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Kite running refers to the act of manipulating the spool of the kite in order for it to move and beat other kites. This sport is quite common among children in Afghanistan and normally entails two boys who each have separate roles.
One is responsible for determining the actual direction that the kite will run while the other one changes the threads such that the movement is made possible. The kite runner is responsible for the latter task and he often does most of the hard work. Nonetheless, when declaring a winner, competitors normally acknowledge and award the controller of the kite and not the runner.
Having looked at the concept of kite running itself, one can clearly see how the title is metaphorical. First, because the kite runner never really gets much appraisal for his work, one can argue that the sport is a bit unfair. This may be likened to the situation in war. Parties involved in a conflict barely fight fair and square.
Such unfairness was especially replicated in a number of conflicts that the book covers including the US-Taliban war as well as Soviet occupation. The helplessness of the victims in the story is symptomatic of the injustice brought about by war just like the kite runner who never gets justice for his contributions. War has caused a lot of the main characters a lot of problems hence signifying the injustice inherent in war.
First, Baba was a wealthy individual who lived a fulfilling life back home in Afghanistan, however after the Soviet occupation, he had to escape to the United States and start from scratch. Not only did he have to leave his property in Afghan for a strange place, he also lost his status there (Hosseini, 45). Back home, Baba was a very influential merchant who changed the lives of members of his community through a number of initiatives.
However, this soon came to an end when he fled to the US because he became nothing more than a gas station employee. Additionally, he was forced to display some goods at a flea market in order to make ends meet. He and his son had to rent a worn out house in this foreign nation. The tale of Amir’s family is quite synonymous with the stories of many other Afghanis who have lost their status and wealth because of the wars.
Perhaps most importantly, one can say that the unfairness of war was manifested through the death of many innocent victims. Hassan was one such individual. During the reign of the Taliban, he had been confronted by one of them concerning Baba’s house. He attempted to salvage this piece of property and instead lost his life for it.
This was indeed great injustice because the Taliban had no right to simply take property that belonged to other people or to take their lives but they still went ahead and did it. Another individual who bore the brunt of war and its unfairness was Ali. This loyal servant to Baba lost his life as a result of land mines that had been placed at Hazajarat. Such incidences would not have arisen if there was no war and if it was not conducted in an unfair manner that leads to the death of innocent lives.
Alternatively, one may look at the characteristics of the kite as a metaphor for the characteristics of war. The kite by its very nature cannot move unless another person is controlling it. This means that even though the kite appears to be at one with nature or to be totally free, it never really is.
The kite runner and the kite fighter restrict the movement of the kite in order for it to move in an orderly manner. In fact, without the intervention of these two parties, the kite can never really be in motion. If these restrictions are too much or disorderly, then it may lead to chaos. Also if the restrictions are too weak then the kite will barely move.
Similarly, governments are supposed to restrict the activities of their citizens so as to maintain law and order. If a government overdoes this then it may result in chaos or war. The novel is set against the backdrop of the Afghan civil war of 1996 to 2001 that was spearheaded by the Taliban (Despain, 56). The fact that children can be bought from orphanages is a sign of the degree of lawlessness that had pervaded Afghanistan as a result of the Taliban rule. Assef wanted to exert his revenge upon Hassan and therefore chose to vent this out onto his son Sohrab.
This boy was bought from an orphanage using a certain amount of money. He was then made to perform heinous acts in front of Assef. Assef also defiled this young boy using his position as a member of the Taliban. The lack of control and general disorder in the country led to such acts being committed against innocent children like Sohrab.
This failure of the Afghan government to control its own people can also be witnessed through the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that started in 1979 and lasted for ten years. The author of the novel frequently states that this war was the reason behind the immigration of the latter family to the United States. At the time, the Afghan army could no longer contain the frequent uprisings that were occurring in different parts of the country.
To this end, it requested for assistance from the Soviet Union. The latter state obliged and sent its troops to fight resistance forces against the government. The operations were mostly carried out against the Mujahideen. However, because the Soviet had enemies such as the United States then the latter country started getting involved. It was reported that the US did this through government opposition forces.
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This war proved to be a tall order for the Soviet Union which was having logistical problems as well as problems with the geographical landscape of the Afghans. Also, continuous aid granted by the CIA to their enemies further complicated this matter. In the end, the Soviet had to come out of this territory and left Afghanistan under the leadership of Najibullah. In 1992, his reign came to an end when rival parties decided to form the Islamic State of Afghanistan.
