The Kite Runner

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Fathers and Children 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.
Fathers and Children Theme Icon

The most important relationships in The Kite Runner involve fathers and their children, usually sons. The central relationship is between Baba and Amir, as Amir struggles to win his father’s affections and Baba tries to love a son who is nothing like him. When Amir learns that Baba is Hassan’s father as well, he realizes that Baba also had to hide his natural affection for Hassan – an illegitimate son who was also a servant, but was in many ways more like Baba than Amir was. Later in the book the relationship between Soraya and her father General Taheri becomes important as well. As a girl the independent Soraya had rebelled against her strict, traditional father.

Sohrab becomes the “son” figure of the latter part of the novel. We never see Sohrab and Hassan together, but it is explained that Hassan was a good father before his death. The father/son relationship then becomes a principal part of Amir’s redemption and growth, as he tries to become a father to Sohrab by rescuing him from Assef and adopting him. The novel ends without a neat conclusion, but it does imply that Sohrab will begin to open up to Amir, and that Amir will continue to find redemption in fatherhood.

Fathers and Children ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Fathers and Children appears in each chapter of The Kite Runner. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Fathers and Children Quotes in The Kite Runner

Below you will find the important quotes in The Kite Runner related to the theme of Fathers and Children.
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.


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“And where is he headed?” Baba said. “A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.”

Related Characters: Baba (speaker), Amir
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote Baba is referring to Amir, and discussing him with his friend, Rahim Khan. Baba and Rahim Khan are alone in Baba's study, but Amir is eavesdropping on them through the door. Once again the father-son relationship between Amir and Baba takes center stage, as we briefly see Baba's perspective here—he is indeed ashamed of his son, doesn't understand him, and is worried about his future. This essentially confirms all of Amir's fears and insecurities about being unworthy of Baba. At the same time, Baba's words are eerily prophetic, as Amir does indeed go on to not "stand up" for his friend Hassan when he is in trouble. Yet this also might be a self-fulfilling prophecy too—Amir knows that Baba thinks he is weak and cowardly, and so he acts weak and cowardly.

Chapter 6 Quotes

I was going to win, and I was going to run that last kite. Then I’d bring it home and show it to Baba. Show him once and for all that his son was worthy.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Baba
Related Symbols: Kites
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir is preparing for a big upcoming kite tournament, and he decides that this tournament will be a way for him to win Baba's affection and prove himself worthy as Baba's son. In order to truly win Baba's admiration, Amir decides that his must not only be the last kite in the sky, cutting all the others down, but he must also "run" the final defeated kite (find it when it falls and bring it back). This again speaks to the father-son relationship between Amir and Baba, in which Amir feels that he is a disappointment and embarrassment to his father. It also shows Amir's childlike desire for "redemption"—he feels he must somehow prove himself or achieve a tangible victory in order to earn Baba's love.

Chapter 7 Quotes

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 13 Quotes

Listening to them, I realized how much of who I was, what I was, had been defined by Baba and the marks he had left on people’s lives… Now he was gone. Baba couldn’t show me the way anymore; I’d have to find it on my own.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Baba
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

Baba has just died, and Amir is trying to come to terms with his death. Amir realizes that his whole life has essentially centered around Baba—who was his only parent, a larger-than-life public figure, and Amir's role model and moral compass—and now Amir feels suddenly very alone and frightened. This is the conclusion of the most important father-child relationship of the book, and a sign of Amir truly "coming of age." Amir has also spent his life trying to "redeem" himself to Baba, and now that goal is no longer relevant—Amir must act as his own guide, learning to redeem himself in his own eyes.

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 17 Quotes

“You know, Rahim Khan said, “one time, when you weren’t around, your father and I were talking… I remember he said to me, ‘Rahim, a boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.’ I wonder, is that what you’ve become?”

Related Characters: Rahim Khan (speaker), Amir, Baba
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

Rahim Khan is trying to convince Amir to go to Kabul and rescue Sohrab, Hassan's son, as a way of redeeming himself for his past betrayals of Hassan (who is now dead). Amir is afraid and reluctant, and tries to make excuses. Rahim Khan then references a past conversation he had with Baba—which we as readers know that Amir actually overheard, and which led him to feel even more insecure about his relationship with his father. The repetition of this quote about standing up for oneself then cements its importance in the novel, and also helps bring things full circle. The past is still very much alive, and as a man Amir has a chance to redeem himself for the mistakes he made as a boy.

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 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.

I looked at Hassan, showing those two missing teeth, sunlight slanting on his face. Baba’s other half. The unentitled, unprivileged half. The half who had inherited what had been pure and noble in Baba. The half that, maybe, in the most secret recesses of his heart, Baba had thought of as his true son… Then I realized something: That last thought had brought no sting with it… I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Baba, Hassan
Page Number: 359
Explanation and Analysis:

In this beautifully-written passage, Amir learns one of the main "lessons" of the book—that forgiveness and redemption often do not involve concrete acts or dramatically-satisfying conclusions, but rather consist of slow, unnoticeable changes to messy, complicated situations. In this case, Amir realizes that he has finally reached some closure in his relationship with Baba, but he also sees that there was no defining moment that the closure arrived. All his life Amir has been struggling both against his father and to earn his father's love and respect, and now Amir acknowledges that perhaps Hassan was more truly Baba's son than Amir himself—something the young, jealous Amir would never have dared consider. Once again Hosseini shows how the past is always present, but here he also shows how past pain doesn't have to be painful forever—even memories can be redeemed.

“Do you want me to run that kite for you?”
His Adam’s apple rose and fell as he swallowed… I thought I saw him nod.
“For you, a thousand times over,” I heard myself say.
Then I turned and ran.
It was only a smile, nothing more… A tiny thing… But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Sohrab
Related Symbols: Kites
Page Number: 371
Explanation and Analysis:

This poignant passage closes the book on a note of uncertainty, but also of hope. Kites return as the novel's most important symbol, here representing Amir's happy past and old friendship with Hassan, and also the potential of future happiness with Sohrab, Hassan's son. Sohrab is still traumatized and won't speak, but here he shows the first signs of healing—a small smile as he flies a kite with Amir, his new father-figure.

This passage also has a dramatic symmetry to it, as Amir repeats the words Hassan spoke to him years before, just before the rape that changed both their lives: "For you, a thousand times over." Hassan had been the "kite runner" of the novel's title, but now Amir is the one saying these words and running a kite—not for Hassan, but for Hassan's son. This suggests that Amir has finally found a kind of redemption through his actions, and he can relive his past and memories without the pain and guilt he once felt. It's also implied that in becoming the new "kite runner," Amir more fully assumes the good qualities that once existed in Hassan, and thus Amir becomes closer to his lost half-brother. The past is always repeating itself in the present, but now that his past pain has been partially healed, Amir no longer has to flee his memories of flying kites with Hassan—he can embrace them, while also looking forward to the potential of a better future with Sohrab.