The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Author Context

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The Kite Runner

  • Khaled Hosseini

Author Context

  • Born in Kabul, Afghanistan – 4th March 1965, oldest of 5 children
  • Kabul – cosmopolitan city – Western culture mixed with Afghan traditions
  • Father = diplomat with Foreign Ministry
  • Mother = Teacher of Farsi & History
  • Moved to Iran – Hosseini taught Hazara cook how to read & write
  • Returned to Kabul in 1973 – year of coup d’etat – relocated to Paris in 1976
  • Hoped to return in 1980 but couldn’t due to Soviet Union invasion – moved to California
  • 1996 – Became fully-fledged doctor
  • Deeply influenced by recollections of homeland – began writing ‘The Kite Runner’ in March 2001 – published 2 years later

The Novel’s Success

  • Novel largely fictional but Afghanistan of Hosseini’s childhood inspired it
  • International bestseller – more than 8 million copies in print, numerous book awards
  • Made into a feature film in 2007 – problems for children
  • May 2007 – published second novel ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’
  • ‘The Kite Runner’ was first novel of its type, written by an Afghan, about Afghanistan but in English and aimed at Western readers/achieve prominence and to impact so greatly on Western readers
  • After 27 years, returned to Afghanistan to see what had become of his country & people
  • 2006 – Humanitarian Award from UN Refugee Agency for bringing attention to plight of refugees
  • 2007 trip – set up non-profit group Khaled Hosseini Foundation
  • Political and Historical Context
  • 1963(Amir born)-1983 (Ch2-10)
  • Returns, via Pakistan: June-Aug 2001 (Ch15-25)
  • 1983-June 2001 (Ch10-14)
  • Returns with Sohrab:
  • Aug 2001-March 2002 (Ch25)
  • Afghanistan’s History – 19th Century to present
  • 19th Century – Largely British influence – ‘Great Game’ Russian & British Empires contended for control – Anglo-Afghan wars
  • 1919 – 3rd Anglo-Afghan war – King Amanullah Khan’s move to self-government
  • 1921 – Full independence
  • Jan 1929 – Reforms too radical, forced to abdicate – Habibullah Kalakani
  • 9 months later – defeated & killed by King’s cousin, Mohammed Nadir Khan (Amir’s district named after)
  • 1933 – assassinated & succeeded by Mohammed Zahir Shah: Extended period of peace – until 1973 (Ch4)
  • Afghanistan’s History – 19th Century to present
  • 17th July 1973 – Military Coup – Former PM, cousin & brother-in-law of King, Mohammad Sardar Daoud (Ch5)
  • 1978 – Republic 5 years – PDPA overthrew on 27th April
  • 1979 – Series of uprisings & heavy reprisals PDPA call on Russian Troops – Soviet Army military missions against US supported Islamic rebels for 9 years (Ch 10)
  • Feb 1989 – Soviet Army withdraw troops, continued to lend aid until collapse in 1990s
  • Afghanistan’s History – 19th Century to present
  • 18th April 1992 – Democratic Republic overthrown, replaced with Islamic State – civil war (Northern Alliance in Kabul 1992-96 Ch15)
  • 2001 – Afghan Northern Alliance only opposition (recognised by UN as legitimate Govt) – USA & coalition attack (Ch25)
  • 2004 – Removal of Taliban, interim authority formed by Hamid Karzai – 9th Oct 1st democratic election
  • Novel covers period of Amir’s life: 1963-2002 (some references to earlier periods in Baba’s life).

3 Sections

  • Afghanistan (Amir’s childhood):
  • Chapters 2-10 (pg3-108)
  • 2. USA, California (Amir growing up & marrying): Chapters 11-14 (pg109-169)
  • Return with Sohrab:
  • End of Chapter 25 (pg312-324)
  • 3. Afghanistan & Pakistan (Amir’s journey to redemption - finding Sohrab):
  • Chapters 15-25 (pg170-312)

Studying a Novel

  • Author’s Purpose – Theme(s) and Message
  • Narrative Perspective/Stance
  • Characterisation – Major/Minor, Key Relationships, Conflicts
  • Setting
  • Structure
  • Key Plot Events
  • Symbolism
  • Style and Tone

Themes and Purpose

  • 3. The Search for Redemption/Atonement
  • 4. Relationships - The Love and Tension Between Fathers and Sons
  • 1. The Intersection of Political Events and Private Lives
  • 2. Guilt and the Persistence of the Past
  • 7. Religion & Ethnicity - Prejudice
  • Discuss your allocated theme and define, as clearly as possible, what Hosseini’s message in relation to the theme is.
  • Go on to discuss where or how this theme/message is most evident in the novel i.e. a plot event, through a character, through a symbol or image
  • 8. Betrayal & Trust
  • 5. Power & Violence
  • 6. Storytelling

The Kite Runner

  • 1. Discuss the associations the title may have prior to reading the novel
  • 2. Discuss the title’s significance within the novel
  • Discuss whether there is anything unusual or unexpected about the title

