What is the purpose of the flashback at the beginning of the novel? What does the reader learn about the narrator?
The description of the winter day in 1975 suggests the narrator is hiding from something. He is trying to bury his past but states that it always claws its way out (foreshadowing). He moved to San Francisco to get away from his past.
Who is Hassan? Describe him physically.
Harelipped kite runner – childhood playmate of the narrator (Amir); round face like a China doll; flat, broad nose; slanting, narrow eyes that looked gold, green, even sapphire in the right sunlight; tiny, low-set ears; pointed stub chin that looked like a meaty appendage (unusual projecting part); cleft lip
What is a cleft lip?
It is a birth defect that usually appears as a missing part of the upper lip extended toward the nose. People call this a “harelip,” which is now generally considered offensive.
What does Hassan’s relationship with Amir reveal about his personality?
He is loyal. He never tells on his friend and is easily persuaded to do things, even when he knows his dad would get mad.
Why does Amir provide such an elaborate description of his family’s home? What do the details of the family pictures in Amir’s house reveal?
His vivid description lets the reader see things from his perspective. He is reflecting upon his memories of growing up there. He wants to convey that it was a safe, happy, and wonderful place to live. A series of pictures provide contextual understanding: Grandfather and King Nadir Shah – 1931 – two years before the King’s assassination; parents’ wedding night – happy picture; Baba (father) and his best friend and business partner standing outside the house – neither of them smiling – Amir is a baby in the picture, and his dad is holding him looking tired and grim (Baba is holding him, but he is holding onto the finger of Rahim Khan)
Who is Sanaubar? How is she contrasted to Amir’s mother?
Hassan’s mother ran off with a clan of traveling singers and dancers after his birth. Amir’s mother hemorrhaged during childbirth with him and died. Sanaubar was nineteen years younger than Hassan’s dad. She had a dishonorable reputation and was her husband’s first cousin. She was beautiful yet scandalous.
Who is Ali? What do the neighborhood children call him? What does it mean? Why do they call him this?
Ali (Hassan’s dad) was called Babalu, or Boogeyman, by the kids. He had polio, so he walked with difficulty and had paralysis on the lower part of his face that prevented him from smiling.
What does it mean to be Hazara (Shi’a Muslim), Afghanistan’s minority group? Who, in the story thus far, is Hazara?
They are outcasts who like Chinese/”mongol” people. Ali, Hassan, and Sanaubar are Hazara, which does not go unnoticed.
What does it mean to be Pashtun (Sunni Muslim), Afghanistan’s majority group? Who, in the story thus far, is Pashtun?
They are the group who persecutes and oppresses the Hazaras. They also drove them from their lands, burned their homes, and sold their women. Amir’s family is Pashtun.
What does the book in Amir’s dad’s study tell him about the history of Hazara and Pashtun?
Amir learns that Pashtuns oppressed the Hazaras because Pashtuns were Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras were Shi’a. People refer to Hazaras as mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkeys.
How did Sanaubar react to Hassan when he was born? How did she treat her husband Ali? What impact does this have on Hassan and Ali?
She took one glance at Hassan, saw his cleft lip, and barked a bitter laughter. She refused to even hold him and said to Ali, “Now you have your own idiot child to do all your smiling for you!” She made it clear that she did not love or respect her husband. Ali’s self esteem must have suffered greatly. Hassan likely feels a sense of abandonment that affects his sense of self-worth.
What was Hassan’s first word? Why do you think that may be important?
Amir. This demonstrates the loyalty that Hassan has to Amir. His unfaltering love and obedience are crucial to the story.
How does Amir feel about his father in these chapters?
Amir refers to him as a force of nature and describes his glare as something that would “drop the devil to his knees begging for mercy.” Amir respects Baba’s ability to build and open an orphanage on his own. Amir loves Baba but also fears him.
According to Baba, what is the one and only sin?
Explain how the metaphor on page 21 describes Baba’s feelings toward Amir: “Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.”
Baba sees Amir as a disappointment. The thought that Amir’s birth could be viewed as a sin (stealing his mother’s life) is disheartening. Amir overhears Rahim Kahn trying to convince Baba to accept Amir for who he is, instead of pressuring Amir to be just like him.
Describe the complicated importance of the word “friend” in Chapter 4.
There are two complex friendships that lay the foundation for this story: Baba and Ali and then Amir and Hassan. Although Ali and Hassan are servants to Baba and Amir, Ali and Hassan do everything together as children, just as “friends” would do. Because of their family history, they do not use the word “friend” because it would be considered a disgrace for Baba and Amir to be friends with Ali and Hassan.
Who is Assef? What is his vision for Afghanistan?
He is Pashtun and a bully who has been brainwashed by his father. He beats kids up with brass knuckles to assert his dominance. He tells Amir he is a disgrace to their kind for being friends with Hassan. He says that Hitler had it all right, and it won’t be long before Afghanistan can rid their country of Hazara people. He blames Amir and his father for keeping Hassan and his father around. He is about to beat up Amir, but Hassan draws a slingshot and aims it at Assef’s face.
What does Assef threaten (foreshadow)?
He will be patient, he will see Amir again, and Amir will be sorry. This threat foreshadows Assef’s plans to hurt him in the future.
Why would Amir wish he had some kind of scar like Hassan? He says,” It wasn’t fair.”
Amir is so desperate for his father’s attention and sympathy that he wishes something like a cleft lip upon himself. He is jealous of Baba’s caring nature toward Hassan.
What is ironic about Hassan’s birthday present?
Baba’s gift of surgery to fix Hassan’s cleft lip allows him to smile. Ironically, Hassan’s scar is almost fully faded the winter he stops smiling.