Racism plays important roles in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Author uses the racism to describe the characters and the culture represented in the stories. In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini uses prejudice as a tool to tell this story of betrayal and redemption. This novel is set in Afghanistan and the ethnicity of the characters plays an essential role in the relationships and situations that arise.
While the author uses individual characters to tell the story, he portrays the general attitudes and history associated with the character’s Hazara and Pashtun ethnic origins and the conflicts that arise. Ali and Hassan represent the marginalized group in this story. They are considered by the ruling class to be of lesser value due to their ethnic origin, religious beliefs, appearance and social standing. They are discriminate against because of these differences.
The author gives us a glance of this when Amir reads about the harassment of, and attempted uprising of the Hazara, and how Amir’s people, the Pashtuns had: “…quelled them with unspeakable violence”. The disregard that people have for the Hazara is reinforced when Amir asks his teacher about what he has read and he responds by saying, “That’s one thing Shi’a people do well, passing themselves as martyrs”. Assef shows how internalized this hostility is when he says to Amir and Hassan, “Afghanistan is the land of the Pashtuns.
It always has been, always will be. We are the true Afghans, the pure Afghans, not this Flat-Nose here”. Assef’s later rape of Hassan shows the depth of this hatred. Both Hassan and his father Ali accept their position without question, and while they may feel pain when they are personally insulted, neither questions his lot in life. It was acceptable for Baba to have sexual relations with Ali’s Hazara wife Sanaubar, and Ali doesn’t question or condemn Baba’s actions, is an indication of this internalization of lesser status.
Instead Ali becomes the loving father of his master’s son. Hassan’s devotion to Amir, and understanding that his life is of less value than Amir’s, is seen when he refuses to give Assef the kite, despite the risk to himself, and says, “Amir agha won the tournament and I ran this kite for him. I ran it fairly. This is his kite” (72). This accepted inferiority and devotion to the master is seen again later when Hassan accepts responsibility for stealing from Amir and Baba, even when he knows that Amir has framed him.
It never occurs to Hassan or his father that they could or should defend themselves. Hosseini’s comparable stories of friendship between Baba and Ali and their sons Amir and Hassan help to illuminate not only class differences but also the effect the fathers’ relationship has had on their sons’ relationship. Amir says, “Baba was always telling us about the mischief he and Ali used to cause . . . . But in none of his stories did Baba ever refer to Ali as his friend.
The curious thing was, I never thought of Hassan and me as friends either” (25). As Amir recalls his childhood in this novel, he knows that a part of him understood that there was something inherently wrong in the class and ethnic division between him and Hassan, but as a child he couldn’t make the adjustments that would have allowed him to treat Hassan as an equal. Hosseini turns the tables on Amir and Baba when they must flee Afghanistan and in the process lose all their possessions, money and power.
In the United States they are in the lower economic class, working entry-level jobs and needing every dime to survive. This transition proves to be very difficult for Baba while Amir seems to flourish. Amir succinctly says, “For me, America was a place to bury my memories. To Baba, a place to mourn his” (129). It is at the end of this novel that the author fully redeems Amir of his past wrongdoing when he rescues Sohrab, Hassan’s son, from the Taliban and adopts this Hazara boy.
When Amir’s father-in-law questions the wisdom of this adoption and asks what he is to tell others about Sohrab, Amir declares: You see, General Sahib, my father slept with his servant’s wife. She gave him a son named Hassan. Hassan is dead now. That boy sleeping on the couch is Hassan’s son. He’s my nephew. That’s what you will tell people when they ask. And one more thing, General Sahib, you will never again refer to him as ‘Hazara boy’ in my presence. He has a name and it’s Sohrab. 361) It is in the self-images of the characters that Hosseini enlighten the reader about the devastating effects of internalized racism and social class. While each of the characters in this novel reflects in some way, the beliefs and attitudes of the culture they live in, they also give us, the readers, an opportunity to examine our own beliefs and attitudes about race and class and to reflect on our own self-images Hosseini, thankfully, leaves us with a character that has let go of his prejudice and the hope of a less intolerant society for Sohrab.