Close Textual Analysis of Chapter 1

  • Identify the narrative perspective of the novel at this point. What issues might there be with this narrative?
  • How is juxtaposition used in this chapter? What is the purpose/effect of this?
  • What is the significance of the characters named in this chapter? Is it significant that Rahim Khan is mentioned three times before Baba is mentioned, only once?
  • What is the significance of kites being mentioned?
  • Look at the language used to describe the past and explain what effect it has. Refer closely to the text in your answer.
  • How are references to the weather used in this chapter?
  • Identify an example of foreshadowing in this chapter and explain what effect it has.
  • Compare the opening and closing lines of the chapter.
  • How is the theme of redemption introduced in the opening chapter?
  • ONE—December 2001
  • I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.
  • One day last summer, my friend Rahim Khan called from Pakistan. He asked me to come see him. Standing in the kitchen with the receiver to my ear, I knew it wasn’t just Rahim Khan on the line. It was my past of unatoned sins. After I hung up, I went for a walk along Spreckels Lake on the northern edge of Golden Gate Park. The early-afternoon sun sparkled on the water where dozens of miniature boats sailed, propelled by a crisp breeze. Then I glanced up and saw a pair of kites, red with long blue tails, soaring in the sky. They danced high above the trees on the west end of the park, over the windmills, floating side by side like a pair of eyes looking down on San Fransisco, the city I now call home. And suddenly Hassan’s voice whispered in my head: For you, a thousand times over. Hassan the harelipped kite runner.
  • I sat on a park bench near a willow tree. I thought about something Rahim Khan said just before he hung up, almost as an afterthought. There is a way to be good again. I looked up at those twin kites. I thought about Hassan. Thought about Baba. Ali. Kabul. I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of 1975 came along and changed everything. And made me what I am today.

Chapters 2-5: Questions

  • How is Hassan introduced/described and what is significant about this? What do we learn about Amir & Hassan’s relationship in these early chapters?
  • What do we learn about Amir and Hassan’s parents? Compare and contrast the boy’s relationships with their fathers and how these characters are presented.
  • How is Baba almost made to resemble a mythological figure through Amir’s descriptions? Why might this be a worrying aspect of Amir’s perceptions of his father?
  • How is Kabul and Afghan society presented to us in these early chapters? How is Amir’s upbringing different to some of the others in the novel?
  • What is significant about the reading and writing of stories at this stage? What do they reveal about Amir and Hassan’s relationship?
  • What changes do we see in chapter 5 and what significance do these have in terms of the rest of the novel?

Chapters 2-5

  • Poetic imagery used to describe Hassan – reinforces expression of love he still feels for Hassan – lyrical language associated with significant characters & key places (Kabul of childhood – comparison with later)
  • Kinship between A & H – shared same wet nurse. First words. H taking blame for A – unquestioning loyalty, A more unsure – sets mould for events to come
  • Lack of mothers and wives make relationships stronger – role of women characterised by absence
  • Baba introduced as powerful man – sets pattern: quest for approval & view of intellectual abilities as sign of weakness. Wrestling bear anecdote & building of orphanage = futility of Amir’s desire
  • Roles of ethnicity & history – teasing & taunting of Hazaras, book of persecution, belonged to mother & dismissed by teacher – difference in way Amir is brought up
  • Reading of stories (cemetery & pomegranate tree)– friendly & compassionate but A retains power – 1st story masters irony, sad & disturbing but Hassan spots plot hole
  • Noises of coup – change in narrative, relationship with Hassan & in traditional Afghanistan. Assef’s role – foreshadowing sexual threat & A’s lack of self-confidence. Correction of cleft lip – love & jealousy, foreshadowing

Close Textual Analysis of Chapter 3 ‘In the late 1960s […] hating him a little’ pg.12-14

  • How would you describe Amir’s narrative voice in this section and what impact does this have? Quote examples to exemplify.
  • What aspects of Baba’s character are accentuated in this passage and how is this done?
  • Quote a phrase which suggests what Amir feels is at the heart of the strained relationship between he and his father. Why would this cause difficulties?
  • How does Amir behave during the picnic at Lake Gharga? Give evidence. What is the significance of this location?
  • Why is Hassan’s absence so significant and how does it foreshadow later events?
  • On the day of the orphanage opening, how can we tell that Baba’s charisma & abilities are real rather than just Amir’s larger-than-life portrayal
  • What is the symbolic significance of Baba’s hat blowing off and Amir being asked to hold it?
  • How to the people who congratulate Baba treat Amir and what id the significance of this?

Chapters 6-9: Questions

  • What positives are associated with the kite fighting tournament and how are these positive feelings reinforced?
  • What does the ‘eating dirt’ incident reveal about Amir and Hassan’s relationship? How is this connected to the rape itself and the return to the pomegranate tree later?
  • What is the significance of Hassan’s dream before the tournament and then later when it is mentioned in chapter 8?
  • How is the rape scene portrayed to us through Amir’s eyes? How is juxtaposition used and why?
  • How does Amir try to relieve and escape his guilt? In what ways does his guilt manifest itself in the aftermath of the rape?
  • Chapters 8 & 9 deal with Amir’s 13th birthday. Which details about his birthday party and presents are important and why?
  • What mood/atmosphere is created in chapter 9 as Ali and Hassan leave? How is this created? What is important about Baba and Ali’s reactions? What does Amir compare their leaving to and why?

