Amir Amir is the main protagonist, and it is through his eyes that we are told the events of the novel. The problem with this type of narrative is that we are only gaining Amir’s perspective, which may not be accurate, but is instead his slant on what happened that the readers get.
Background Knowledge of Character
Amir is twelve at the time of the main event in the novel, but when the story opens, it is 2001 and he is 38 and living in San Francisco, America
He was born into a rich and powerful Afghan family in Kabul and lived a far more privileged lifestyle than a lot of people in Afghanistan
He is of Pashtun ethnicity, and a Sunni Muslim – the dominant of the two types
His mother died in childbirth having him, and he believes that his father, Baba, blames him for it.
His father, Baba, is a powerful man in Afghanistan and owns several businesses that have brought him wealth and status in Kabul. They live in a big, luxurious house in an upmarket part of town and have their own servants.
His relationship with Baba is distant and he believes this is due to him not being a stereotypical Afghan male, as Amir is more into reading and writing than sports. He’s not very strong and doesn’t really stand up for himself that much, unlike Baba.
The tense relationship is what drives Amir, as he strives to gain his father’s love and approval. As we later learn, he ends up sacrificing a lot to form their relationship.
He seems to have a better relationship with his father’s business partner and friend, Rahim Khan, and views him as a surrogate father. Rahim is the one that tells Amir all about Baba’s feats, and encourages Amir to continue with his writing despite his father not being very interested in his passion.
Amir has a near brotherly relationship with Hassan, the son of their Hazara slave Ali. Hazara’s are the inferior ethnic and religious group in Afghan society.
Amir is jealous of the close relationship Hassan and Ali have, and wishes he had the same with his own father.
Amir and Hassan’s relationship is nearly identical to their fathers, who also grew up together after Baba’s father adopted Ali when his parents were killed.
Personality/Characteristics of Amir He is mostly kind and caring towards people and isn’t one for causing violence. He’s quite reserved to a point where Baba worries he can’t stand up for himself or anything he believes in. He’s more creative than athletic and believes it is partly down to this that his relationship with Baba isn’t as loving as it should be. He is driven by his need and want for Baba’s love; and because he’s deprived of this father/son relationship, he is often jealous and envious of Hassan and Ali, whose relationship is much closer. This can sometimes lead him to act cruelly towards Hassan, especially in his reading and writing, which Hassan cannot do as he is illiterate. He almost enjoys the power he holds over his friend but isn’t always comfortable with his superiority.
Main Actions/Involvement in Novel
He wins the Kite Fighting tournament in Kabul, which Baba had won as a child, and was very proud when his son won it too. By winning, Amir hoped to gain the love of Baba.
After Hassan goes missing whilst running for the winning kite (‘For you, a thousand times over’), Amir finds him in an alley way with Assef, a bully, and two of his friends. At first it seems they will beat him to steal the kite for themselves, but they let him keep it and Assef rapes Hassan. Amir witnesses the act but can’t bring himself to stand up for Hassan and save him. Instead he runs away and then has to live with the guilt of knowing what happened, but not being able to tell anybody.
At Amir’s thirteenth birthday party, he receives lots of presents, none of which he likes except for the leather book Rahim Khan gives him, as the party is only being thrown because his father is proud of him winning the Kite Fighting tournament. Amir is reminded of the rape, his decision and guilt, and the fact that if he hadn’t won, Hassan might’ve not been raped. He decides after the party that he can’t get on with his life with Hassan in the house and frames him for stealing his birthday money and a watch Baba gave him. Hassan owns up, even though he didn’t do it, as he is so loyal to Amir, and he and Ali leave. This is the last time Amir sees either of them.
Baba and Amir leave for America due to the fighting in Afghanistan when Amir is 18. On the way to Pakistan, Baba stands up for a woman about to get raped by a Russian soldier, something again which Amir never managed, even though this woman is a complete stranger, and Hassan was Amir’s only friend.
When he moves to America he graduates high school at 20, then goes to University and does English to continue his writing. He doesn’t care that Baba wants him to do something more professional and it is the first time he really goes against his will. Baba is working at a gas station and their relationship seems to have improved, though Baba relies on Amir a lot more now.
