Hosseini uses the setting to present a way of life and mindset which highlights the tragic nature of the story. For the novel seems to challenges its readers to see how the pressure of a society’s prejudices can, in part, be to blame for the deception, lies and rationalization to which people resort.
tempting to dismiss Hosseini’s novel as a work that cynically panders to the sensibilities of a mainstream American readership.
in Hosseini’s story, history is foregrounded
There are some fairly obvious reasons why The Kite Runner would appeal to an American reader. America is presented to us as the ideal country in which to find refuge. Amir himself becomes the embodiment of the American Dream: arriving in the country with next to nothing, he becomes rich and successful. The central theme of redemption is one at the heart of the American psyche. The American experience is a very positive one throughout.
Russia’s conflict with Afghanistan is sometimes referred to as ‘The Soviet Union’s Vietnam War’,
Protecting American Readers
Hosseini, then, skilfully offers something for most readers in his novel: the portrayal of Islam is reduced to arguments about God that won’t scare off Christians; the novel is about Arabs but the Israelis are flattered, as are the British; America is the big winner, portrayed as a country with a benign foreign policy, and the home of freedom and democracy; those American readers put off by the woolly liberalism offered by the narrator quickly find their hero in Baba, the heroic right-wing giant. And it is in the opposition between these two characters that Hosseini’s real talent for accessibility lies. Because they represent opposing personalities that find resonance and appeal around the world.
Unless you’re Russian, that is.
Amir reads stories to Hassan from the Shahnamah under the pomegranate tree and his ability to read is something that both signals his greater power over words than Hassan’s but also their shared pleasure in stories, that fuel their ideas of heroism and adventure.
He [Assef] is the villain who will test Amir’s heroism.
The number of Farsi words in the chapters set in America grows to symbolise a people desperately fighting homesickness.
In fact Hosseini regularly overturns places of safety with threats and danger in a way which communicates a message of painful loss and despair. The orphanage is one such recurring setting and one which suggests Hosseini’s anger at the human cost of the military circus.
Hosseini’s novel is consciously and explicitly structured with the pairing of episodes – so Sohrab threatens Assef with his slingshot just as his father did years earlier.
The final scene in Fremont’s Lake Elizabeth Park, where Amir runs the kite for Sohrab, is the central example of this structural pairing. The kite symbolism is one of partnership and definitely holds the promise of healing. It is an incomplete resolution to be sure, a troubled resolution typical of a postmodern novel, but it is an ending full of hope. Amir cannot literally turn the clock back and undo his betrayal of Hassan but the emotional truth of their childhood – their friendship and love – can be recreated and reinvented in a different world. On the final page of the novel, when Hosseini makes Amir run the kite for Sohrab in an American park, he revisits the snowy setting of the winter of 1975. The child Amir loved Kabul’s winters but that innocent joy was destroyed by Assef raping Hassan and Amir’s series of betrayals of his best friend. From then on the snow has been desecrated in his haunted imagination:
Read more Kite Runner articles here. (Requires subscription)