The Kite Runner at a Glance


The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, follows the maturation of Amir, a male from Afghanistan who needs to find his way in the world as he realizes that his own belief system is not that of his dominant culture. Set in Afghanistan and the United States, The Kite Runner is a bildungsroman that illustrates the similarities as well as the differences between the two countries and the two vastly different cultures. It is the story of both fathers and sons and friends and brothers, and it is a novel about right and wrong and the nature of evil. Published in 2003 to great critical and popular acclaim, The Kite Runner is considered a contemporary classic.

Written by: Khaled Hosseini

Type of Work: novel

Genres: bildungsroman (coming of age novel); historical novel

First Published: June 2003 by Riverhead Books (hardcover edition)

Setting: Opens in San Francisco, and then flashes back to Afghanistan and Pakistan

Main Characters: Amir; Baba; Hassan; Ali; Sohrab; Rahim Khan

Major Thematic Topics: alienation; betrayal; class issues (both cultural and socioeconomic); the emotional intensity of childhood affections; fear serving as a motivator; forgiveness; friendship; the inherent nature of human evil; jealousy; lost innocence; love; manipulation; redemption; the role of religion; revenge

Motifs: death; desires; doubling; dreams; education; fears; passion; resentment; revenge; violence

Major Symbols: kites, kite fighting, kite running; myths; pomegranate tree; scar; slingshot

Movie Version(s): The Kite Runner (2007)

The three most important aspects of The Kite Runner:

  • This is an historical novel about the pre-Russian invasion and pre-Taliban rule of Afghanistan, as well life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule and life in a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Although the story is fictitious, the information about the political, social, and cultural systems of this Middle Eastern country provides a contrast to the contemporary headlines about Afghanistan primarily being home to terrorist cells. The Kite Runner paints a realistic portrait of a country about which most readers probably know very little and enables readers to separate the people of a country from its leaders (the Taliban) and/or groups (terrorists) associated with it.
  • The Kite Runner is a coming-of-age novel about finding one's place in a world of turmoil and transition. It explores the difficulties of developing into an adult relationship with your parents while simultaneously exploring ideas about the human capacity for good and evil, and the relationship between sin, forgiveness, and atonement. Its setting in both Afghanistan and the United States illustrates the universality of its characters and themes. In addition to these topics, The Kite Runner also touches on social awareness, religion, and philosophy.
  • The combination of Hosseini's narrative technique (the combining of flashback and flashforward in a somewhat linear timeline), his character development (having even his best characters demonstrate flaws and shortcomings), stylistic devices (including the insertion of Afghani words, his sentence patterns and sentence structure, the use of rhetorical figures, as well as his subtle use of foreshadowing), and his extensive incorporation of symbolism resulted in both critical accolades and popular success of The Kite Runner, a novel that is simultaneously embraced by academia and the general reading populace.