’s life, he had tried many ways to cope with the guilt

such as getting rid of Hassan and getting Hassan to hit him with a pomegranate, but none of his

attempts worked. While being beaten up by Assef, Amir felt revived, as he felt that he had

deserved this punishment for a long time. Realizing his mean attitude towards Hassan, and the

bravery shown from him, Amir let himself get beaten up, finally dealing with his betrayal and

selfishness. Despite the pain after the fight, Amir felt relieved and allowed himself to realize

that he shouldn’t have run during the rape, and should have stood up for Hassan more often,

rather than allowing Hassan to stand up for Amir. Along with that, Amir also realizes the

similarity between him and his father, Baba. “As it turned out, Baba and I were more alike than

I’d ever known. We had both betrayed the people who would have given their lives for us. And
with that came this realization: that Rahim Khan had summoned me here to atone not just for

my sins but for Baba’s too”. (Hosseini, 238) Seen from this quote, Amir and Baba are alike in

that they had both done something selfish that betrayed someone who was loyal to them. Baba

had betrayed Ali by having a child with Ali’s wife, who turns out to Amir’s half-brother, Hassan.

Baba had never spoken about it, and for a majority of Amir’s life, Amir thought of Hassan as

only being his servant and friend. Similar to his father, Amir betrayed Hassan by leaving him to

be raped. The quote also shows Amir’s path towards redemption, as Rahim Khan is

“summoning” Amir to saving Hassan’s son, Sohrab. So, therefore, to show the significant theme

of betrayal, the author uses motifs to emphasize the guilt that Amir feels throughout his life

and his path towards redemption. The author uses motifs in multiple ways to exhibit the

struggle of Amir and his guilt.

Secondly, imagery was used to emphasize the theme of love and forgiveness. Love was

demonstrated in many parts of the story, mainly by the relationship of Hassan and Amir,

brotherly love, and by Amir’s relationship with Soraya, which showed romantic love. “I thought

about Soraya. It calmed me. I thought of her sickle-shaped birthmark, the elegant curve of her

neck, her luminous eyes”. (Hosseini, 292) As displayed by this quote, the imagery was used to

describe the looks of Soraya. This quote also portrays the theme of Love. While Amir was in a

trouble-like situation, thinking of Soraya was a way to calm him down. It can be inferred that

Amir trusts Soraya. Amir describes Soraya to have an “elegant neck” and “luminous eyes”. With

a description like this, it shows significance in their relationship as to how Amir viewed her.

Amir and Soraya also illustrate a good honest relationship as they both shared secrets of the

past which they are both ashamed of. Forgiveness is also a theme shown in the novel as it
demonstrates how Amir is able to forgive his past action, which leads to redemption. “The wall

of Ailing Corn was still there, though I saw no corn ailing or otherwise, along that wall now. The

paint had began to peel and sections of it had sloughed off altogether”. (Hosseini, 274)

Demonstrated by this quote is how Amir’s childhood home looks like, as the country is now at

war. When Amir goes back to his childhood home, it reminds him of his past, and incidents that

had occurred during that time he was living with Hassan. Provided with this, it shows Amir’s

path towards forgiveness, as the decomposing house reminds him of his betrayal. During the

time when Amir accused Hassan for theft of his watch and money, Hassan took the blame, but

Baba forgave him. Connecting that back to the quote is how the house reminded Amir of his

betrayal and forgiveness that occurred. Later, Amir was also able to forgive himself and the

actions that he has done to Hassan. “I ran. A grown man running with a swarm of screaming

children. But I didn’t care. I ran with the wind blowing on my face, and a smile as wide as the

valley of Panjsher on my lips I ran.” (Hosseini, 391) This was the first time that Amir was happy,

as he describes the smile being as wide as the “Valley of Panjsher”. His big smile represents his

happiness at the forgiveness shown to him. Through the multiple events in his life, this part of

the novel shows Amir discovering happiness while also learning to be able to move on from his

guilt. So to conclude, the use of imagery is used to convey the theme of love and forgiveness.

