Cruelty and Abuse of Power in "The Kite Runner"

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1378 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 1378|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

The abuse of power can be defined as misusing one’s authority for his own personal gain or a lack of action when it is in one’s power to act against something negative. Khaled Hosseini’s novel, The Kite Runner, takes readers on an eye opening journey of peace and war in Afghanistan through the eyes of the young Afghan protagonist, Amir. In his novel, Hosseini emphasises the abuse of power through his characters and by using various literary techniques to portray an outlook on the way power is abused. He achieves this through Baba, who steals Ali’s wife and withholds Hassan’s right to his identity; Amir, who takes advantage of Hassan and allows him to be taken advantage of; and Assef, who exerts his control over others including Hassan.

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Being one of the richest men in Kabul, Baba is depicted to be noble and well-respected by the society. However, Hosseini emphasises that status can be misused and be used to justify wrongdoings. He brings this out by using irony in Baba’s words to Amir, “There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life,’ Baba said. ‘You steal his wife’s right to her husband, his children’s right to a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness… There is no act more wretched than stealing!”. Baba is portrayed to uphold this rule firmly, however, it’s ironic because he himself is a thief, and according to Amir, “he worst kind, because the things he’d stolen had been sacred: from me the right to know I had a brother, from Hassan his identity, and from Ali his honor.” In a sense, even Baba condones discrimination against Hazara people by refusing to acknowledge his son with a Hazara woman, Sanaubar. Hosseini uses the rule of three to create a large impact on the audience. He reminds readers that through Baba grew up with Ali, he abuses his position to cause mischief. Hosseini reflects on this through Ali’s use of dialogue, “But, Agha sahib, tell them who was the architect of the mischief and who the poor laborer?' Using Farsi endearments such as “Agha Sahib,” meaning “friend, sir,” and contrasting with his gentle reminder of the truth, Hosseini unveils the underlying pain of Ali to readers in order for term to understand the magnitude of Babas betrayal. Despite Baba stealing Ali’s wife, Hosseini shows that Ali can only forgive him as his friend and servant. Neglecting his own son, Baba hold much power over Amir, so much that Amir can’t laugh, “Baba’s stony eyes bore into mine and, just like that, I wasn’t laughing anymore.” This treatment of his son forces Amir to come to the conclusion that Baba “hated me a little.” The author uses pathos to appeal to the reader and sympathise with the young boy. He shows that Baba misuses his power over many people, including his own family.

As a young boy, Amir is subject to the discriminating views of society that Pashtuns are superior to Hazaras. These views blind him as Amir claims that, “I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara” and “nothing was ever going to change that. Nothing”. Regardless of being fed by the same “nursing woman,” Amir’s cruelty to Hassan reflects his belief of his “ethnic” superiority. He takes advantage of Hassan being illiterate and mocks him when he does not understand the meaning of “imbecile,” as he questions, “after all, what use did a servant have for the written word?”. Hosseini uses internal monologues as this to reflect on his offensive attitude towards the “Hazara.” Amir takes advantage of Hassan’s loyalty and questions whether he would “eat dirt” if he was told to. Despite knowing he was abusing his power, he claims, “there was something fascinating – albeit in a sick way – about teasing Hassan. Kind of like when we used to play insect torture. Except now, he was the ant and I was holding the magnifying glass.” Hosseini uses this to foreshadow Amir’s major betrayal. Moreover, the writer foreshadows Amir’s betrayal through narration where Amir states that “the next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph.” Using this techniques, the author emphasises that misusing one’s power can negatively impact an individual’s life. Furthermore, Hossieni uses the pomegranate tree to reveal the changes in their friendship throughout the novel. Initially the pomegranate is full of life, with leaves “dancing” in the breeze. But after Hassan’s rape and Amir’s lack of action, the tree becomes a symbol of bitterness, guilt and anger. Hosseini refers to the fruit as “overripe, pomegranate fruit,” to emphasise on Hassan’s wounds of a fresh betrayal. The writer foreshadows future events as he reveals the readers to Amir’s internal monologue, “I had one last chance to make a decision…I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan — the way he'd stood up for me all those times in the past…Or I could run. In the end I ran.” This internal monologue causes readers to think about the definition of the abuse of power. Amir’s failure to use his power changes both their lives forever. It is not just Baba who portrays the cruelty of human nature, Hosseini uses rhetorical questions to address the discriminating views of society when Amir reassures himself, “He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?” Amir believes that “Nothing was free in this world,” which suggests that Hassan was the sacrifice he needed to make in order to achieve Baba’s affection. But, by satisfying his desires, he perpetuates the prejudiced view of society that Hazaras are lesser beings than the Pashtuns. Contrasting to Amir’s cruelly, Hassan is presented as the “perfect” servant - the caricature of loyalty. This is because, as Hosseini suggests, Hassan has been conditioned to accept his servile place in society and suffers quietly. Silently, Hassan suffers indignity, which only serves to compound Amir’s guilt. Ironically, Hosseini juxtaposes this rape scene with the slaughter of a sacrificial lamb during the Muslim festival of Eid-e-Qorban through Amir’s flashback and by using terms such as “resignation”. Prior to this event, Assef had questioned Hassan, “before you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would he do the same for you?” Though Hassan has been oppressed countless times, he continues to remain loyal to Amir as his best friend. Despite betraying Hassan, Amir is quick to forget it all has he walks into his father’s “thick hairy arms.” Using a soft tone on these words, Hosseini suggests that it often easy for the Pashtuns to forget the harm they inflict on others.

Similar to Amir, Assef is also brought up in the unjust views of the society. Being the villain of The Kite Runner, he symbolises all evil. There are various instances in the novel where he abuses his power to very high extents. Claiming to know the new president of the Afghan Republic, Assef says, 'I'll ask the president to… rid Afghanistan of all the dirty, Kasseef Hazaras.' Hosseini uses terms such as “rid” and “dirty” to reflect on the bias upbringing that Pashtun children are brought up in. Hosseini uses Hassan and Sohrab’s rape as a metaphor of the Taliban’s rule over Afghanistan. As rape shows a complete physical and mental and physical domination over the victim, his rape shows how the Taliban both mentally and physically dominates Afghanistan. Furthermore, Assef is half German and idolizes Hitler, a man who abused his power over many. He is considered to be a “sociopath” who revels in the oppression of others. This draws a comparison to the Taliban’s rule and Hitler’s. When he takes his place as a high-ranking Taliban, he reaps chaos and abuses power simply because he enjoys power, violence and oppression.

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Khaled Hosseini gives his readers an important message about power. He uses the power of numerous character in his novel to reflect on the inequality of society. Readers gain insight into the extents that people go to achieve their desires. Through the novel, readers can relate the abuse of power in everyday society, not just through the character of his novel. 

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Cruelty and Abuse of Power in “The Kite Runner”. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Cruelty and Abuse of Power in “The Kite Runner”.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
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