Chapters 6-9

  • Both A & H enjoy/excel – draws closer. Baba approves. Symbol of freedom & independence – one against many. Amir is usually unwilling to get hurt but will risk for something he truly believes in.
  • Descriptions of wintertime in Kabul – reinforces freedom through poetic imagery – remembered with love, beauty of season.
  • ‘Eating dirt’ evidence of rift A feels – uneasiness at placing in superior position. H’s response shows clearer understanding of balance of power (allows A to win at cards)
  • Pomegranate tree no longer refuge – brings feelings of guilt. Attack suggests breaking of bond as pomegranates are symbol of bond. Hits self – acceptance A saw on his face at rape – refuse to allow A to assuage guilt by fighting back.
  • H’s dream – presented as heroes – seems like a positive omen, H’s allegiance & love for A. However, lurking monster – H conscious of cruelty hiding beneath & wishes A to banish it as he does to monster
  • Later realisation he was monster – self-pitying & melodramatic tone. Views guilt & illness as deserved punishment just as he believed poor relationship with father was punishment for ‘killing’ mother

Chapters 6-9 (cont.)

  • Rape scene – event story hangs on (foreshadowed & referred back to). Narrative interrupted by memories – suggests difficulty in dealing with reality – mind, as a boy, tried to distance. Few details given increase our horror at scene
  • Juxtaposition of tournament & attack – winning contrasted with losing (latter outweighs) as witness must choose between friend & father. Describes H’s expression – same as ‘eating dirt’ = direct comparison to bully. Alley = dark, rarely used, illicit & secret – viewing like sexual voyeurism – possible to dismiss as not in mainstream life
  • Clear winter’s day – sun & clear blue sky described as ‘blameless’. Winning = glorious event makes rape all the more disturbing – has dirtied clean snow white day
  • Aftermath = pretends not occurred – anger at H being missing, denies & avoids – trips & trying to get rid of servants = distancing. Car sickness & insomnia signs of weakness, guilt physical
  • Assef at party = shadow/spectre of Hitler. Symbolic link between Assef’s bullying & Amir’s. Final vision = Assef bullying & A failing to stop it. Presents – guilt overshadows joy (profits of sin) 2 significant: notebook reward for writing, storybook – reminds of what lost, provokes guilt
  • Framing H – attempt to remove, not relieve, guilt. Realises should have been honest – likens to film but too late. Ali knows, similar to son – protects but refuses to relieve guilt. Baba cries = affection and forgiveness unexpected. Pathetic fallacy of rainstorm – rare in summer – Amir’s symbolic tears
  • The passage starts with Amir looking away. How is this movement mirrored in the way the passage is written and what effect does this create?
  • How does Hosseini draw attention to the pivotal nature of this moment and how does it relate to what happens in the rest of the novel?
  • How are the alleyway and bazaar settings used symbolically by Hosseini?
  • In what ways does Amir try to rationalise his decision to turn away?
  • Why might this not necessarily be a true account of Amir’s thoughts at the time of the rape?
  • How does Amir treat Hassan after he emerges from the alleyway – give evidence? Why is this?
  • What mood does Hosseini create in the final section and how is this done? What is the significance of ending this crucial chapter in this way?
  • Close Textual Analysis of Chapter 7 ‘I stopped watching […] And that was good’ pg.67-69

Chapters 10-14: Questions

  • What contrasts do we see in chapter 10? Give details of each and what effects they have.
  • What differences are there between how Baba takes to life in America compared with Amir?
  • What attracts Amir to Soraya and in what ways is Amir’s love for her shown?
  • Why are the traditional elements of Amir & Soraya’s courting/marriage important? What is significant about Baba’s death coming so soon after the wedding?
  • What revelation does Rahim Khan’s phone call bring for Amir and what does it offer Amir?
  • What is significant about the timing of Amir’s success in publishing his first two novels?
  • In what way is the mysterious infertility that the couple face significant?

Chapters 10-14

  • Baba & Amir contrasted – A’s car sickness = weakness against B’s bravery/strength – contrasts with actions in alley.
  • Leap forward in time – contrast earlier positive Kabul with emigration from dangerous country. Russian sings Afghan wedding song – sign of presence but also lack of respect
  • Husband of woman B protects kneels & kisses hand = respect which is absent in driver. Traditional Afghanistan contrasted with new.
  • Vivid description of basement (claustrophobic) contrasts with house = change in status. Pg105 change to present tense = immediacy of oil tanker & final leg. Death of Kamal = symbolic of chance for A to escape without ‘baggage’ of past.
  • Chap 11 echoes events of Chap 3 = Baba’s reputation & events demonstrating stature but attributes different in American context
  • A fits in better – placates grocery clerk & graduates. B not adapted so well – illness = reaction to not being in Afghanistan – pining as he wastes away but visitors = high regard
  • B’s natural abilities in evidence - best friends of customers during celebration of A’s graduation. Market = success against odds in new context. Continuation of spirit – A’s narrative shows same regard – holding onto heritage

Chapters 10-14 (cont.)

