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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.

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-10

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/3] Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/2] Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source


Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



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.



Rubric

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.




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Image Attributions
  • Preparing the Kites • Jack Spades' Adventures • License Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)


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