Reading Club: The Kite Runner (1)

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Colin: Welcome to today’s book discussion, here is Colin, one of the group members. Today I will have other two of my partners, Liam and Wizard, to lead the discussion of the book “The Kite Runner”. Here we go.

Liam: Okay. The Kite Runner opens in Kabul in the mid-1970s, which was the time of turbulence and confusion-the end of the Afghan monarchy, the Soviet invasion, the Afghanistan civil war, the holding power of Taliban, the war on Muslim culture, ethnic conflicts, religious contradictions, and cultural integration, all mixed together. The story also takes place in Pakistan and America as follows. Raised in the same household but separated by different classes, Amir and friend Hassan are inseparable until a tragic event changes their relationship forever. Their intertwined lives and their fates reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them.

Wizard: The whole story is about the redemption of Amir. When Amir and Hassan are young, Amir watches his best friend Hassan being raped by Assef but doesn’t do anything because of his cowardliness. During his whole life, even after he goes to the United States because of Taliban, Amir is guilty about this. Finally, he finds a way to redeem after he knows Hassan’s death—to go back to Afghan which is occupied by Taliban at that time to bring Hassan’s son Sohrab out. Lots of things happens on Amir and Sohrab. Although he finally brings Sohrab back to the US, Sohrab gets deeply depressed that he does not want to live or speak any more. In the end, the game of flying kite makes Sohrab become a normal child.

Colin: As we have already known the background information and a brief summary of the book, today, we are going to take a deep insight to the personalities of the main characters. How many main characters do you remember?

Liam: We have eight main characters in this book: Amir, Hassan, Baba, Khan, Soraya, Ali, Assef and Sohrab.

Wizard: Yes. Let’s talk about them one by one. When I read the first part of this book, I think Amir is not a strong hero with a lot of power but a coward who is afraid to save his best friend. However, at the end of the story, Amir tries his best to help Hassan’s son Sohrab and redeems himself. What I want to say is that Amir is just a normal person as us, but he doesn’t flinch to redeem what he does wrong. That is what makes him a admirable man.

Colin: Hassan is a truly good and beautiful person-even though he also experiences the hard time, he does not do anything bad. In fact, Hassan is tougher than Amir from the beginning. Hassan’s mother discarded him and his father Ali, but Hassan, unlike Amir, is still a selfless and joy-filled creature. As Amir says, “Hassan never denied me anything.” Hassan covers for Amir when they get in trouble. He defends Amir when the neighborhood bullies threat them. The boy also serves Amir and Baba with the thoughtless goodwill of a saint. When Amir betrays Hassan in the alleyway, Hassan looks up with resignation. Amir describes his expression as “the look of the lamb”. Hassan’s ability to suffer without becoming bitter really separates Amir and Hassan. Even years later, Hassan writes letters to Amir filled with warmth and nostalgia for their time in Kabul.

Liam: The father of Amir and Hassan is a wealthy, well-respected businessman. Baba believes first and foremost in doing what is right and thinking for oneself, and he tries to impart these qualities to Amir. He also never lets anyone’s lack of belief in him stop him from accomplishing his goals. Although he distrusts religious fundamentalism, he follows his own moral code and acts with self-assurance and bravery. When necessary, he is even willing to risk his life for what he believes in. Yet his shame at having a child with a Hazara woman, who is NOT his wife, leads him to hide the fact that Hassan is his son. Because he cannot love Hassan openly, he is somewhat distant toward Amir and is often hard on him, though he undoubtedly loves him.

Wizard: As for Khan, it seems that he knows everything about the whole story. He gives courage, spirit, and chance to Amir to redeem himself and brings Hassan back to give him a better life. The first transition point of the story is that Hassan is raped and left because of Amir’s unreal accusation– Khan knew it. The second transition point is the appearance of Sohrab–Khan tells Amir. It seems that Khan knows everything. I think that a successful novel needs a person like him to push to story forward. That’s the function of Khan in this book

Liam: Soraya is the daughter of general Taheri. She used to live together with a Afghanistan man for several months. And according to other people in the book, it’s an unforgivable event that makes Soraya a bad woman. For example, when Amir and Soraya attends a marriage ceremony, Soraya hears others discussing about her past and tries to show their dislike about what she did. She cries all time during they drive home. She complains that if a man does the same thing as she does, he would not be blamed like this. And this is, I think, is what the author wants to say to the world about the discrimination of women in Afghanistan.

