Characters • Amir - The narrator and the protagonist of the story. Amir is the sensitive and intelligent son of a well-to-do businessman in Kabul, and he grows up with a sense of entitlement. His best friend is Hassan, and he goes back and forth between acting as a loyal friend and attacking Hassan out of jealousy whenever Hassan receives Amir’s father’s affection. • Hassan - Amir’s best friend and half-brother as well as a servant of Baba’s. Hassan proves himself a loyal friend to Amir repeatedly. • Baba - Father of Amir and Hassan and a wealthy, well-respected businessman. • Ali - Acting father to Hassan and a servant of Baba’s. • Sohrab - Son of Hassan and Farzana. • Assef - Hassan’s and Sohrab’s rapist and the novel’s antagonist. Assef represents all things wrong in Afghanistan.
Themes • The Search For Redemption: Amir’s quest to redeem himself makes up the heart of the novel. Early on, Amir strives to redeem himself in Baba’s eyes, primarily because his mother died giving birth to him, and he feels responsible. To redeem himself to Baba, Amir thinks he must win the kite-tournament and bring Baba the losing kite.The more substantial part of Amir’s search for redemption, however, stems from his guilt regarding Hassan. • The Love and Tension Between Fathers and Sons: Amir has a very complex relationship with Baba, and as much as Amir loves Baba, he rarely feels Baba fully loves him back. Amir’s desire to win Baba’s love consequently motivates him not to stop Hassan’s rape. Baba has his own difficulty connecting with Amir. He feels guilty treating Amir well when he can’t acknowledge Hassan as his son. As a result, he is hard on Amir, and he can only show his love for Hassan indirectly. • The Persistence of the Past: All the characters in the novel feel the influence of the past, but none so much as Amir and Sohrab. In Sohrab’s case, his past has been so traumatizing that it affects all his behavior. For Amir, the past is always with him. Amir defines himself by his past. His feelings of guilt for his past actions continue to motivate him. Amir even feels responsible for the Taliban murdering Hassan because he thinks he set in motion the events that led to Hassan’s death.
Summary • Amir recalls an event that happened twenty-six years before, when he was still a boy in Afghanistan. One day, Amir and Hassan are playing when they run into three boys, Assef, Wali, and Kamal. Assef threatens to beat up Amir for hanging around with a Hazara, but Hassan uses his slingshot to stop Assef. • The story skips to winter, when the kite-fighting tournament occurs. When a kite loses, boys chase and retrieve it (kite running). When Amir wins the tournament, Hassan sets off to run the losing kite. Amir finds Hassan being raped in an alley by Assef. Amir runs away, and later, Amir pretends he doesn’t know what happened. Afterward, Amir and Hassan drift apart. Amir, who is racked by guilt, decides either he or Hassan must leave. Amir frames Hassan for stealing Baba’s things. When Baba confronts them, Hassan admits to it, though he didn’t do it. Shortly after, Hassan moves away. • The story jumps to March 1981. Baba and Amir escape from Kabul, which has become a war-zone. Baba and Amir move to California. Amir marries Soraya, the daughter of Baba’s friend General Taheri. • Rahim Khan asks Amir to find Hassan’s son, Sohrab. Assef is the guard in charge of Sohrab. Amir and Sohrab escape from Assef. Eventually, Amir gets Sohrab to come live with him in California, but Sohrab is withdrawn. By taking care of Sohrab, Amir starts to feel a sense of redemption for his mistreating of Hassan.