  • Meets Soraya – beautiful & makes instant impression. Her past (pg123-4) – sentiment A can relate to. Descriptive language recalls poetic lang. used to introduce H & describe Kabul in winter. S taught servant to read – contrasts A’s refusal to teach H. Echoes of mother & reflection of person he wishes he could have been
  • Amir doesn’t go to ask for hand in marriage = respect for father but also continued timidity. Wedding traditional – final attempt to make B proud. Wedding song = safety of USA, A growing into heritage but past not escaped – looking in mirror = intimate moment is thinking of Hassan
  • B’s death – relinquish hold on life – son has become man. Reading stories – putting to rest A’s constant need to make proud. Funeral realises how large a figure & gap left to fill.
  • RK knew secret – powerful influence. Offered way to ‘be good again’ pg168
  • Publishing of novels = like rape – trading one success (fatherhood) for another. Success contrasts with change in fate of Afghanistan – civil war & infighting
  • Childlessness – dreams of H = juxtaposed. Suggests cannot have children until debt paid – memories of friendship & loyalty, repetition of ‘For you, a thousand times over’ pg169 = poignancy to ‘futility’ of act of lovemaking with wife. Mysterious infertility also sign of Afghans failing to thrive away from homeland – like migraines & hypochondria of Soraya’s parents – A does not hold in high regard – in contrast A & S happy & healthy

Chapters 15-21: Questions

  • These chapters deal with Amir’s physical return to his homeland and his metaphorical journey to redemption and growth into a strong adult. How does Hosseini highlight Amir’s stunted growth as an Afghan citizen and the difficulties he has in recognising & reconnecting with the place of his childhood?
  • What functions are performed by the two new first person narrative voices in chapters 16 &17?
  • Death is a predominant feature in these middle chapters (Baba, Hassan & the imminent death of Rahim Khan). How do these impact on Amir and what evidence is there of this?
  • What do we learn about Hassan’s children and why are these details important? There are many references to orphans and orphanages – why are these significant?
  • What impact does the revelation about Hassan’s true parentage have at this point in the novel?
  • How is the state of modern day Afghanistan presented to us? What is the symbolic significance of the state of the country and there any signs that the traditional Afghanistan still remains at some level?

Chapters 15-21

  • Farid’s comment about him always having been a ‘tourist’ in his own country. Sees Taliban in flesh for first time – stares – as though on T.V., cannot connect with reality of situation.
  • Spectacle of stoning – juxtaposed with football match so seen in same light. Afghan people used to violence – A only one with strong emotion/reaction – naïve/childlike hiding face – not desensitized to violence. A’s chance to finally grow up & difficulty doing so
  • RK & H’s letter – other voices verify points made by Amir – bring us up-to-date with state of Kabul. H stayed behind & grown/changed with country, A in suspended animation – Afghanistan more damaged than he imagined
  • RK’s voice more considered & thoughtful – different tone & sentence construction. Brought up-to-date with story of H. Return of H as character rather than symbol of guilt
  • Deaths precipitate changes in A – RK’s imminent death more significant as he was clearer guide & knew secret – offers means to overcome it. A changes from scared boy to strong man

Chapters 15-21 (cont.)

  • Destruction of orphanage = symbolic 2nd death of Baba (strength & compassion) – personal tragedy for childless man. Children’s vulnerability = recurring motif represent breakdown of culture & family
  • Death of H affects profoundly – structure of language breaks down as at other moments of stress = never seek forgiveness from H
  • Male-centred narrative continues – H’s daughter stillborn but Sohrab survives. Name taken from childhood storybook – importance of storytelling & happier times. Sohrab avid reader, talented kite runner & slingshot shooter – like son of both
  • Request to rescue S – make penance – orphanage link = something B would’ve done, become man B wished him to be. S in converted warehouse – unsuitable. Afghanistan left as vulnerable & fatherless as orphans. Taliban’s crimes & own compromised morals related by director = extension of this
  • Web of responsibility revealed – H = B’s illegitimate son – harks back to importance of bloodlines discussed in Chap 13. Realises he & B not that different BUT A denied his responsibility while B did best to make amends. A has new understanding

Chapters 15-21 (cont.)

