How Are Memorable Characters Created in the Kite Runner?
The Kite Runner, which is incidentally written in the retrospective first person narrative, follows the protagonist Amir as he travels on a journey of innocence and innocuous naivety towards redemption and enlightenment, this writing style is often known as ‘bildungsroman’- a novel written about the turbulences of coming of age. Hosseini creates both remarkable and unforgettable characters throughout the novels opening five chapters and Hosseini contributes vast amount of emotional depth (presumably drawn from his own experience) to each individual character.
This is the focal point of much speculation amongst critics who have individually clashed over the true personality traits of the characters. I will be exploring the use of Hosseini style, technique and language in respect of three characters and how Hosseini forms the aspects that are so remarkable about them and how they remain crucial to the novel as a whole.
Both Amir’s innocence and naivety is best demonstrated through the novels second chapter, Amir is at his youngest age within this chapter and this is reflected through the peaceful, idyllic scenery in which Hassan, Amir’s best friend and which themes such as loyalty, justice and friendship are translated through, and Amir play within. As Amir reminisces about how they used to ‘climb the poplar trees’ with their ‘trouser pockets filled with dried mulberries’ we sense Amir is in the perfect picture of childhood innocence and the opening paragraph conjures up the sense of freedom and ultimate childhood spirit.
This picturesque childhood of Amir’s is made complete by ‘the most beautiful house in the Wazir Khan district’ Amir’s boastful disposition and elaborate upbringing are now apparent. A Marxist view would state that young Amir does nothing more than revel is his wealth oblivious to the ‘modest little hut’ Hassan and his father Baba live in. Amir’s romanticized view of life along with this Marxist reading would convey that Amir is comfortable with his upper class life.
We can also tell Amir is well off by his bombardment of lavish material possessions by his father, presumably to compensate for lack of attention. Some critics would argue that this allows us to see a more vulnerable side of Amir, one which yearns for his father attention and praise and yet hardly receives. Feminist’s readers would respond and say Amir vies for his father’s attention due to his mother’s death and it is Baba’s high regard of his servant’s sons that allows Amir to become jealous of his friend who can please Baba whereas he can’t.
It is apparent that Amir, though he may seem inconspicuous has a selfish nature, his perception of Baba is ‘selective’; he sees only Baba’s faults and is oblivious to his bravery. Hosseini probably allows Amir to exert these feelings of jealousy and hated deceit towards his friend and explains his childhood tendencies’ to dominate over Hassan ‘I talked Hassan into firing walnuts with his slingshot.. .’ Hassan demonstrates true loyalty and friendship to his friend, despite Amir trying to demean his friend. Although the two are born of a different ethnicity and status-Amir is a Pashtun and Hassan is a Hazara.
Hassan still views his friend as his hero and this is shown through Hassan’s first words ‘Amir’ this italicised quote puts further emphasis on the loyal and unfaltering love that Hassan has for his friend and this juxtaposed with Amir’s selfish, selective, narrow-minded nature is Hosseini using a technique known as ‘foreshadowing’ Some readers believe Hassan represents a focus on humanity, loyalty, courage and love and Amir’s refusal to acknowledge Hassan in front of the sociopath, and antagonist of the book Assef in chapter 5 as anything less than a friend ‘not my friend a servant’ is reflecting Amir’s cowardice.
Compare this in parallel to class rank, status and ethnicity and some readers wonder how Hassan and Amir as friends would be seen as socially acceptable. A psychoanalysis view believes that Hassan is unlikely to be fictional, questions as to how Hassan’s loyalty can be so deeply engrained within in despite Amir’s self centered and arrogant nature. But Hosseini represents loyalty and friendship through Hassan but his ‘cleft lip, just left of midline’ is a symbol for the two faces of Afghan society.
Hassan’s harelip is crucial to his identify and at the end of chapter 5 when Hassan’s lip is repaired ‘was the winter Hassan stopped smiling’ His identify is lost with his smile and Hassan is made unforgettable as readers cannot forge an image of someone with an imperfection being so perfect. This is irony on Hosseini’s behalf and an alternate view is the powerful vs. the powerless.
Hassan is a lamb, loves his master, Amir only cares for his own selfish distain and it’s Hassan who stands up for them both, when we come face to face with Assef in chapter 5. Assef acts as the antagonist of the novel, and we new first meet him in chapter 5 he is immediately striking through his almost numbing description of ‘blond hair-blue eyed’ This image bearing a striking resemblance to that of Hitler’s Arian race.
His image is not of the norm for Afghan culture and his misguided sentiments of Hazaras ‘polluting homeland’ is confirm in Hitler’s ideals of ethnic cleansing and a psychoanalyst would brand him as a racial supremacist. The novel occurs against the backdrop of political change and revolution in war and Assef is embodying the power and violence that he can have over Hassan, who is a second class citizen and suffers public humiliation because of this and psychoanalyst also believes Assef is a sociopath who prospers in subjugation and chaos.
When Hassan threatens Assef with the slingshot he said he’d name him ‘one eyed Assef’ this is symbolism for Assefs one eye jaundiced view on Hazaras in society. He is instantaneously remarkable as his views allow us to investigate the social structure of Afghanistan and how Hazaras such as Hassan were thus treated and how easily manipulated a child’s mind can be to believe such hatred things as ethnical cleansing.
To conclude, I’d say Hosseini creates very memorable characters throughout the novels opening five chapters, both his protagonist and antagonist are eluded by their own nature; Amir is blinded by not only society but his own deranged, inconsistent mind into accepting Hassan as anything other than a friend. It is only Hassan who remains unchanged throughout the novel, Hassan represents the resilience of human spirit and Assef’s highlighting mans inhumanity towards man. Hosseini