Rape occurs several times in The Kite Runner as the ultimate act of violence and violation (short of murder) that drastically changes the lives of both the characters and the country. The central act of the novel is Amir watching Hassan’s rape by Assef. There are more peripheral instances of rape as well – it is implied that Kamal, one of Hassan’s tormentors, was raped by soldiers, and Baba saves a woman from being raped by a Russian soldier. Both these examples link the theme with the “rape” of Afghanistan by violence and war, beginning with the external Russian oppressors, then the bloody infighting of different Afghan groups, and then the brutal Taliban regime.
The rape of Sohrab is never shown, but it reflects Hassan’s horror and his role as a “sacrificial lamb” – but with Sohrab, unlike Hassan, Amir is finally able to stand up to Assef and prevent more violence. As Baba told the young Amir, the only real crime is theft, and rape is a theft of safety and selfhood, the ultimate violence and violation, and in The Kite Runner this brutality is inflicted upon both individual characters and the country of Afghanistan.
Violence and Rape ThemeTracker
Violence and Rape Quotes in The Kite Runner
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
What was the old saying about the bad penny? My past was like that, always turning up. His name rose from the deep and I didn’t want to say it, as if uttering it might conjure him. But he was already here, in the flesh, sitting less than ten feet from me, after all these years. His name escaped my lips: “Assef.”
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.
“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.”