Colin: If Hassan represents all that is good and kind, Assef represents all that is evil and cruel. This guy is a flat-out villain. Even if we thought really, really hard, we’re not sure we could come up with a single good quality in Assef. Assef is the guy who bullies Amir and Hassan and finally rapes Hassan. He not only rapes Hassan but also the boy who follows him. He admires Hitler and likes his idea of discrimination, so he joins Taliban and rapes Hassan’s son Sohrab. Assef is extreme sociopath almost in every textbook . Where the heck is Assef’s conscience? Well, I don’t think Assef has really had a conscience. He displays no remorse for his rape of Hassan, which occurs when Assef, Amir, and Hassan are only boys. Perhaps Assef simply doesn’t see Hazaras as equal to Pashtuns – maybe that explains (though certainly doesn’t excuse) his sadistic and cruel actions? More likely, racism is simply an additional evil on Assef’s laundry list of cruelties, which also includes child molestation, rape, and murder.

Wizard: Ali is a kind and loving man. He does not hold a grudge against those who do him harm. He works as a house servant for his long-time friend, Baba. Yet, Ali does not have an easy life. Polio affects him in his youth and severely damages one of his legs to the point where it is now crippled. He also suffers a congenital paralysis of his lower facial muscles, which gives him the appearance of always being unhappy. Despite these physical limitations, he never complains, and does the best he can with what he has been given.

Ali is also Hazara. Because of their religious beliefs, this ethnic group is persecuted in Afghanistan. Ali has to be subject to much verbal abuses from other residents of their neighborhood. Even the children run after him, calling him “Boogeyman” or making fun of ‘his flat nose’. Ali says nothing to these taunts and continues on with his life.

Liam: We only meet Sohrab at the very end of the novel – so there’s not much room for Hosseini to develop this character. Hosseini does tell us, however, just how much Sohrab resembles Hassan. When Amir finally meets Sohrab, he says “the resemblance to Hassan was breathtaking”. Like Hassan, Sohrab is a whiz with a slingshot. He’s also fairly perceptive for someone so young. When Amir tries to explain to Sohrab why Baba didn’t admit that he fathered Hassan, Sohrab catches right on: “Because Hassan was a Hazara?”

Sohrab also seems to have Hassan’s innate goodness. You might expect Sohrab to lash out more often at Amir, or to take some sort of revenge since Amir almost abandons him. That’s not the case. Sohrab does remain silent for a year, but it seems more like detachment from the world in general than anger at Amir. And this is the one major difference between Hassan and Sohrab. The cruelty of people like Assef defeats Sohrab. When Amir tells Sohrab he’s going to put him (briefly) in an orphanage, Sohrab tries to commit suicide. We believe Sohrab is not trying to hurt Amir–he’s just given up. But Hassan never gets to a point where he gives in to defeat, even though he, too, is raped and betrayed.

Wizard: After the detailed analysis of these main characters, can anyone summarize the Main theme of this book?

Liam: I can do it. I think the main theme of this book may be feminism, anti-Taliban, anti-discrimination, the nature of human, and redemption. The author of the book has commented that he considers The Kite Runner to be a father–son story, emphasizing the familial aspects of the narrative, an element that he continued to use in his later works. Themes of guilt and redemption feature prominently in the novel, with a pivotal scene depicting an act of violence against Hassan that Amir fails to prevent. The latter half of the book centers on Amir’s attempts to atone for this transgression by rescuing Hassan’s son over two decades later.

Wizard: Brilliant, dude! Your analysis is very comprehensive.

Colin: In the end, I want to talk about the popularity and some Extended Information of The Kite Runner. This book became a bestseller after being printed in paperback and was popularized in book clubs. It was a number one New York Times bestseller for over two years, with over seven million copies sold in the United States. A number of adaptations were created following publication, including a 2007 film of the same name, several stage performances, and a graphic novel. However, even the movie cannot reveal the extraordinary scene in the book. For me, I have both read the book and watched the movie, but still, there are a lot of details and background information lost in the movie. If you are interested in this book after this session, you can simply watch the movie first to have a glimpse into what the story mainly talks about, and then you can read the whole book, links foraccess to the movie and book are in the bottom of the audio script.

Ok, so far we have talked about the main theme of The Kite Runner as well as its characters’ analysis, if you have listened to the whole session, we really appreciate for your respect and patience. Thank you so much and see you next week!

《追风筝的人》是美籍阿富汗作家卡勒德·胡赛尼(Khaled Hosseini)的第一部小说,于2003年出版,是美国2005年的排名第三的畅销书。

全书围绕风筝与阿富汗的两个少年之间展开,一个富家少年与家中仆人关于风筝的故事,关于人性的背叛与救赎。

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