  • A shocked & saddened by state of Afghanistan (rich description of Peshawar reminiscent of earlier Kabul but contrasts with stark city that follows). Country he abandoned connected to feelings over relationships. State = internal landscape ravaged by years of guilt
  • Car sickness on drive to Jalalabad – only when driving through Afghanistan = sickness caused by country itself – continued sign of weakness & detachment .
  • Banning of Kite fighting – symbolic destruction of happier times. H rebuilds ‘Wall of Ailing Corn’ – symbolic of rebuilding what used to have & boundary between haven of house & war outside. Massacre of Hazaras – prejudice engrained at higher level
  • Wahid’s welcome contrasted with Farid (product of new Afghanistan = cynical like truck driver) representative of traditional hospitality. Welcome leaves no food so difficulty in maintaining values. Beggar sign of old – symbol of Taliban’s disregard & tragedy of modern Afghanistan BUT still persists despite terrible conditions
  • Return to pomegranate tree – out of breath so older person. Tree dead = symbol of death of physical relationship but inscription remains so friendship can exist beyond barrier of death
  • What two functions does this passage perform?
  • As Amir looks out the car window, what impression do we get of what he sees and how is this created? Quote and analyse specific language and techniques used.
  • What is significant about the group of men, the tank and the woman mentioned? What does each represent?
  • How does Hosseini draw attention to Amir’s alienation from his own country? Give evidence.
  • How is Farid depicted in this section and what might this represent?
  • What provokes Amir’s car sickness and what is significant about this in terms of Amir’s character and his journey?
  • Close Textual Analysis of Chapter 19 ‘We had crossed the border[…] alongside the road’ pg.203-204

Chapters 22-25: Questions

  • Assef reappears as the high-ranking Talib Amir must speak to. What does Assef represent in relation to Afghanistan and Amir? Consider details of his clothing as well.
  • How is Sohrab described by Amir and what is the significance of this?
  • The beating Amir takes from Assef is a highly significant moment. What is symbolic about the story Assef tells about his kidney stone? Why does Hosseini choose to have Sohrab rescue Amir and how is this different from earlier episodes?
  • What evidence is there after the fight that Amir has matured into the type of man Baba always wanted him to be?
  • What happens to the narrative after Sohrab’s suicide attempt and what effect does this have? How does this action separate Sohrab from Hassan and what is Amir’s response?
  • Hassan’s phrase ‘For you a thousand times over’ is repeated twice in these closing chapters, once by Farid and then finally by Amir himself. Why do you think Hosseini chooses to do this?
  • There is a re-emergence of the storybook and kite flying motifs in the final chapter. What effects do these have?

Chapters 22-25

  • Assef represents manifestation of A’s childhood fears = bully – Badly frightened but finally stands up & emulates B & H’s acts of bravery – confronting fears = journey of self discovery
  • Appropriate rise to authority – representative of social norms being broken down – those in power behave as sociopaths – fulfilling role suited to him & emulating Hitler
  • Blood on white clothes alters symbolism – purity & peace becomes butcher’s apron. Blood on white sheets = loss of virginity. A engaging in fight – losing last of naivety & innocence
  • A comments on how much Sohrab looks like H – reminder of attack on H & spurs A on. Repeats descriptive language 1st used to describe H (p244) – but contextual language harder & less poetic reflecting harsh circumstance.
  • Fighting Assef = fight to save H & repay debt – lay demons to rest. Assef laughs as beating helps him pass particularly painful kidney stone – A laughs as beating finally banishes pain & guilt (tried to provoke from H by throwing pomegranates
  • Rescued by boy with slingshot again – but deserved & no reason for shame – Sohrab performs action father threatened – ends battle started in chap 5 – circular nature of narrative

Chapters 22-25 (cont.)

  • A dreams of self wrestling bear – finally achieved stature of father – standing up way to become man father wanted him to be. Split lip = resembles Hassan physical sign of repaying debts. RK’s letter = sign of ultimate death – fitting that final part of childhood cut off
  • Journey back no car sickness – cured weakness. Panic at Sohrab missing – new chapter beginning = responsibility. Decision to take to USA ready to be father. News of rape – pulls close rather than ignoring. Sins repented & forgiven = reward of son but path not straightforward – Soraya provides simple solution
  • Switch to present tense = immediacy & panic/worry. During recovery, Sohrab becomes separate from H – accepted as kin & responsibility. Starts to pray – important to Sohrab & reawakening of A’s faith & reconnection with heritage. Survival = prayers answered
  • Farid echoes H’s phrase (p266) demonstrates loyalty F now feels – earned through actions like Baba. A runs kite (switching roles) utters H’s phrase (p323) Return to lyrical prose used to describe most significant things – loyalty & devotion to boy
  • Return to motif of stories – way to connect with Sohrab & apologise = reconnection with H. Kite flying – weather clearing to produce sunny skies – reflects emotional tone of scene. Sohrab withdrawn but activity H shared with A & S brings closer together


  • Amir
  • Hassan
  • Baba
  • Ali
  • Rahim Khan
  • Assef
  • Sohrab
  • Soraya
  • Analyse the significance of these characters and how Hosseini uses them to enhance the thematic concerns of the novel by considering the following:
  • Background knowledge of character
  • Personality/characteristics
  • Main actions/involvement in novel
  • Impact on Amir (central character/narrator)
  • Significance to wider novel & thematic concerns (How Hosseini uses them as tool in novel)
  • Find quotations – significant things they say or that is said about them and analyse why they are significant (use as evidence or link to previous aspects
  • You will be presenting your thoughts and typing up notes for the class to use as revision.