Amir, being a selfish person during his childhood, was able to move on from his guilt and he

was able to forgive himself for his past actions. Furthermore, love was shown through Amir’s

relationship with Soraya. So in conclusion, imagery is used as a powerful tool that projects an

image in a reader’s mind while also providing more in-depth content.

In the final analysis, the theme of friendship was a notable part of The Kite Runner. The

author uses symbolism to convey this theme, and put heavy emphasis on the bond and

friendship between Amir and Hassan, and the parallels with the bond between Baba and Ali. A

recurring place in the story, being where Amir and Hassan would hang out, is the pomegranate

tree. “There was a pomegranate tree near the entrance to the cemetery. One summer day, I

used one of Ali’s kitchen knives to carve our names on it: ‘Amir and Hassan the sultans of Kabul’

Those word made it formal: the tree was ours”. (Hosseini, 30) The pomegranate tree shows the

bond between Amir and Hassan and their past belief that their friendship would last forever. By

carving their names on the tree, it formalized their confidence in their friendship, believing it to

be able to last forever. As the pomegranate tree was a significant part of the story, it was also

the place where both Amir and Hassan broke their friendship, due to Amir’s guilt and betrayal.

During the time of the breakup, Amir wanted Hassan to throw a pomegranate at him as a

punishment for his betrayal. But due to Hassan’s selflessness, he smashed it on himself. The

tree shows many of the events that happened, as they spend nearly every day together at that

tree, while also breaking apart their friendship at the same place. Moreover, their friendship is

also similar to Baba and Ali’s friendship. “Ali and Baba grew up together as childhood playmates

– at least until polio cripple Ali’s leg – just like Hassan and I grew up generation later. Baba was

always telling us about the mischief he and Ali used to cause, and Ali would shake his head and

say ‘But, Agha Sahib, tell him who was the architect of the mischief and who poor labourer?’

Baba would laugh and throw his arm around Ali” (Hosseini, 303) This symbolizes the long-

lasting bond of friendship between Ali and Baba, comparing it to that of Amir and Hassan’s.

Both friendships have a long-lasting bond, and they both had betrayal as well. Although the
betrayals are different with Baba’s being that he slept with Ali’s wife, and Amir’s being the fact

that he ran away from Hassan’s rape. With both friendships showing a strong bond, Hassan has

always shown loyalty towards Amir despite the many ungrateful things he does to Hassan. “I

remembered the day I had pelted Hassan with pomegranates and tried to provoke him. He’d

just stood there, doing nothing, red juice soaking through his shirt like blood. Then he’d taken

the pomegranate from my hand, crushed it against his forehead. Are you satisfied now? He’d

hissed. Do you feel better? I hadn’t been happy and I hadn’t felt better, not at all. But now I

did”. (Hosseini, 303) During that fight with Assef, Amir remembers the time when Hassan

sacrificed himself to satisfy Amir. As this connects to the theme of friendship, it also connects to

the theme of betrayal, as during this moment Amir felt guilt, and breaking up the friendship

would help get rid of it. This also shows how loyal Hassan was to Amir. Hassan was selfless

enough to take the pomegranate and smash it on his head while also taking the blame when

Amir accused him for theft. Overall, the theme of friendship was portrayed through the use of

symbolism. Friendship shown in this novel was important to show the bond between each

friendship and how loyal Hassan and Ali can be towards Baba and Amir.

To summarize, imagery, motif and symbolism were all ways that the author used to

transmit the powerful themes throughout the story. The theme of betrayal was shown through

the recurring images. On the other hand, symbolism was used to show the theme of friendship,

and images were used to show the theme of love and forgiveness. With this being said, even

though The Kite Runner was a story of betrayal, friendship and redemption, it also pointed out

some of the world issues of lives in Afghanistan, and the current state that they are in. It shows

some real problems in the world. Just like any child living in a country filled with war, Amir had
to leave his childhood home in search of a safer life. Living in a first-world country like Canada

often makes people forget about the third-world and the problems they face. The novel serves

as a reminder that people still live in areas of danger. Really makes the reader’s think, that just

because it has not happened in your country, does not mean it has not happened.


Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. Anchor Canada, 2004.

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