The Kite Runner

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Betrayal Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Betrayal Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Kite Runner, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Betrayal Theme Icon

The betrayal of a loyal friend by a wealthier, more corrupt “master” is a recurring motif in The Kite Runner, and Amir and Baba’s feelings of guilt for their betrayals drive much of the novel’s action. The central betrayal comes when Amir watches and does nothing as Hassan, who has always stood up for Amir in the past, gets raped by Assef. Amir then worsens the betrayal by driving Ali and Hassan from the household. Later in the book, Amir learns that Baba also betrayed his own best friend and servant – Ali, Hassan’s father – by fathering a child (Hassan) with Ali’s wife Sanaubar. This knowledge comes as another kind of betrayal for Amir, who had always hero-worshipped Baba and is shocked to learn of his father’s flaws.

These low points in the two men’s lives create a sense of tension and guilt throughout the novel, but the betrayals of Amir and Baba also lead to quests for redemption that bring about some good in the end – as Baba leads a principled, charitable life, and Amir rescues Sohrab from Assef.

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Betrayal Quotes in The Kite Runner

Below you will find the important quotes in The Kite Runner related to the theme of Betrayal.
Chapter 1 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes from the opening lines of the book, which Hosseini introduces by immediately looking back into the past and examining how the past has affected the present. Amir offers no explanation of the "alley" he is thinking about yet, but later on in the book we will learn that he is haunted by the alley where he watched Hassan being raped by Assef—the place of his first great betrayal, Amir feels. None of this is clear yet, except for the idea that things we try to forget never really go away. The past is always there, lingering just under the surface of the present—one of Hosseini's most important themes in the novel.


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Chapter 3 Quotes

Because the truth of it was, I always felt like Baba hated me a little. And why not? After all, I had killed his beloved wife, his beautiful princess, hadn’t I? The least I could have done was to have had the decency to have turned out a little more like him. But I hadn’t turned out like him.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Baba, Sofia Akrami
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Amir describes his relationship with his father (Baba) as a child. Baba was a big, bold, and successful man, while Amir grew up timid, physically weak, and insecure. Most of the important relationships in the book deal with fathers and children, the central one being Amir and his relationship with Baba. Though Amir is still young at this point, he is already wrestling with the ideas of betrayal and redemption that will follow him throughout the novel. He feels that he has betrayed Baba by being born at all, because Amir's mother died giving birth to him, and Baba cherished his wife above all else. As a way of "redeeming" himself for this "betrayal," then, Amir tries to be like Baba and make Baba proud, but he is constantly faced with the fact that he is absolutely nothing like Baba, and Amir's strengths don't lie in areas Baba finds important or worthy.

Chapter 4 Quotes

The curious thing was, I never thought of Hassan and me as friends either… Never mind that we spent entire winters flying kites, running kites. Never mind that to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy with a thin-boned frame… a boy with Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile. Never mind any of these things. Because history isn’t easy to overcome. Neither is religion. In the end, I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi’a, and nothing was ever going to change that.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Hassan
Related Symbols: Kites, The Cleft Lip
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Amir reflects on his relationship with Hassan, who was like a brother to him, but whom he never really thought of as a friend because of their ethnic, cultural, religious, and economic differences. Amir is a Pashtun (an Afghan ethnic group) and a Sunni Muslim, while Hassan is a Hazara (a persecuted minority) and a Shi'a Muslim. Furthermore, Hassan and his father work for Amir and his father—they are all very close, but Hassan and Ali are also clearly the subordinates of Baba and Amir. These political and social differences then ultimately affect the actual relationship between Amir and Hassan, although otherwise the two would be best friends. Testament to this is the fact that when the adult Amir remembers Afghanistan, he thinks of Hassan's face and of the two boys' time together. His present vision of the country is primarily an image of a lost past.

Here Amir also mentions the symbols of kites and Hassan's cleft lip. In this particular memory, kites represent Amir's idyllic past in an Afghanistan that was at peace, while the cleft lip is one of Hassan's distinguishing features—and particularly distinguishing for the Hassan who existed before Baba had his lip fixed, and before Amir betrayed him.

Chapter 7 Quotes

He stopped, turned. He cupped his hands around his mouth. “For you a thousand times over!” he said. Then he smiled his Hassan smile and disappeared around the corner. The next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Hassan (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the moment just before the central tragedy and betrayal of the book. Amir has just cut down the last remaining kite in the tournament, and Hassan, the "kite runner," runs off to find the fallen kite and bring it back to Amir. This scene is then immediately juxtaposed with the adult Amir's later memories and experiences. Thus this is both a scene in Hosseini's narrative and a "flashback" into a happier past that Amir is remembering. After this moment, in which Hassan seems to declare his total devotion to Amir, Amir will go on to abandon Hassan as he is raped by Assef, changing both boys' lives forever.

