In this article you will learn about the archetypes in The Kite Runner, the 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini, which contains examples of various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.
What are the Archetypes in The Kite Runner?
Hassan is the archetypal hero of the story and Amir the shadow hero who only really comes good at the end.
Hassan personifies the qualities most associated with the hero – strength, determination, courage, bravery, morality and a strong sense of what is right and wrong. He is prepared to lay himself on the line for the people he loves and the things he believes in.
Amir, by contrast, is weak both physically and mentally.
His decision making is flawed, always taking the option which is easiest for himself rather than considering the needs of others, and willing to undertake actions which put others at risk if it will benefit him. Only in the later part of the book does he begin to redeem himself from this, showing finally that he is capable of heroic qualities, but even then he has to be rescued and shown the way by Sohrab.
Rahim Khan acts as a sage in the book – a wise person who is able to provide sage advice and guidance which will set Amir on the right path again rather than letting him continue to stray.
Baba is both an archetypal father and mentor figure, a strong guiding hand for both Hassan and Amir who seeks to nurture them both but cannot help be disappointed when he sees Amir going wrong. Nevertheless, his love for his sons outweighs his disappointment in their flaws and he is willing to forgive the mistakes they may make.
Assef is undoubtedly the archetypal villain of the piece, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
Violent and full of sadistic desires, he lets his own wants, needs and world view completely outweigh the impact of his resulting actions on anyone else. He is a bully who idolises Hitler and joins the Taliban, with racists views and who is determined to exert power and control over those around him.
The Kite Runner Book Summary
- Amir, a Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara boy and son of Amir’s father’s servant, fly their kites near peaceful Kabul to escape the horrific reality of life.
- Hassan is a “kite runner” for Amir, knowing where the kite will land instinctively. Both are motherless.
- Amir’s father loves both, buying Hassan the same things as Amir, though this annoys Amir, and paying for corrective surgery for Hassan’s cleft lip.
- Amir’s father Baba, though, considers him weak and threatens him with physical punishment when he complains about Hassan. Amir prefers Rahim Khan, Baba’s closest friend, who supports his interest in writing.
- Amir asks Baba why he drinks alcohol, prohibited by Islam, and Baba tells him the only real sin is theft.
- Assef, an older and violent boy, mocks Amir for socializing with a Hazara, believing them an inferior race.
- Hassan defends Amir from Assef’s attack and Assef swears revenge.
- Amir wins a kite-fighting tournament and earns Baba’s praise.
- Hassan runs for the last cut kite as a trophy for Amir, but encounters Assef in an alleyway.
- Assef beats and rapes him as Amir watches, too scared to intervene. Despite feeling great guilt he stays quiet, knowing Baba would be ashamed of his cowardice, and keeps distant from Hassan, whose mental and physical health deteriorate.
- Amir thinks life would be easier without Hassan around and plants a watch and money under Hassan’s mattress, hoping Baba will make him leave. Hassan falsely confesses but Baba forgives him. However, Hassan and his father leave anyway as Hassan has revealed to his father what happened to him.
- Five years on, the USSR has invaded Afghanistan. Baba and Amir escape to California. Amir meets fellow refugee Soraya. Baba is diagnosed with terminal cancer but asks Soraya’s father’s permission for Amir to marry her.
- The two marry shortly before Baba dies. They have a happy marriage but learn that they cannot have children.
- Fifteen years on Rahim Khan is dying and asks Amir to visit him in Peshawar.
- Amir learns that Hassan and his father are dead. Hassan refused to allow the Taliban to confiscate Baba and Amir’s house in Kabul and was killed as a result.
- Khan reveals that Hassan was actually the son of Baba and Amir’s half brother.
- Khan has called Amir to Pakistan to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab, from a Kabul orphanage.
- Amir learns Sohrab has been taken from the orphanage by a Taliban official, who is revealed to be Assef.
- Sohrab is being kept by him as a dancing boy. Assef will hand him over if Amir beats him in a fight. Amir is badly beaten until Sohrab uses a slingshot and fires a brass ball into Assef’s eye.
- Amir plans to take Sohrab to America and adopt him but the US authorities demand evidence of his orphan status, meaning he may have to go back to the orphanage until they can get evidence.
- Sohrab attempts suicide.
- Amir eventually manages to take him back to the United States but Sohrab refuses to interact with him until Amir tells him about Hassan and the kites.
The Kite Runner Archetype Examples
- Shadow hero
Want more literary archetypes?
Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.