Saturday, May 06, 2006


The Informing Kite Runner

Now that the semester is coming to an end and approximately 2448 pages of postcolonial literature are pumping through our veins (give or take Midnight’s Children), I am glad that we conclude the semester with this enticing, disturbing and educational novel, The Kite Runner. Although Hosseini engages the heroes and villains in a guaranteed page-turner Dickensian style, I would disagree that he cheapens the global issues he brings to light.

In The Kite Runner, Hosseini informs the audience of issues like the ethnicity and religious conflicts in Afghanistan, the violence of Taliban occupation, the degree of the oppression of Afghani people, even mental health, all with or without intention. I would argue that each reader learns something about an issue that he/she did not know before. The novel educates the audience about the tensions between Shi'a Muslims and Sunni Muslims, and the consequential hostility. In the first pages of the novel, Hosseini delivers the first history lesson to the reader by noting that Hassan's history "book said part of the reason Pashtuns had oppressed the Hazaras was that Pashtuns were Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras were Shi'a" (9). Although intensified for fictional purposes, the reader cannot ignore the evil and sickening presence of Assef in the novel and the Taliban in Afghanistan. While the audience must always be aware that they are reading a piece of fiction and not a nonfiction account, they cannot dismiss the reality of the violence the Taliban afflicts on Afghanistan in reality. It is likely that the Taliban murder(ed) defenseless Afghani families in front of their homes like this piece of fiction suggests it happens to Hassan and his wife (218). In these instances, the reader learns about issues specific to Afghanistan, but relevant internationally.

Although the issue of mental health is less central to The Kite Runner, it also appears within the novel’s “riveting” plot. Leaving the suspense high like a Dickensian novelist would, Hosseini follows the happy news of Sohrab admittance into America with Sohrab’s tragic suicide attempt in the same paragraph (343). After all the hardship Sohrab has experienced in young life, Sohrab’s mental situation is apparent, severely distressed with the possibility of having to return to an orphanage. In detail Hosseini describes the unfortunate but realistic way Sohrab deals with his bleak circumstances, “the bloody bathwater; the left arm dangling over the side of the tub, the blood-soaked razor sitting on the toilet tank… and his eyes, still half open but lightless” (348). This chilling description notes the desperate reality of a troubled mind. Often modern society pawns depression and suicidal thoughts off as weaknesses, but Hosseini shows that people suffering from these mental conditions are legitimately sad and are in need of help and understanding.

Whether this novel leaves you with good or bad feelings, Hosseini should not be criticized for sharing important issue that are personal to him with his accessible populace. Spreading awareness in a way parallel to your talents is an honorable, not cheapening, action. I, personally, do not see it as problematic that Hosseini was successful in writing a best-selling piece of fiction. He enabled, at the least, an American audience to learn about global injustices in a meaningful and effective way. Being aware of global happenings is critical, and Hosseini merely accommodates people that prefer the form of the novel to other sources like media and newspapers. Being the optimist I am, I found the ending of The Kite Runner to be a happy one. Although the ending might have been somewhat cheesy and slightly unrealistic, it generates hope that wrongs can be righted.

To conclude my post about educating audiences about personal and burning issues, I encourage each responder to take this opportunity, at the end of your comment, to post a link to information about a charity, cause, or issue dear to you. Seize this chance to "tell the rest of the world," well, at least class, about your cause.

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I agree with Betsy that Hosseini is using his writing talent to portray Afghanistan as a land of instability, violence, corruption, but also infinite beauty. Although the book is fiction, I am sure that Hosseini is revealing some truths about the people he knows and the land he loves. Perhaps Hosseini has known somebody like Hasssan or Sohrab whose innate goodness cannot be poisoned by the chaos in the land. They are strong in their will to fight against the evil, the social and moral injustice embodied by the Taliban. In my opinion, there are many people like Sohrab and Hassan in Afghanistan with their individual stories to tell. But, unfortunately, the news media tends to ignore their personal accounts of the war and destruction taking over their homeland. It is time to listen to their soft voices in the sandstorms of the Afghan deserts.
Usually I don't comment on the writing of the poster, but I must say that Betsy's was one of the best posts I have read thus far. I agree completely that Hosseini uses his talents as a writer of popular fiction to spread awareness of a serious subject. The Kite Runner, because it is the medium that it is, has the chance to reach many people that normally wouldn't read about Afghani history. It might not be the best source of information, but I applaud his efforts at educating a (generally) ignorant American audience. By the way, there is a fantastic Afghan restaurant on South Grand. I think it is called Sameem Afghan Restaurant. Trying it out might be a good way for everyone to further their knowledge of Afghan culture. Plus, it's good eatin'!
One statement in Betsy's blog bothers me. "Although intensified for fictional purposes, the reader cannot ignore the evil and sickening presence of Assef in the novel and the Taliban in Afghanistan." The injustice experienced by the characters in The Kite Runner may not be historical fact, but I think it discredits the author to assume that the indecency here has been "intensified for fictional purposes." Hosseini in his acknowledgments credits one Daoud Wahib for "sharing his experiences in Afghanistan with me." (Remember Amir's Kaki Daoud?) This tells me that the injustices Amir experiences are more fact than fiction. Even if Hosseini exaggerates I would argue that it is not to sensationalize his fiction but to call attention to the reality therein. Also the fact that the narrator is an Afghan novelist should tell readers of a novel by an Afghan that there is honesty within. Finally the fact that Hosseini dedicates the novel to the children of Afghanistan directs our attention to the real victims who suffer under the Taliban.
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