The Kite Runner

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Politics and Society 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.
Politics and Society Theme Icon

The movements of history are constantly interfering with the private lives of characters in The Kite Runner. The Soviet War in Afghanistan interrupts Amir’s peaceful, privileged life and forces him and Baba to flee to America. After the fall of the USSR, Afghanistan continues to be ravaged by violence, and when Amir does finally return to find Sohrab, the Taliban regime rules the country with violent religious laws. It is the Taliban that give Assef an outlet for his sadistic tendencies, and it is this political state that facilitates Amir’s final meeting with Assef and his redemptive beating.

Hosseini also critiques the sexism and racism of Afghan society throughout the book. Ali and Hassan are Hazaras, an ethnic group that most Afghans (who are Pashtun) consider inferior, though Hosseini makes it clear that Hassan is Amir’s equal and in many ways morally and intellectually superior. When Amir starts courting Soraya, both Hosseini and Soraya comment on the double standard that Afghan society holds for women and men. Men are forgiven for being promiscuous or flirting, but women will be shamed and gossiped about for life.

Politics and Society ThemeTracker

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

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


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Chapter 7 Quotes

“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 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 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 16 Quotes

“The war is over, Hassan,” I said. “There’s going to be peace, Inshallah, and happiness and calm. No more rockets, no more killing, no more funerals!” But he just turned off the radio and asked if he could get me anything before he went to bed.
A few weeks later, the Taliban banned kite fighting. And two years later, in 1998, they massacred the Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Related Characters: Rahim Khan (speaker), Hassan
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes from Rahim Khan's explanation of his own past, which he is describing to Amir in Pakistan. Rahim Khan found Hassan and invited him (along with Hassan's wife and son) to come live with him in Kabul. At this point the Soviet-Afghan War was raging, and Kabul was a very dangerous place to be. The Taliban (an Islamic fundamentalist group) finally drove out the Soviet forces, and many Afghans (like Rahim Khan, here) felt hopeful that peace would come at last. Instead, the Taliban began a reign of terror, enforcing their rigid interpretation of Sharia (Islamic) law through violence and terrorism. Hassan, a Hazara (an ethnic minority), rightfully recognizes that the Taliban won't make things better at all—especially for Hazaras, who are Shi'a Muslims, while the Taliban are Sunni. Indeed, the Taliban went on to slaughter thousands of Hazaras, as Rahim Khan sadly notes here.

This tragic passage is a clear condemnation of the war that has ravaged Afghanistan for decades, and it also continues the theme of violence and rape on a political scale. The first part of the book dealt mostly with this subject on a personal level, focusing on Assef's rape of Hassan. In the novel's second part, however, this theme expands and Hosseini connects the idea of rape to Afghanistan itself, as the country is violently violated by external forces like the Soviets and the Taliban. This idea is made even more poignant by Hosseini's mention of kite fighting. Kites symbolized Amir and Hassan's happy childhood days, then they also became associated with Hassan's rape, and now their absence represents the Taliban's brutal rule.

Chapter 19 Quotes

He pointed to an old man dressed in ragged clothes trudging down a dirt path, a large burlap sack filled with scrub grass tied to his back. “That’s the real Afghanistan, Agha sahib. That’s the Afghanistan I know. You? You’ve always been a tourist here, you just didn’t know it.”

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Farid (speaker)
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has finally returned to Afghanistan, and he feels like a stranger in his own country. He makes a remark stating this to his driver, a man named Farid, and Farid only scoffs. Farid criticizes Amir for his privileged upbringing, and suggests that Amir never knew the real Afghanistan—he feels like a tourist now because he's always been a tourist in Afghanistan. Farid then points out this random stranger, an extremely poor old man trudging down the road, as a symbol of the "real" Afghanistan.

It's impossible to know someone else's experience, of course, or to judge what makes someone a "real" citizen of anywhere, but Farid also has a point in his bitter accusation. Amir did live apart from the majority of the country, and his experiences growing up were vastly different from most Afghans. For him, all the violence and war seems like a huge disruption, but for those who grew up poor and dissatisfied, it's almost a logical continuation of an already-bad situation. Amir has always had the privilege of being able to avoid or look away from poverty and violence (and even to move to an entirely different continent), while most Afghans like Farid cannot.

Chapter 21 Quotes

“How much more do you need to see? Let me save you the trouble: Nothing that you remember has survived. Best to forget.”
“I don’t want to forget anymore,” I said.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Farid (speaker)
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

Farid has taken Amir to see Baba's old house, which is now occupied by members of the corrupt Taliban (who seized it from Hassan, because he was a powerless Hazara). Amir is fascinated and saddened by how much has changed, but Farid advises him to just forget the past—everything in Afghanistan has changed for the worst. Farid's advice clearly comes from lots of experiences of tragedy, but he doesn't know that Amir has returned to Afghanistan precisely to confront the past. Amir has been trying to forget his old betrayals all his life, but now he is finally working to redeem them—and part of this involves facing just how much tragedy and change Afghanistan itself has endured since he saw it last.