Baba and Amir go to the flea market on the weekend and spend time with many other Afghans forced to flee from their country. Here Baba feels more at home than anywhere else in America. It is also here that Amir meets his wife Soraya.
Amir and Baba become close as Baba finds out he has cancer. Amir asks him to ask Soraya’s father to allow him to marry her, before Baba dies. The pair get engaged and skip their engagement period, allowing Baba to be at their wedding. Baba is truly proud of Amir here, for the first time really. During the wedding, Amir thinks of Hassan and wonders if he is married back in Afghanistan.
Amir returns home to find Baba lying on the sofa, showing Soraya his leather book of stories. We see how proud Baba is of him even though he was never the son he really wanted. Amir really gets to see this, before his father dies that night.
Amir and Soraya have trouble conceiving a child. They go for numerous tests and it’s implied that it’s Soraya that has the problem. Amir considers this, like many things, punishment for his wrong-doing in his past.
Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan asking him to come back to Pakistan to see him as he’s ill. He offers him ‘a way to be good again’. Amir leaves America to visit him, and whilst there learns of Ali’s death, Hassan’s marriage and son Sohrab, and how Hassan and his wife were killed by the Taliban. Rahim Khan asks him to help rescue their son.
After finding out from Rahim Khan that Ali was sterile and that Hassan was in fact Baba’s illegitimate son and Amir’s half-brother, Amir travels to Afghanistan to find Sohrab, his nephew, and bring him back to Pakistan.
In their search, Amir finds out some more about his mother, information his father never gave him; visits his old house and the pomegranate tree that he and Hassan used to play at; and arrives at the orphanage to find the director has sold Sohrab to the Taliban.
Amir finds the Taliban man they are looking for at the half-time stoning at the stadium. They meet later to talk and Amir finds it is Assef, the bully from his childhood who raped Hassan. He says he can take Sohrab as long as he fights him. Amir does so and ends up being beaten harshly by Assef, but he begins to laugh as he finds it as redemption for his guilt.
Amir is eventually saved by Sohrab who is a keen shot with his slingshot and takes out Assef’s eye. Amir ends up in hospital with many injuries, and among them, a split lip just like Hassan’s old harelip. He tries to talk with Sohrab but doesn’t get very far.
Hassan Background knowledge of character:
Servant- illiterate- can’t read or write
His mother abandoned him when he was a baby, she travelled with the circus, she got around.
Harelip get’s fixed for his birthday
He lives in Afghanistan for his entire life
Really Baba’s son
Him and Amir fed from same breasts/ brothers in everything but blood.
Stands up for Amir.
Main Actions/ involvement in the novel
Became victim of Assef and the guilt of Amir
Became the focus of redemption for Amir
‘For you a thousand times over’
Impact on Amir
Life decision based on what he did to Hassan
Makes Amir confused to his role, whether he is a friend or a servant
Significance to wider novel and thematic concerns
Creates the storyline- catalyst
Symbolises the good
Him and Amir religious
Inferiority- symbolised by his ethnicity and harelip
Baba was born into a rich family and has always been respected with in the community. He became a successful business man of many different trades such as owning a carpet selling company. There is a legend that he once fought a black bear in his youth, this is used as a metaphor for for Baba’s unwavering determination and strength that is shown throughout Amir’s childhood. When Baba was a child his father was killed by a thief, this was the direct influence for his belief that the theft is “the one true sin”. He has met many of Afghanistan's leaders and from that has gained a lot of political influence in Kabul. He was a kite flying champion in his childhood. Through his business he was able to travel to many countries such as Russia and and India.
He is very proud, head strong and brave man with a strong sense of justice. He believes that a man must always stand up for himself and be prepared to fight for what he believes in. By doing this he sets the moral bar in the novel and is what ultimately affects Amirs decision to save Sohrab. But at the same time he appears emotionally distant and impatient, and, nearing the end of the novel we find that he was harboring strong feelings of guilt for his actions with Ali’s wife. He was “a man torn between two half's” which is why he was neglectful towards Amir during his childhood. Baba is charitable and caring which is shown when he gives money to help people yet doesn't ask for anything in return or when he constructs an orphanage. He never says no to a challenge and will always do what he thinks right even if others object, he will never show weakness in front of others even when nearing his death.
