The Kite Runner and Virtuous Fatherhood

Khaled Hosseini’s popular novel, The Kite Runner, has earned widespread acclaim for its moving picture of life in Afghanistan in the late twentieth century. In a review for The New York Times, Edward Hower wrote, “Hosseini's depiction of pre-revolutionary Afghanistan is rich in warmth and humor but also tense with the friction between the nation's different ethnic groups.” This is an accurate, yet incomplete, description of the novel. Although the novel does a great job describing the political situation, the best attributes of the novel focus on the relationships between the narrator, Amir, and his father. Their relationship is particularly interesting for the way in which Amir is able to learn virtue from his father.  

For much of his childhood, Amir dislikes his father and thinks him incapable of love. His error, however, can be seen most clearly when Amir tries to force him to fire the family’s servants: Ali and Hassan. Hassan is the same age as Amir and Amir is jealous of his father’s kindness towards him. In an attempt to remove the perceived competition for his father’s affection, Amir frames Hassan for theft. When confronted, Hassan takes the blame out of love for his friend Amir.

In this case, however, Amir’s father proves to be a better man than his son thinks he is. Instead of angrily throwing Ali and Hassan out on the streets, he forgives them. In this instance, he shows his son how to handle conflict with those you love. Amir thought that his father would sever a decades-long relationship with Ali because of the small affair of a watch. Instead, Amir’s father shows him that a moral man is able to forgive.

Years later, after the death of his father, Amir is a successful writer living in America when he gets a call from an old friend named Rahim Khan. Rahim tells Amir to come see him in Pakistan because “there is a chance to be good again.” Intrigued, Amir travels to Pakistan, where he learns that Hassan has been murdered, and that Hassan had told Rahim all the ways in which he was betrayed by Amir’s cowardice. Rahim tells Amir that he must return to Afghanistan to retrieve Hassan’s orphan son.

Although this is a dangerous journey into a war-torn country, Rahim is able to persuade Amir to undertake it. Risking his life, he is able to retrieve the boy and bring him back to America.

It takes years, but over the course of the story, Amir transforms from a despicable coward to a courageous hero. The author does an excellent job of showing how the influence of his father helps Amir get to this point. One of the most important instances was the way in which his father handled the situation with Hassan and the watch. He showed Amir that a man should be able to love those in his life even when it came at a personal cost. Similarly, as they are fleeing the country, Amir witnesses his father risk his life to protect a stranger from Russian soldiers. While this is happening, Amir cowers away from the soldiers and begs his father to back down.

Although he was far from a perfect man, Amir’s father shows us the value of a father who can teach his children virtue. Amir was naturally inclined to be a coward and spent most of his life indulging that inclination. However, living with an example of manly courage as a father produced a healthy sense of shame within Amir. He had seen what it meant to be a brave man and therefore knew that he fell short. This meant that when Rahim Khan called and offered him a “chance to be good again” Amir was receptive. In the end, he becomes a brave man and uses that bravery to save an innocent child. The Kite Runner is worth a read for the insightful way in which it explores this transformation.