The Kite Runner: The Personal and Political are always linked?

‘In The Kite Runner, in Chapter 24, the Personal and the Political are always linked.’

How far do you agree with the statement? Remember to include analysis of Hosseini’s authorial method

An AQA English literature essay: Section B: usually 45 minutes.

In the Kite Runner, Hosseini foregrounds Afghan political and social history,using personal vehicles. These vehicles include innocent characters, the personal reactions of Afghans and focus on authority figures which show personal suffering. But, these personal, fictional moments are at least symbolic, or even reflective of the atrocities and suffering and disruption found in Afghan society. The novel seems to challenge 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.

The personal is definitely linked to the political, whereby Hosseini uses the intra-personal conversation between two characters to draw contrast between Afghanistan and the USA. Hosseini engineers the personal moment where Amir reciprocates Farid with money, rather than the more traditional Afghani way of returning a favour in their close knit communities. The startled exclamation of Farid is the personal reaction to “two thou…”, but it is linked to a higher political level, showing how impoverished Afghanistan is on average compared to the USA. Hosseini’s intention here is to draw comparison between the two countries and his own personal experiences with them, but also he appeals to the American audience in how Amir has seemingly achieved the American Dream. The central theme of redemption is at the heart of the American psyche and Hosseini deliberately taps into their personal preferences, hoisting up Amir and his prosperity and charity. This is the way that Hosseini carefully voices his political message and comment on society into his novel; America as the land of opportunity, Afghanistan as the damaged land of warfare.

However, Hosseini doesn’t just link the personal to the political to appeal to American audiences. He uses the personal, fictional experiences of Amir and authority figures to demonstrate the neglect of human life due to warfare. The police are portrayed by Hosseini as uninterested in “Just another dead Afghan kid”, just as much as the Russian “bulldog” soldier was unconcerned by nearly shooting another Afghan man. Here, Hosseini connects the personal- the pathos evoked by the missing child and by the potential danger to the Afghan mother- to the political. The political aim here is to criticise warfare, but also how authorities and positions of power can be often found to be corrupt. To Western audiences, a policeman is usually upheld as a guardian member of a community, yet is the antithesis of this in Afghanistan. A soldier is meant to be restrained by discipline and to spare civilians, yet the Russian soldier abused his position of power. Hosseini plays on these usual expectations of the audience, as well as their feelings to show how sustained warfare can cause a breakdown in human organisation.

Hosseini uses the personal voice of Amir to effuse the tragedy of Afghan childhood, a way of commenting on Afghan society. Hosseini uses the phrase “there are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood”, implanted in his characters’ speech. The juxtaposition of children and childhood is painfully interrupted by the word “little”, signifying the destruction of not just physical infrastructure but also how warfare disrupts Afghan society. Here Hosseini links the personal and the political, by showing how political decisions can end in destruction to personal and private life. He deliberately chooses the children as a symbol of corrupted innocence and how Western interference and invasion breaks down society. Furthermore, he deliberately chooses Amir to speak this powerful phrase, a child whose own childhood had been corrupted with the rape of Hassan to show the vulnerability of a child’s mind and the lasting consequences of life’s early development. It is a theme that he revisits in the dilapidated orphanage- where the manager reluctantly allows the Taliban to take the children, in turn corrupting their childhoods forever.

Sohrab’s shame at his corruption is a device that Hosseini employs to comment on the wider oppressive reign of the Taliban and the power of state religion. The personal example of Sohrab, representing an innocent child, is constructed by Hosseini to be a fearful, pious character, worrying that he is “full of sin” and is, therefore, going to “hell”. This is where Hosseini links the personal, to the political as his intention here is to demonstrate the power of state religion- expressly the Taliban Islamic Caliphate to manipulate and control young minds. This Caliphate destroyed the 2 Giant Buddha’s at Bamiyan, 2001, because there were the ‘wrong idols’. Here, the personal story of Sohrab’s oppression is just a reflection of the oppressive state religion and how it kerbed and controlled independent thinking and religion. Yet, using Sohrab, an incredibly young child, is Hosseini’s attempt at showing the sheer scale and pervasiveness of the Taliban terror reign. He displays how the Taliban had no rules or restrictions in their wholescale oppression of society, from the young to the old.

Furthermore, the personal isn’t much more strongly linked to the personal than in the final moment of chapter 24. Again, Sohrab, the young corrupted child is the subject, the focus that Hosseini bases his political message around. The young boy has tried to take his life, just as Western intervention allowed a route out of the country. The joy of Amir, almost paternal joy, is shattered by his subsequent horror of the bloody scene, the word “screaming” repeated thrice in a handful of short sentences. This moment is terrifying on a personal scale, but it stands for a much wide-reaching political message in that Western interference, help, aid, always comes too late. Whilst self-violence is shown here, Sohrab’s attempted suicide is the tortured Afghanistan state, laid out upon the rack of warfare, no longer able to hold itself together. Instead of the flowering potential of a young boy, there is near death. This is Hosseini’s symbol of a disintegrating state which needs significant support to heal its conflict and wounds.

Overall, Hosseini always links the personal to the political to show the historic suffering of a nation. A nation that needs help, because of the disruption caused by warfare and interference. He shows a broken society in many ways, where norms are subverted, the innocent corrupted and where freedom is restricted. This is very much brought about by drawing comparisons to Western society, where such suffering is not found. It is this suffering that Hosseini wants to bring home to the Western audience, so unaccustomed to such violence, thus showing the human reality of warfare, not just TV news coverage and death toll figures.


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