Baba has a huge influence over Amir and the story of the novel, some of his more important actions is when he protects a woman from being raped by a russian soldier and comes very close to being shot and then soon after he threatens to kill Karim, but then the same woman he saved begs him to stop. This exemplifies the power and bravery Baba has during Amirs childhood. Another important action Baba takes is when he builds the orphanage in Kabul, with all his own money and design which, once again, shows his generosity and wealth as well as determination. When Baba proclaims that theft is the only true sin and that to lie is to steal one’s right to truth, it leaves an imprint on Amir that later on helps him find his redemption and this also continues the motif of guilt throughout the novel. He asks Soraya’s father to marry Amir and spends his life savings on the wedding, then on his deathbed he reads Amir’s stories form the notebook for the first, and last time - This shows that Baba has finally accepted Amir as a man and that they have both reconciled they’re sins of the past.
He pretended to be Hassan’s father
He married his first cousin
Suffered from polio as a child so he has a withered leg and walks with a limp
He was an orphan and it was baba’s father servants who brought him up
He was then a servant to baba, the same way Hassan is a servant to Amir
left baba’s protection and took Hassan away from Amir and all the trouble he had caused
Relationship with Amir
servant to Amir and his family
took Amir’s close friend away from him
Ali new everything that went on between Amir and Hassan
Significance to wider novel & thematic concerns
Amir and Baba had different ways of dealing with their guilt. Amir tried to push Hassan away where Baba got really close with Ali by giving him a job and a house.
Ali and Hassan had a very close relationship as Hassan could tell Ali everything including the rape, however Amir would never be able to tell Baba something like that because baba would just get embarrassed.
“But, Agha sahib, tell them who was the architect of the mischief and who was the poor labourer” (p22)
“life here is impossible for us now, Agha sahib, we’re leaving”. Ali drew Hassan to him, curled his arm around his sons shoulders. (p92)
Rahim means compassion
Father figure to Amir (more than Baba)
Close friend and business partner to Baba for a long time
Intelligent, kind , generous and compassionate
Unmarried – once fell in love with a Hazara woman, but his family would not accept her.
Encourages and supports Amir to write when Baba looks down on it as being an unmanly pursuit
Always offers Amir support and trust and wants Amir to be able to confide in him
Later he tells Amir about the truth that Hassan is Amir’s half-brother and that he was told lies as a child
He offers Amir a way to redeem himself of his guilt by finding Sohrab, Hassan’s son, in an Afghanistan and bringing him to safety and giving him a family in America
He lives with Hassan, his wife, mother and Sohrab, even when Amir and Baba leave, Rahim Khan remains friends with Hassan.
“There is a way to be good again Amir” – Page 2 - Rahim Khan tries to help Amir redeem himself and finally forgive himself
“You know, you can tell me anything you want, Amir jan. Anytime.” - Page 87 - He knows that Amir watched Hassan get raped and wants to let Amir talk to him about it.
“I am a boy in that photograph and Baba is holding me, looking tired and grim. I’m in his arms, but it is Rahim Khan’s pinky my fingers are curled around.” – Page 5 - From the beginning Amir could tell that Rahim Khan was more of a father to him than Baba.
Assef Personality: Idealist, influential, believes in purity(Hitler-Jews and him) desc ribed as ‘bully’ to Amir and Hassan.
Main action: Takes part in Amirs life changing experience, becomes part of the Taliban – leads to Amir facing his ‘punishment’. Has the althletic ability which Baba would want for Amir.
Impact on Amir: can be jelous as Baba shows Interest in him and is envious of his athletic ability.
Amir describes as ‘sociopath’
Idea of bully supported by his participation of taunting Ali(page 34). Description is also powerful and threatening – ‘towering over us’ ‘crossed his thick arms’ ‘savage grin’.