Structure and Style

  • Exposition
  • Development
  • Turning Point(s)
  • Climax
  • Falling Action/Resolution

Key Symbols & Motifs

  • 8. Kites
  • 6. Pomegranate Tree
  • 4. Rape
  • 7. The Lamb
  • 5. The Cleft Lip
  • 3. Irony
  • 2. Dreams
  • 1. Regressing in time & storytelling

Notes on Key Symbols & Motifs

  • Identify how and when they appear within the novel
  • Explain what they represent or suggest
  • Analyse how the contribute to characterisation, plot development, theme & purpose
  • Exemplify through quotations and page references to key moments in which they appear

Group Areas of Responsibility

  • Notes on a key aspect of characterisation
  • Notes on Key Symbols
  • Notes on Study of theme
  • Throughout the study of the novel, your home groups have taken the responsibility for one area in each of the above sections.
  • After each section is completed, one member of the group must take responsibility for typing up and sending in the group’s notes so that I can collate them and make them available to the whole class – this way the workload is shared.

Other Minor Symbols

  • The Slingshot
  • Brass Knuckles
  • Ford Car
  • John Lennon-style sunglasses
  • White & Red

Language & Style

  • Amir – viewpoint of adult. Personal narration – informal, conversational
  • Development in vocab & sentence construction – move from adult to childhood years
  • Childlike language: lead up to attack ‘He never told on me’ p4 & ‘They clapped for a long time. Afterward, people shook his hand’ p13
  • Style reaches maturity as narrative reaches rape – Trauma of moment accompanied by dropping away of childlike tone ‘I was weeping’ p67 & ‘I actually aspired to cowardice’ p68
  • End of chapter – held & hugged by Baba – tone reflects security, simple childish voice
  • Not long – Next chapter more sophisticated with complex sentences
  • Times of stress & extreme anxiety – changes to voice: hesitant, broken sentence structure – reflects fragmentation of mind
  • Switch to present tense: In truck & Sohrab’s suicide = immediacy & urgency
  • Poetic language & imagery used to describe significant things – Hassan, Soraya, Sohrab, Kabul of childhood

Language & Style

  • Rahim Khan – more graceful & less straightforward – reflects age & temperament
  • Talking of Kabul after A & B left – page 178 = repetitive structure, poetic – typical of speech & letter
  • Hassan – contrast – more foreign cadence (A’s later voice reflective of time in USA & RK intellectual man, study of literature)
  • Writing & reading – late in life & associated with religion – more studied & less fluent style – p189 ‘I am hopeful[…]grace our eyes’
  • Responsible for one of key motifs ‘For you a thousand times over’ – more formal style & reflects unquestioned loyalty
  • A’s use of phrase at end – transformation of character – acceptance of power & grace of older, more spiritual form of language

Narrative & Structure

  • Single story told from end – coloured by pre-knowledge
  • Adult understanding & rationalising – 2 perspectives (child & reworked/misremembered adult)
  • Details granted more importance – carrying guilt: stories told paint in negative light
  • Foreshadowing – told from chronological end point
  • Undercuts current events – will not last ‘That was the winter that Hassan stopped smiling’ ch5
  • Builds tension – revealing small bit of info to come e.g. end of chaps 1,2 & 4
  • Continues after rape but not as frequently & not chap ends – instead memories of earlier times inserted

Narrative & Structure

  • Moment of rape = central moment – earlier chaps look forward, later look back
  • Structure & style change – prior to revelation = straightforward, chronological
  • Attack = fractures & never fully resumes linear structure
  • Witnessing = veers to other stories – desire of A’s mind to avoid dealing with what he sees
  • Style of story changes – previously ‘unembellished’
  • Points of fracture adult voice takes over = events largely ‘shown’, out of order, gaps – reader interpret events & juxtaposition
  • Fable-like – constantly reinforcing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ through guilt & need to atone
  • Allegory – journey of redemption accompanies trials of Afghan people – search for reconciliation = search for peace

Narrative & Structure

  • Sub-plots
  • Stories of mothers, Rahim Khan, Assef
  • Soraya = complement to Amir’s story – burden of guilt & pain from past
  • Role = possible to recover from such a shame & provide hope
  • Inclusion of dreams – lend depth to narrative
  • Used to foreshadow events to come (prophetic)
  • Add level of symbolism – provide hidden knowledge characters unable to see themselves
  • Hassan’s dream of tournament, Amir’s memory of dream during attack (symbolic of feelings of being lost & guilt at being safe), Amir’s dream after beating – wrestling bear (revelation to him & us that he has finally reconciled with father)

Essay Writing

  • Critical Essay = Discursive Essay
  • So what does this mean?
  • Present an argument – clear line of argument throughout
  • Make a number of points to support argument
  • Support points with evidence


  • Construct your argument around the task
  • Don’t just argue WHAT the writer does, argue WHY the writer does this & evaluate HOW WELL
  • Link argument to overall purpose of text – what is the writer trying to teach us/make us aware of?
  • Line of Argument should be CLEARLY stated in introduction
  • Topic Sentences & transition points in essay should link back to the argument – show progression & development (using transitional markers)
  • Argument should be CLEARLY summed up in conclusion