“But before you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would he do the same for you? Have you ever wondered why he never includes you in games when he has guests? Why he only plays with you when no one else is around? I’ll tell you why, Hazara. Because to him, you’re nothing but an ugly pet…”

“Amir agha and I are friends,” Hassan said.

Related Characters: Hassan (speaker), Assef (speaker), Amir
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the wealthy, sadistic Assef taunts Hassan, who has just found the tournament's last kite and is trying to bring it back to Amir. Assef not only racistly scorns Hassan because Hassan is a Hazara, but also tries to undercut Hassan's relationship with Amir. Assef suggests that Amir doesn't really consider Hassan to be his friend. Though Hassan stoutly defends Amir, the tragic part of this scene is that Assef is partly right—Amir is incredibly close to Hassan, but still always considers himself somehow separate from and superior to Hassan, and would be ashamed to openly declare himself "friends" with his Hazara servant. This is the root of betrayal, as Amir will go on to abandon Hassan as Assef rapes him—partly because Amir is afraid, but partly because society has always taught Amir to see Hassan as inferior to himself.

In the end, I ran.

I ran because I was a coward. I was afraid of Assef and what he would do to me… I actually aspired to cowardice, because the alternative, the real reason I was running, was that Assef was right: Nothing was free in this world. Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba. Was it a fair price? The answer floated to my conscious mind before I could thwart it: He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Baba, Hassan, Assef
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of the most crucial scenes in the book, as Amir abandons Hassan to be raped by Assef. Not only is Amir essentially betraying his best friend and brother-figure, a boy who is totally loyal and devoted to him, but he is also doing so in a selfish and almost premeditated way. Amir is afraid of being beaten up or mocked by Assef, certainly, but more than that Amir decides in this moment that he is willing to abandon Hassan to violence and rape in order to bring back the kite and impress Baba. Amir basically sacrifices his relationship with his friend for the sake of his relationship with his father—betraying Hassan as a part of earning Baba's love.

Another element of this scene is how social divisions and prejudice allow Amir to justify his decision to himself. Because Hassan is a Hazara, he is seen by many Pashtuns as inferior, and even as less than human. Taking this prejudiced view (which Amir doesn't really believe in his heart) would allow Amir to feel a little less guilt for his actions—if the person he's betraying isn't really a person, then it isn't really a betrayal.

Chapter 8 Quotes

I thought about Hassan’s dream, the one about us swimming in the lake. There is no monster, he’d said, just water. Except he’d been wrong about that. There was a monster in the lake… I was that monster.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Hassan
Related Symbols: The Monster in the Lake
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has just betrayed Hassan, abandoning him to be raped by Assef. Now Amir remembers a dream about a lake monster that Hassan claimed to have had the night before the kite tournament. At the time, Amir suspected that Hassan told him about the dream to comfort him, but now Amir finds himself thinking about the dream again, and considers himself to be the monster in the lake that Hassan dreamed about. Amir feels so guilty about what he has done, and simultaneously so afraid of admitting it, that he feels he has become something monstrous and grotesque. The nature of his betrayal, as well—a scene involving violence and rape—also seems especially inhuman.

Chapter 9 Quotes

I flinched, like I’d been slapped… Then I understood: This was Hassan’s final sacrifice for me… And that led to another understanding: Hassan knew. He knew I’d seen everything in that alley, that I’d stood there and done nothing. He knew I had betrayed him and yet he was rescuing me once again, maybe for the last time.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Hassan
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote takes place just after Amir has gotten Hassan falsely accused of stealing money and a watch. Baba confronts Hassan and asks him directly whether or not he took the money. Hassan, though obviously aware of what Amir has done, immediately admits to the crime, and Amir is shocked. In this moment Amir realizes that Hassan also knows that Amir saw him being held down and raped, and did nothing. Instead of being angry, Hassan has only proven his devotion by seemingly forgiving Amir and now sacrificing himself for Amir's sake yet again. Amir betrays Hassan for the second time (the first being abandoning him to be raped), and with more premeditation this time, but Hassan's only response is to meekly accept the punishment he doesn't deserve.

Chapter 10 Quotes

In the morning, Jalaluddin… would probably think we’d gone out for a stroll or a drive. We hadn’t told him. You couldn’t trust anyone in Kabul anymore – for a fee or under threat, people told on each other, neighbor on neighbor, child on parent, brother on brother, servant on master, friend on friend.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker)
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point the novel shifts from the personal story of Amir and Hassan to a larger political scale, as huge events affect Afghanistan and thus the lives of Hosseini's characters. Right now Amir and Baba are fleeing their house because of the political turmoil—Afghanistan has been taken over by a Communist regime, and Russian soldiers have invaded the country. The theme of betrayal is no longer just a personal one relating to Amir, but now seems to be a part of the very consciousness of the war-torn country—violence is everywhere, no one trusts each other, and neighbors betray neighbors for the sake of their own safety. Likewise, the theme of violence and rape now broadens to the national scale, most obviously because of the war and violence tearing Afghanistan apart, but also because the country's violation by external Soviet forces constitutes its own kind of "rape."