Hitler reference: ‘hitler. Now there was a leader. A great leader’
Chp 20 – Amir Discovers that Sohrab has been sold by the orphanage director.
Chp 22- Amir meets the man that has bought Sohrab and it turns out to be Assef, Amir then ends up fighting him in which Amir is saved by Sohrab and his slingshot.
Chp 23- There is no sign of the adoptive parents Rahim Khan had promised for Sohrab, Sohrab goes to Islamabad while Amir decides what exactly to do with him.
Chp 24- Sohrab runs away to mosque which is a sign of Hassan bringing him up as a good Muslim but also that Sohrab does not associate his fear of the Taliban with the mosque and thinks of it as a safe place – the Taliban are not associated with his religion. Amir then invites Sohrab to live with him and his wife Soraya but because the process of adoption it is difficult for Amir to gain custody and Amir has to admit to Sohrab that he might have to go back to an orphanage for a short time, breaking the promise he had made before.
Chp 25 – Sohrab attempts suicide but luckily survives, Sohrab is brought to America but is withdrawn and uncommunicative, then helping Amir fly a kite in a kite fight this start the return of Sohrab’s spirit (again a kite helping two people become/get closer – like Amir and Baba’s relationship before, same father son scenario)
Personality and Characteristics
Sohrab is an extremely shy, quiet, innocent and caring young boy. He is also very wary and protective.
Main Actions/ Involvement in the novel
He saves Amir by shooting Assef in the eye with a brass ball. He try’s to commit suicide, Moves on to America with Amir. He has a massive impact on Amir’s life.
Impact on Amir
Sohrab fills the hole that was once filled by Hassan, He is Amir’s nephew but is soon made into his son and Sohrab is the whole back story to why Amir comes back to Afghanistan. Hassan and Sohrab are also very similar which helps Amir see how bad he actually was to Hassan, He also make Amir feel incredibly guilty as he makes him realise how much pain he cause everyone around him. He is the redemption of the novel.
Chp 22 Pg. 24
“The boy had his father’s round moon face, his pointy stub of a chin, his twisted, seashell ears, and the same slight frame. It was the Chinese doll face of my childhood.”
Chp 22 Pg. 253
“Twin trails of black mascara, mixed with tears, had rolled down his cheeks, smeared the rouge. His lower lip trembled. Mucus seeped from his nose ‘Bas’ he crocked.”
Chp 24 Pg. 277
“‘Will god put me in hell for what I did to that man?’ I reached for him and he flinched. I pulled back. ‘Nay of curse not,’ I said. I wanted to pull him close, hold him, tell him the world had been unkind to him, not the other way round.”
Chp 24 Pg. 278
“‘Because-‘he said gasping and hitching between sobs, ‘because I don’t want them to see me… I’m so dirty.’ He sucked in his breath. ‘I’m so dirty and full of sin.’”
Chp 24 Pg. 297
“‘You promised you’d never put me in one of those places, Amir agha,’ he said. His voice was breaking, tears pooling in his eye. I felt like a prick”
Chp 24 Pg. 299
“Suddenly I was on my knees, screaming. Screaming through my clenched teeth. Screaming until I thought my throat would rip and my chest explode. Later, they said I was still screaming when the ambulance arrived.”
Chp 25 Pg. 323
“I looked down at Sohrab. One corner of his mouth had curled up just so. A smile. Lopsided. Hardly there. But there.”
Amir blames himself for her infertility because of his sins. She is not able to conceive children so she takes in Sohrab as her son
Poetic descriptions of her “the way her luminous eyes had fleetingly held mine”(page 124) “a blush, red like henna, bloomed on her cheeks” (page 149)
She is one of the only female characters in the novel
Daughter of an Afghan general
Amirs wife - met in a flea market in America
She is similar to Amirs mother as she is also a teacher
She helps Amir atone for his sins - gets him to return to Kabul to see Rahim Khan
She ran off with an Afghan man when she first came to America - this shows she was able to redem herself from her sins whilst Amir cannot “I suspected there were many ways in which Soraya Taherei was a better person than me. Courage was just one of them”