2008, Question 5

  • Choose a novel which explores the cruelty of human nature.
  • Show how the writer explores this theme and discuss how its exploration enhances your appreciation of the novel as a whole.
  • First part only allows you to choose a suitable task which matches your task
  • This is the bit you need to ‘answer/address’. It tells you what your essay must do


  • enhances your appreciation of the novel as a whole.
  • its importance to your understanding of the novel as a whole
  • illuminates a central concern of the text.
  • enhances your understanding of the text as a whole.
  • made an important contribution to your enjoyment of the text as a whole.
  • it gives you a deeper understanding of the text as a whole.
  • used to create and maintain your interest in the central ideas of the texts

What This Means

  • All these are asking you to do is to show your understanding of the themes and writer’s overall purpose/message.
  • Your argument should be based around this – i.e. prove HOW the area/techniques are used by the writer to reveal this AND evaluate how effectively this is done

Planning Questions

  • Where do we see the cruelty of human nature?
  • 2. How does Hosseini present/reveal the cruelty of each aspect (techniques)?
  • 3. What significance does this cruelty play in the wider text – what does Hosseini use it to show us?

Planning: Para 2 (Characterisation of Amir – Early treatment of Hassan)

  • Points of analysis
  • Evidence
  • Wider significance
  • Early cruelty stems from jealousy & uncertainty over relationship with Baba
  • Amir looks for opportunities to impress Baba at the expense of Hassan – unaware of B’s own betrayal & reason for his behaviour towards H
  • H taking blame for A’s actions – unfaltering loyalty (first words)
  • Not teaching H to read – changing details in story
  • Eating dirt incident
  • Denying friendship in ‘public’ situations – excludes from trips
  • First words
  • B & RK’s ‘mean streak’ discussion ‘a boy who can’t stand…’
  • Hosseini sets up these details about Amir to set mould for events to come – foreshadowing potential for Cruelty in Amir’s character
  • Retrospective narrative – Amir foregrounding negatives in childhood due to privileged perspective – Hosseini highlights burden of Amir’s guilt & need to atone
  • Shows all humanity has potential for cruelty – how emotions like jealousy can provoke cruelty

Planning: Para 3 (Characterisation of Amir – Hassan’s Rape)

  • Points of analysis
  • Evidence
  • Wider significance
  • Hosseini juxtaposes jubilant atmosphere of tournament with dark cruelty of rape – theme of betrayal: Amir betrays H in order to keep his success & gain Baba’s admiration
  • Turning away, choosing to run & sacrifice H, way he speaks to H after
  • Mind turns to memories, details of rape made more appalling
  • Highlights cruelty through use of weather, alleyway setting, H’s dream, white snow/red blood contrast
  • aspiring to cowardice quotation
  • Hassan as sacrificial lamb quotation
  • reference to Hassan’s dream of monster in lake
  • Provides turning point of novel & moment for which Amir must atone
  • Pivotal nature of moment reflected in narrative – moment foreshadowed & alluded to in 1st half and referred back to after
  • Change in language reflecting adult perspective
  • Hosseini showing how cruelty can stem from inaction & selfishness but can lead to the heavy burden of guilt

Planning: Para 4 (Characterisation of Amir – Treatment of Hassan after rape)

  • Points of analysis
  • Evidence
  • Wider significance
  • Distancing self from Hassan to try and ignore guilt
  • Pomegranate attack – symbolic nature of pomegranates & significance of this moment – Amir tries to provoke Hassan in order to absolve his guilt but H does not allow this
  • Birthday party – again fails to help Hassan. Gift from Assef almost makes him complicit in attack
  • Framing Hassan – again A & H don’t allow him to assuage guilt – pathetic fallacy in weather – Amir also hurts Baba
  • “The color fell from his face. Next to him, the stapled pages of the story I’d promised to read him fluttered in the breeze. I hurled the pomegranate at him. It struck him in the chest, exploded in a spray of red pulp. Hassan’s cry was pregnant with surprise and pain.”
  • “For me, America was the place to bury my memories”
  • Moving to America – running away, trying to escape guilt/past – betraying country itself
  • Other treatment tries to distance from guilt through cruelty
  • Leads to Amir needing to seek redemption

Planning: Para 5 (Setting of Afghanistan – Civil War & the Taliban)

  • Points of analysis
  • Evidence
  • Wider significance
  • Destruction of Taliban – contrast between earlier memories and Amir’s return
  • Russian soldier & exploitative driver
  • Farid’s cynicism
  • Banning of Kite-fighting
  • The stoning
  • The beggar, destruction of orphanage
  • “Huddled together in the dining room and waiting for the sun to rise, none of us had any notion that a way of life had ended.”
  • “There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”
  • Amir’s guilt free, pleasant childhood contrasted with later life
  • Destruction of Afghanistan parallels his journey
  • Betrayal of country too
  • Relics of ‘good’ Afghanistan remain suggesting glimmer of hope for future despite cruelty of the Taliban – can be overcome

Planning: Para 6 (Characterisation of Assef – Figure of evil)

