The opening scene of Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner plays a significant role in setting the tone for the whole novel by giving the readers a glimpse of the major themes of the novel, which are redemption, sin, guilt, loyalty, betrayal and friendship. The technique of foreshadowing has been effectively used in order to present to the readers a small prospect of the novel, along with making the readers curious to find out as to what is going to happen next. The first chapter also suggests that the past consisted of a certain incident which played a major role in twisting the life of the narrator. The narrator speaks about his past and therefore the technique of a flashback has been used. This gives the reader a very strong feeling of mystery and ambiguity, and coerces the reader to read on.
The author has also presented to the readers the period of time when the narrator was residing in Afghanistan. The year 1975, twenty six years back, was the time when the life of the narrator reached a milestone of his life. The time is probably given such importance in order to convey to the readers as to how long the narrator has tried to erase his dreadful memories and for 25 whole years has he been trying to bury his sins and his sense of guilt. The year also plays an important role in showing the period of time when Afghanistan changed, the vicious transition from a land of tradition and brotherhood to the land of bloodshed, chaos and sorrow. The narrator tried to escape his sins by moving away to another continent, miles and miles away from his home, Afghanistan, and spent 25 years still unsuccessful in forgetting his horrifying memories.
The image of the two kites also strikes a memory in the narrator’s mind and reminds him of his past, hassan and his words echoeing in his mind “For you, a thousand times over”. Hassan is one of the most important characters in the novel, since it was his rape that triggered the transformation of Amir’s character. The kite represents the time when Amir and Hassan were one as a team and the difference in their social status was ruled out, to a certain extent. The kites brought back the beautiful and unblemished memories of the days Amir spent with his loyal, best friend, Hassan.
The kite also stands as a negative symbol indicating the day of the kite flying tournament, which was the day when hassan got raped while obtaining the kite Amir had cut. It was this day when Amir left his helpless friend hassan alone and realized the intensity of his cowardice by leaving a friend in trouble, who would have gone to any limit in order to protect Amir. The kite also rests as a link between Amir and his father, Baba, since it was this one activity of Amir that made his father proud of him. This shows that Amir would not let go this opportunity to obtain the lacking love of a father. The kites, finally show the relationship between Amir and Hassan, their similarities and the differences.
The “twin kites” show the half-blood relationship between Amir and hassan and the fact that both of them breasted from the same nurse. It can be noticed that they may be half brothers and therefore related, however, they did not share personalities. In fact, Amir’s personality was a contrasting one to Hassan’s. The difference highlighted between Amir and Hassan by the symbol of kites is mainly that of their social stature.
The everlasting gap between Amir, who represents a Pashtun and Hassan, who represents a Hazara, can be clearly seen in the kite tournament when Amir, the ‘superior’ class holds the thread and claims the victory when it is in reality Hassan, the hazara, who runs the kite and makes Amir win. The introduction of Kites in the first chapter is an excellent decision of the author to convey to the readers the significance this symbol has in the novel and that it is these kites which mirror the major themes of betrayal, redemption, loyalty and undying friendship.
The opening scene also describes the site where the incident of Hassan’s rape took place, “crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek”. This shows the readers the significance of the event and the degree of importance in Amir’s life, since he remembers such minute details of the dreadful scene he saw. It also stands as a symbol of Amir’s mindset, his soul shattering like the “crumbling mud wall” because of his sins.
The significance of the winter scene is understood later on in the novel when learn that Hassan was born in winter. The atmosphere of a winter setting presents a very negative connotation and makes the atmosphere very gloomy, depressing and dull. This could probably have been shown to foreshadow the monotonous life that Hassan would have to live. The event of Hassan’s rape also occurred in winter, and the memory was frozen in Amir’s mind for the past 25 years with no success of being able to forget it. The physical descriptions are not only to set the atmosphere of the novel but to also depict the mindset of the narrator.
The first chapter of the novel has also the introductions of the main characters in the novel, the sources that lead to the development of the protagonist’s character, i.e. Amir’s character. It can be noticed that the name of the narrator, i.e. Amir, has not been mentioned in the first chapter. This could probably show the importance these other characters had in casting the character of Amir. Two of the important characters of the novel are Rahim Khan and Hassan. Rahim Khan, who plays the major role of making Amir realize his big mistake that of betraying his best friend Hassan and conveys to him that “there is a way to be good again”. Rahim Khan has also been shown as a father figure later on in the novel which provides immense support in making Amir choose the right path that of redemption.
The other major introduction in the opening scene is that of “Hassan, the hare lipped kite runner”. It can be noticed that Hassan’s name is taken by the narrator before the narrator discloses his own name, i.e. Amir. This shows the importance of Hassan’s character in the novel since it is Hassan whom the pain is inflicted on and the major incident and turning point of the novel is also directly connected with Hassan. According to me, Hassan is a symbol used to represent Afghanistan.
The pain inflicted on Afghanistan is shown by the merciful rape of Hassan and the helplessness he bears due to having a weak social status, that of a servant, just as Afghanistan is considered a weak and a helpless country. Another important observation is that Hassan is the Kite Runner in the novel and since the title of the novel is Kite runner, it clearly shows the significance of the role played by Hassan. It probably shows that Amir, who is the narrator, is not the central character of the novel, but it is Hassan who plays the most important role in the novel.
Another important aspect introduced in the opening scene is the technique of foreshadowing. This is probably one of the major tools used by the writer to make aware or hint the readers as to what they can expect to experience in the later parts of the novel. The presence of the incident which is kept secret from the audience creates a sense of suspense, which also exemplifies the importance this event has in the life of the narrator. The narrator is shown speaking about this particular incident throughout the opening scene and the past of the narrator is portrayed as extremely sinful.
The character of Amir, though the name is not mentioned, is also portrayed since the narrator says he has been “peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years”. The act of peeking is considered to be cowardly since the observer merely hides behind a covering object and views the scene from a safe distance, as in Amir’s case, it was the rape of his best friend Hassan, and the cowardice of Amir made him betray his best friend by not standing up for him and protecting him as he simply “peeked” at his friend getting mercilessly raped. Another aspect of Amir’s character has been portrayed in the opening scene, which is that Amir had kept the guilt hidden in himself for such a long period of time and did not take any action towards redemption.
The thought of redemption only came to his mind after Amir found out that Rahim Khan knew of his terrible sins and after Rahim Khan coaxed him to return to Afghanistan for his opportunity to “be good again”. This shows that Amir’s cowardice and betrayal had taken over his self respect, self realization, integrity and the emotions of friendship and regret and ‘made him what he is today’, a cowardly human being who is running away from the truth of his life. The opening scene is presented in short, though appropriately and powerfully, using the technique of foreshadowing and presenting to the readers the main themes of betrayal, guilt, loyalty and redemption along with portraying the major characters of the novel. The opening scene prepares the readers very well for the remarkable story which is about to unfold.