The Kite Runner Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

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Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in The Kite Runner

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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text.

Themes to Look For and Discuss

The Complications of Friendship

The primary theme in the novel The Kite Runner is the complications of friendship, as evidenced through Amir and Hassan’s relationship. Amir sees Hassan as his servant, not as his friend, and doesn’t realize his mistake until later in life. Hassan, on the other hand, idolizes Amir, and will do anything for him even if it means he gets in trouble for it. While Amir tries to sever their friendship by framing Hassan for stealing, Hassan maintains his affection for Amir through letters, which Rahim Khan delivers to Amir when he returns to Afghanistan. Amir also saves Hassan’s son, Sohrab, in order to make up for his betrayal of Hassan and their friendship.


The Dangers of Prejudice and Discrimination

Another important theme in the novel The Kite Runner is the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. Assef and others specifically target Hazaras in Kabul for their ridicule and intimidation. Assef taunts Ali, calling him Babalu, or boogeyman. He threatens to beat up Amir because he is friends with Hassan. Later, the Taliban specifically target the Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, resulting in a bloody massacre. In 2000, the Taliban execute Hassan and his wife Farzana because they are living in Baba’s old house, a mansion, and they are Hazaras, whom the Taliban officials claim are all “thieves”.


The Search for Redemption

An additional primary theme throughout the novel The Kite Runner is Amir’s search for redemption. Wracked by guilt and shame over his fear and unwillingness to help Hassan as he was being assaulted by Assef, he is unable to deal with his emotions and eventually frames Hassan for stealing in an attempt to get rid of him. It works. When Rahim Khan contacts Amir in 2001 about there being a “way to be good again”, Amir knows he must do what Rahim is asking of him. Amir’s search for redemption brings him back to Afghanistan, where he discovers the truth about his connection to Hassan, and where he resolves to save and adopt Sohrab, Hassan’s son.


Betrayal

A final important theme in the novel The Kite Runner is betrayal. Amir is haunted by the fact that he did not help Hassan in the alley, and further betrays him by framing him for stealing. Baba betrayed Ali, his best friend and servant while growing up, by fathering Hassan with Ali’s wife Sanuabar. Sanaubar betrays Ali and Hassan by abandoning them shortly after Hassan’s birth, but later she comes back to Hassan and asks for forgiveness, and even helps raise Sohrab. After saving Sohrab and promising to bring him back to the United States with him, Amir thinks he might have to send him back to the orphanage in order to adopt him. Sohrab sees this as a betrayal, and attempts suicide. Amir realizes that he can never go back on his word with Sohrab again.


Motifs, Imagery & Symbols

Kites

An important symbol in the novel The Kite Runner is the kites. The kites are a matter of honor and pride, for both the kite fliers and the kite runners. The winter tournament is an opportunity for Amir to finally impress his father, who so often seems to feel ashamed of Amir. Hassan’s kite running instincts make him the best in the city, but his running of the last kite to fall in the fated contest leads to his assault and humiliation. The kites are banned shortly after the Taliban take over, taking away the tradition from the city of Kabul. Kites are what finally bring Sohrab and Amir together, however, back in the United States. It’s the first time Sohrab smiles since being adopted by Amir and Soraya.


The Story of Rostam and Sohrab

An important recurring motif in the novel The Kite Runner is the story of Rostam and Sohrab. As young boys, Hassan delighted to listen as Amir read stories to him, in particular the story of Rostam and Sohrab from the Shahnama. The story details a legendary fighter who fights his son on the battlefield, but neither man knows the true identity of the other. Rostam eventually kills Sohrab, and then discovers that Sohrab is his son. This story echoes Hassan and Amir, who don’t know they are brothers, and Amir rids himself of Hassan by framing him for stealing. By the time Amir discovers Hassan’s identity years later, Hassan is dead. Hassan loved the story so much that he names his son Sohrab.


Sohrab

Another important symbol in the novel The Kite Runner is Sohrab himself. Sohrab becomes a symbol and a driving force for Amir in his search for redemption for what he did to Hassan. While Amir can’t save Hassan, and he discovers their relation too late, he can save Sohrab from the hands of Assef. Giving Sohrab a chance at a new life in America, and a permanent, safe home is a way that Amir can make up for his betrayal of Hassan. Sohrab also takes the place of the child Amir and Soraya can never have.


The Brass Knuckles

Another symbol in the novel The Kite Runner is the brass knuckles used by the violent and sadistic Assef. The brass knuckles are first introduced at the beginning of the novel when Assef almost beats up Amir for hanging out with Hassan, a Hazara. Later when Amir goes to rescue Sohrab from the Taliban, Assef says that he has to earn Sohrab’s freedom. He takes out the brass knuckles and proceeds to beat Amir nearly to death, until Amir is saved once again by a little boy with a slingshot.


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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Kite Runner. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Kite Runner you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

Template: Theme

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