Setting (place and time):The novel begins in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1963.
Before the war, Kabul was fairly liberal and Western. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the protagonists flee across the border into Pakistan. The middle half of the novel takes place in Fremont, California in a community of displaced Afghans. The last section of the novel returns back to the demolished country of Afghanistan.
Significance of the opening scene:The beginning of the novel began with Amir’s flashback of the day of the kite running and Hassan’s rape. Even though Hassan is loyal and treats Amir as his best friend, Amir betrays Hassan. Amir feels guilty about what he did not do and is ashamed of his own cowardice because if it was the other way around, Hassan would have definitely protected him.
The guilt that Amir carried with him through his childhood years foreshadows that in his adulthood, he would try to atone his sins and redeem himself. The opening scene provides the readers with background knowledge on the journey that Amir will take to redeem himself.Significance of the ending/closing scene:The novel concludes with the scene of Amir running the kite for Sohrab just like how Hassan ran the last kite for Amir when they were younger. The last time Amir ran for a kite, he ended up running away from Hassan and away from the scene of the rape. Amir has forgiven himself and has atoned his mistake, so while he is physically running away from Sohrab, he is actually running towards him emotionally with freedom and ease instead of guilt and remorse.Major symbols/images/motifs and what they represent:Kites: For Amir, the kites symbolize his childhood happiness as well as his betrayal and guilt towards Hassan. In the political aspect, the kites represented Afghanistan during their “good days” of the monarchy before the Taliban took over and banned kite-flying.
At the end of the novel, the kites symbolize redemption.Rape: Recurring throughout the novel, rape in a sense represents oppression, both physically and emotionally, of those who have power onto those who don’t. Victims of rape such as Hassan and his son Sohrab usually suffer long-term trauma.Cleft Lip: Amir always refers to Hassan’s cleft lip when describing him.
The cleft lip symbolizes social status and poverty because lower class citizens do not have the money to fix deformities. Lamb: In Islam, the lamb represents the sacrifice of an innocent. Both Hassan and Sohrab are innocent people who were “sacrificed” by being raped.
The type of sacrifice depends on scenario a person faces. One can sacrifice someone else for their own sake or one can sacrifice him/herself for the sake of someone else.Pomegranate Tree: Appearing a couple of times throughout the novel, the pomegranate tree symbolizes Amir and Hassan’s friendship and the health of the tree represents the condition of their friendship. The tree is fruitful and in full blossom when their friendship was close and true. When their friendship had been broken, the tree did not produce any fruit for years.
Literary devices that the author uses (give examples from the work):Flashback: The novel begins in the present and then flashes back to Amir’s childhood of him in the alley witnessing a scene. The flashback helps build suspense and attracts readers to continue reading to understand why Amir’s world changed during the winter of 1975.Foreshadow: The author pairs the flashback with foreshadowing in the first chapter. Chapter one foreshadows the whole novel since the readers are introduced to names of characters and places that is expected to reappear throughout the book. The author also includes subtle foreshadowing such as Amir seeing Hassan with two face or Amir facing a threat that came true in the future.
Imagery: The story includes many detailed descriptions that appeal to the reader’s senses and make them feel as if they are actually in the story. Amir uses language that describes what he sees such as the scenery or a specific person with many details that allow the readers to view different situations through the eyes and perspective of Amir.Irony: The ironies in the story reveal to the readers that not all things work out to the way we expect them to be especially in Amir’s life. Amir is a wealthy child, yet he is still jealous of a servant. He also respects and admire his father only to find out that ironically the first trait they share is betrayal.Symbolism: In order to develop the the protagonist’s journey of guilt and redemption and to show the loyalty of friendship, the author uses many symbols including the kites, lamb, pomegranate tree, and many other objects.