  • Points of analysis
  • Evidence
  • Wider significance
  • Amir’s childhood bully
  • Associations with Hitler
  • Symbolic nature of brass knuckles
  • Reflects the underlying prejudice in Afghanistan against Hazaras
  • Perpetrator of rape – associations of dark alleyway, cornering Hassan when vulnerable
  • Later exploitation of orphans
  • Person doing the stoning – white clothes covered in blood like butcher’s apron
  • “My body was broken—just how badly I wouldn’t find out until later—but I felt healed. Healed at last. I laughed.”
  • “Public justice is the greatest kind of show, my brother.Drama.Suspense. And , best of all, education en masse”
  • Assef is a hypocritical figure – exploits Taliban rule in order to gain power for personal pleasure
  • Figure which embodies the cruelty & guilt Amir must face to seek redemption & atone for sins
  • Must suffer the cruel beating in order to be cleansed
  • Assef blinded by slingshot – reflects violence & cruelty Sohrab has grown up with

Example Introduction

  • Khaled Hosseini’s thought-provoking novel, ‘The Kite Runner’ clearly explores the cruelty of human nature and illustrates how it can impact on individuals and wider society. Through Amir’s first-person narrative, Hosseini juxtaposes the protagonist’s personal journey to redemption with Afghanistan’s historical struggle after the Russian occupation and subsequent deterioration at the hands of the Taliban. Hosseini’s skilful depiction of the deterioration of Amir and Hassan’s relationship, Assef’s character and the historical setting of Afghanistan between the 1970s and early twenty-first century effectively portrays different manifestations of humanity’s cruelty and suggests ways in which this can be overcome, offering hope for the future.

Topic Sentences: A Structural Device – Signposts and shows development of line of argument

  • Focus on Task
  • Introduce Focus of Paragraph (Technique/Aspect to be Analysed)
  • Analytical NOT Storytelling (use writer’s name)
  • Contain Evaluative Language
  • Indicate Transitions – Progression of Argument (Transitional Markers)
  • Vary expression

The cruelty of human nature is first indicated by Hosseini through the early childhood recollections of the protagonist, Amir. These initial signs of cruelty are cleverly evoked in order to suggest the potential for cruelty lies within us all.

  • The cruelty of human nature is first indicated by Hosseini through the early childhood recollections of the protagonist, Amir. These initial signs of cruelty are cleverly evoked in order to suggest the potential for cruelty lies within us all.
  • The pivotal turning point within the novel is also effectively used by Hosseini to reveal how cruelty can grow out of selfishness and inaction.

Main Paragraphs – Points of your argument

  • Points of analysis clearly made – focus on what Hosseini is doing (how cruelty is evoked through techniques)
  • Exemplified through quotation/textual reference
  • Quotations need to be introduced and integrated effectively
  • Quotations should be followed by analytical comment (what quotation highlights and how it does this)
  • Demonstrate understanding of novel and Hosseini’s purpose (in relation to cruelty and wider significance of novel as a whole) WITHOUT STORYTELLING
  • Evaluation built in throughout (how effective techniques are in revealing cruelty
  • Sub-conclusion which links paragraph/analysis clearly back to task (cruelty of human nature and what Hosseini wants us to understand about it.
  • Hosseini skilfully uses a retrospective narrative to emphasise Amir’s regrets for his past. Everything in the novel spans from the crucial event of the rape: Amir constantly leading up or referring back to the harrowing incident. The narrative immediately highlights this as the crucial turning point that changed the course of Amir’s life forever. As the novel progresses, we see that even as an adult, Amir still carries his remorse and is yet to repent for his prior actions. The character’s deep self-loathing gives us the sense that Amir may be telling his story with a harsher light, now more aware of how his actions affected his and others’ lives. This hindsight heightens Amir’s need for redemption. After years of running from his mistakes, he realises that ‘the past claws it’s way back out,’ and he won’t ever escape his guilt if he doesn’t accept what he did and make amends for his actions.

Conclusion – Finalising the Argument

  • Restate Writer’s name in full
  • Mention Type of Text
  • Restate Title
  • Refer back to the original task
  • Present your line of argument – overall purpose/what we understand/appreciate as a result of exploration of cruelty through various techniques
  • Refer to techniques analysed (avoid simply listing)
  • Contain Evaluative Language
  • Should be conclusive – rounding off – summing up
  • By the end of ‘The Kite Runner’ Khaled Hosseini has clearly explored the different ways in which the cruelty of human nature can manifest itself. By setting this novel in Afghanistan, and dealing with actual historical events, he cleverly forces the reader to see the collective impact of cruelty on individuals and wider society. Through Amir’s journey to redemption, Hosseini effectively suggests that we cannot escape our pasts and that the cruelty of human nature can only be overcome if we confront it.

2010, Q8

  • Choose a novel in which a character seeks to escape from the constraints of his or her environment or situation.
  • Explain why the character feels the need to escape and show how his of her response to the situation illuminates a central concern of the text.

Planning Questions

  • What constraints does Amir want to escape from and why?
  • 2. How does Hosseini present/reveal Amir’s need to escape the constraints of his situation?
  • 4. What central concern does Amir’s response illuminate and how does it do this?
  • 3. How does Hosseini present Amir’s response to the situation?

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