However, because this arrangement was not all inclusive, it soon became clear that the country was not going to enjoy peace any time soon. One opposing party known as Hekmatyar started another civil war in order to gain power for himself. Things were worsened by the existence of two separate militias that were backed by foreign governments like Saudi Arabia and Iran. The situation became even more complex when a different force, the Taliban entered the scene with the backing of Pakistan in 1996.
They started taking over and controlling the latter city. They imposed several unrealistic rules such as requiring men to always wear their beards, stoning of adulterous individuals and the like. The Taliban unleashed a lot of terror especially because they considered a certain community in Afghanistan inferior to others so they abused their rights. This went on terrorizing others while Mahmoud was still president (Vogelsang, 39).
The latter individual started asking for help from the external world in order to overcome the Taliban forces. In 2001, the United States chose to participate in the affairs of Afghanistan. Through the support of the US army and anti-Taliban forces, the latter group was ousted in this very year. As can be seen, the history of Afghanistan is laden with several wars and conflicts. These conflicts were the backdrop against which the novel was set.
The numerous deaths, escapes and exiles revisited in the novel were brought by these conflicts. The author therefore preempts this through the use of his title the kite runner. In the same way that the kite depends on its runner and fighter to fly, the Afghan state depended on its government to survive.
As stated earlier, only the right amount of manipulation of the kite can ensure that it rises and stays up. Similarly, the right degree of restriction and law was needed in order to make Afghanistan a peaceful sate. The failure of its many governments to control and lead their people well is what led to the chaos that has pervaded this nation for decades. The relationship between Hassan, the kite and Amir was a metaphor for the conditions that can lead to war as witnessed later in the novel.
The title also testifies to the warlike nature of Afghanistan through the actual acts of kite fighting. In this sport, boys often fly the kites using strings made up of bits of broken glass. These often rub against the hands of the participants who still continue outdoing each other despite this obvious pain.
Additionally, the sport often focuses on putting one’s opponents down. In fact, it can be interpreted as some sort of battle between the contestants. These children will try to cut the others’ kites so that they can fall down. Once those kites fall, the person responsible for it will retrieve it and claim the kite as his own. Even Hassan tells his counterpart Amir that there are “No rules. Fly your kite. Cut the opponents. Good luck!” (Hosseini, 34).
These activities are quite similar to those that apply in war zones. Adversaries normally focus on putting each other down so that they may be in a position to claim victory. War is very violent in nature and this can be seen through certain incidences in the novel. For example, as an adult, Amir watches in horror as a couple gets stoned to death by the extremists in his nation for committing adultery.
He is visibly shaken by this act of violence. Such an incident would not have taken place if Afghanistan was a peaceful nation. However, the general atmosphere in this nation is such that it preempts such actions. It was under the Taliban that many violent acts were committed against individuals.
For example, one learns that Assef was a member of Taliban and as such he could get away with torturous acts such as physical violence and rape. Here, readers are told that Assef had raped and abused Sohrab – Hassan’s child. Violence can also be seen when we learn about the daughters of Farid the taxi driver (Darhis, 228). They lost their lives as a result of land mines that also mutilated his own body parts.
In times of war, members of one nation must unite so as to fight a common enemy. Even though these citizens may have their own personal differences, they normally have to leave those aside in order to put up a fight in war. Hassan and Amir were very different; Amir was the child of a wealthy businessman while Hassan was the servant’s son.
Hassan used to cater to Amir’s personal needs like washing and cleaning. Hassan and Amir also had very divergent interests and values. However, all those things were easily forgotten when they were kite fighting. In the same manner, citizens of Afghanistan would unite in order to fight a common adversary in many of the wars mentioned in the novel.
The kite was a metaphor and an indication of things to come in the novel. It can be interpreted as a depiction of the unfairness of war similar to the relationship between the kite fighter and the kite runner. Alternatively, the title can also be a metaphor for the characteristics of war as was seen in the violent nature of the sport.
One may also see the kite runner as a metaphor for the preconditions of war which entail a failure to exert the right governmental restrictions in the same manner that the kite runner does to the kite. Alternatively, the title may be understood as a way of bringing together diverse people against a common enemy as is the case in war and in kite fighting.
Hosseini, Khaled. The kite runner. NY: Riverhead trade, 2004
Darhis, Manhola. From memories there is no escape. New York Times, 14th December, 2008
Vogelsang, Willem. The Afghans. NY: Blackwell publishers, 2002
Despain, Dori. A brief history of Afghanistan. School Journal, 53(9), 56