Chapter 11 Quotes

Long before the Roussi army marched into Afghanistan, long before villages were burned and schools destroyed… Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. A city of harelipped ghosts.
America was different. America was a river, roaring along, unmindful of the past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Hassan
Related Symbols: The Cleft Lip
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir and Baba have now left Afghanistan and moved to America, driven away from their home by violence and Soviet rule. While Baba is distraught at having to leave his beloved home, Amir feels almost relieved to be away from the place where reminders of his past betrayals (abandoning Hassan to be raped, and then framing Hassan for theft) are everywhere. Once again Hassan is associated with his cleft lip (harelip), which at this point is a symbol of a lost, happier past. Amir is still consumed by guilt and self-hatred for his betrayals, and so he is eager to forget the past and try to lose himself in the strange, overwhelming new world of America and its fast-paced society.

Chapter 12 Quotes

I envied her. Her secret was out. Spoken. Dealt with. I opened my mouth and almost told her how I’d betrayed Hassan, lied, driven him out, and destroyed a forty-year relationship between Baba and Ali. But I didn’t.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Baba, Hassan, Ali, Soraya
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has just asked Soraya to marry him, and she has agreed, but she said she had something to confess to first. Soraya then tells Amir about how she ran away with a man when she was a young woman, and how her father had to forcibly bring her back. Amir feels somewhat shaken by this revelation, but realizes that it pales in comparison to his own secret betrayals. Amir then has this opportunity to confess, and to start working towards redemption—but he finds that he can't bring himself to tell Soraya the truth. Both Amir and Soraya have pasts that haunt them, but Soraya now at least doesn't have to bear the burden of secrecy along with the burdens of memory and guilt.

Chapter 13 Quotes

As I drove, I wondered why I was different. Maybe it was because I had been raised by men; I hadn’t grown up around women and had never been exposed firsthand to the double standard with which Afghan society sometimes treated them… But I think a big part of the reason I didn’t care about Soraya’s past was that I had one of my own. I knew all about regret.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Soraya
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

Soraya has expressed her gratitude for the fact that Amir did not judge her or leave after she confessed her past relationship to him. She says he's "different from every Afghan guy" she's met, and now Amir wonders why this is the case. Part of this involves Amir acknowledging his own male privilege, as Afghan society is in many ways divided along gender lines. This is Hosseini's critique of the "double standard" he sees for men and for women, in which women are treated as inferior to men, and are punished for doing the same things men do with impunity. Since Amir is a man and was raised by a single father (Baba) with male friends and servants, he apparently has had less of an opportunity to be "trained" by society to look down on women (although this reasoning could just as easily go the opposite way too).

On another level, this passage again brings up the themes of betrayal, regret, and memory. Amir is still haunted by his past betrayals of Hassan, and though this is a burden that constantly weighs on him, he still hasn't found the strength or courage to confess his secret—not even to Soraya, who seemingly gave Amir an opportunity in confessing her own shameful past.

Chapter 14 Quotes

My suspicions had been right all those years. He knew about Assef, the kite, the money, the watch with the lightning bolt hands. He had always known.

Come. There is a way to be good again, Rahim Khan had said on the phone just before hanging up.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Hassan, Assef, Rahim Khan
Related Symbols: Kites
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

Rahim Khan is dying, and he has just called Amir to ask him to come to Pakistan and see him. Amir has been building a new, happy life in America with Soraya, but with this phone call it's as if his past catches up with him once more. Rahim Khan's phrase "there is a way to be good again" then becomes a kind of mantra for the second half of the novel, as Amir tries to redeem himself for his past betrayals through taking action of his own. This moment is also important because Amir realizes that his past has not been as secret as he thought—Rahim Khan knew all along what Amir did to Hassan. This is crucial because it shows that Rahim Khan never gave up on Amir despite his sins, and even now feels that Amir has the opportunity to create something good out of his past mistakes.

Chapter 18 Quotes

As it turned out, Baba and I were more alike than I’d ever known. We had both betrayed the people who would have given their lives for us. And with that came this realization: that Rahim Khan had summoned me here to atone not just for my sins but for Baba’s too.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Amir, Baba, Hassan, Rahim Khan
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has just learned that Hassan was actually his half-brother—Baba was Hassan's father. This is a huge revelation for Amir, as he realizes that the loyal friend he scorned and betrayed was actually a brother, and he also realizes that Baba committed a great sin and betrayal in sleeping with his best friend's (Ali's) wife. This adds a new layer of complexity to the father-son relationships in the book: Baba and Amir (who were both more alike than either thought), Baba and Hassan (who didn't know Baba was his real father), and Ali and Hassan. It's also suggested that all of Baba's philanthropy and charity work was partly inspired by a desire to redeem himself for his betrayal of Ali. Amir now has his own chance at redemption, in going to save Sohrab, and so it is especially moving that he now recognizes the true parallels between his own life and his father's. Once again time seems almost cyclical in the events of the novel, as the past is always returning to the present, and the present seems to echo the past.

