‘The Kite Runner’ is most definitely the most powerful and profound novel I have ever come across, and that’s saying something as a literature graduate! I cried and cried and cried when I finished the book, much to my mother’s bemusement (so much so that she inevitably felt compelled to read the book herself.) This post will detail a lot of spoilers so please do not read ahead until you’ve finished the novel.
The character of Hassan is incredibly moving and my favourite element of the book – every essence of his being touches you. From the beauty of his innocence until the ill-fated event with Assef, to his unwavering loyalty towards Amir right through to the bitter end, the reader is inexplicably drawn to Hassan’s nature as a friend and as a boy. His character encompasses every trait we wish to possess as humans, and the tragedy of his demise is something which haunts me even after finishing the novel. We mourn not only the loss of his bright personality after victimisation by Assef, but the loss of a friendship, a brotherhood between Amir and Hassan as Amir realises he cannot live with the guilt of what he condemned his beloved childhood friend to. The beauty of it is captivating – Hassan continued to protect Amir as a brother and a friend until the end. We, as the reader, grow irrationally angry with Amir for betraying Hassan and Ali as they are inevitably forced by pride to leave Baba’s household. We shed tears as we learn of Hassan’s life and what it came to when Amir returns to Kabul. But most powerfully, we as the reader just as Amir, see the shadow of Hassan living within his son, Sohrab and that gives both us, and Amir, a shred of comfort during this journey.
After I finished the novel, I found myself analysing the incredibly clever and moving elements of the novel that make it a bestseller. As a reader, I naively accepted the friendship between Hassan and Amir to be that of beloved childhood friends, despite them sharing a brotherly love for one another. The affection Baba showed Hassan was something I mistook as a loving respect because of the relationship he had with Ali. How Hassan protected Amir and refused to blame him even after he was attacked by Assef. I marvelled at the implicit nod towards Hassan’s cleft lip scar as Amir is beaten by Amir to near death and is left with a similar scar on his lip, almost identical to Hassan’s. The shocking reappearance of Assef as a highly esteemed member of the Taliban later in the novel – which made absolute sense when thinking back to his inhumane nature and sadistic desire to torture for fun. The fact that Amir was never able to produce children but Hassan gave birth to a son, and the irony of that parallel serving as a metaphor in itself for the karma surrounding Amir’s actions as a young boy. And finally, the most moving scene of the book, the ending. How it so cleverly mirrors some of the happiest moments Amir spent with Hassan during their younger years, almost as if Hassan never left Amir’s life. I still have a lump in my throat as I think back to it.
There was one scene which affected me the most as a reader – the rape of Hassan. The fact that sexual violence was seen as a punishment by bullies is something which shocked me to the core. But the way Hassan is depicted to have handled it, resigned as he was, is truly disturbing. A boy who’s purity remained untouched by the harsh reality of the outside world until the sexual attack, and subsequently was now scarred and tainted for life for his being at the wrong place and the wrong time, ultimately for Amir’s sake. The fact that he never changed his attitude towards Amir, never resented him, makes him the most poignant character in the novel. His loving nature shines through until the end, through the mockery and the violence he was subjected to as a Hazara. I grew increasingly frustrated and pained at Amir’s expression of guilt through his acts of aggression, indifference and eventual coldness towards Hassan. As a reader, we become protective of such explicit and unwavering vulnerability.
I desperately wished for Amir to fight against the impossibility of adopting Sohrab towards the end of the novel, in the hopes of giving Hassan’s son the happy ending his family always deserved. Sohrab’s attempted suicide acts as a testament to the trauma he went through at the hands of the Taliban, grossly overlooked and undermined in today’s society. The fact that he, just as his father did earlier in the novel, did not speak for a year portrays the extremity of the trauma they were both subjugated to at the hands of oppressors seeking to control.
The novel’s ending is a bitter-sweet relief to readers. It allows us the hint of a possibility that Hassan’s son will live a better, safer, happier life than Hassan did, despite not being able to escape the tortures of living in Kabul under an oppressive, violent Taliban regime. It seems right that the novel ended the way it did, although that does not detract from how heartbreaking and moving this novel is. So many of my friends told me this book will change my life forever and they were absolutely correct. It will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I hope in some way I can incorporate at least a few of Hassan’s invaluable traits as a human being into my way of life.