Chapter 22 Quotes

Another rib snapped, this time lower. What was so funny was that, for the first time since the winter of 1975, I felt at peace. I laughed because I saw that, in some hidden nook in the corner of my mind, I’d even been looking forward to this… My body was broken – just how badly I wouldn’t find out until later – but I felt healed.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker)
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has refused to leave without Sohrab, and now Assef is attacking Amir. Assef has his brass knuckles on, and Amir is unarmed, so it's hardly a fair fight (also Amir has been living comfortably in America while Assef has been fighting and murdering in Afghanistan). This scene is so significant because it is essentially the conclusion of two scenes from decades earlier—both of Amir and Hassan's encounters with Assef, the first being when Hassan frightened Assef away with his slingshot, and the second being when Amir watched Assef rape Hassan and did nothing. For Amir, this beating feels like relief, and like redemption—as if he's finally experiencing what would have happened had he intervened to save Hassan from Assef so many years before. The past is ever-recurring in the present, and this just feels like a logical continuation of Amir's experiences with Assef. The brutal beating doesn't erase Amir's past sins, but it is at least a cleansing kind of suffering, as Amir feels he is finally being punished for the sins he's "gotten away with" for years.

Chapter 23 Quotes

I loved him because he was my friend, but also because he was a good man, maybe even a great man. And this is what I want you to understand, that good, real good, was born out of your father’s remorse. Sometimes, I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good.

Related Characters: Rahim Khan (speaker), Baba
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes from a letter Rahim Khan left for Amir before Rahim Khan's death. Rahim Khan talks more about Baba and his past betrayal of Ali, and tries to clarify things for Amir. Here Rahim Khan also delivers one of the most important messages of the book—that redemption is always possible, and good can come even out of evil. Rahim Khan suggests that Baba was partly "redeeming" himself when he went on to live such a charitable and philanthropic life, and Amir likewise feels that he is finally working towards redemption in rescuing Sohrab from Assef—redeeming not just himself for betraying Hassan, but also redeeming Baba for never claiming Hassan as his son.

As with many of Hosseini's themes in the novel, this idea works on a personal level and also on a larger, more political one. Afghanistan has experienced terrible violence and tragedy, but here Hosseini suggests that redemption is still possible for the country—peace can come out of war, and Afghanistan can be "good again." Past mistakes can never be undone, but they can lead to "real good" in the present, and this is what true redemption means.

Your father, like you, was a tortured soul, Rahim Khan had written. Maybe so. We had both sinned and betrayed. But Baba had found a way to create good out of his remorse. What had I done, other than take my guilt out on the very same people I had betrayed, and then try to forget it all?

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Baba, Rahim Khan
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

Rahim Khan continues to draw parallels between Baba and Amir, but Amir, as usual, still feels inadequate when he's compared to his father. Even if Baba committed a great betrayal of his best friend, just like Amir did, Baba's acts of redemption still seem larger-than-life and far superior to Amir's own (in Amir's eyes, at least). Amir has rescued Sohrab from Assef, but even this feels like too little and too late when compared with Baba's life of philanthropy and generosity. Amir continues to dwell on ideas of betrayal (his own betrayal of Hassan and Ali, and Baba's betrayal of Hassan and Ali) while also questioning whether redemption is possible for past sins.

Chapter 25 Quotes

“Sohrab, I can’t give you your old life back, I wish to God I could. But I can take you with me. That was what I was coming in the bathroom to tell you. You have a visa to go to America, to live with me and my wife. It’s true. I promise.”

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Sohrab
Page Number: 355
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has rescued Sohrab and offered to adopt him and take him back to America, but then Amir faced a major setback and told Sohrab this might be impossible. Sohrab then tried to kill himself, and Amir found him in a bloody bathtub. Sohrab survived, and is now healing up, but he seems to have lost whatever spark of hope he had in him, and soon he stops speaking altogether. Here Amir reaffirms his promise that he will take Sohrab with him to America—even if Sohrab himself seems to have no opinion on the matter. Amir has come to see Sohrab as a son-figure, and also as a way for him to somehow redeem himself or bring good out of his past sins and betrayals. He did not help Hassan when he was raped, but now Amir can help Hassan's son, and he works with a passion that would not have been there had not Amir felt so guilty and driven to redeem himself.