The importance of setting
Explain the importance of the setting (historic, social, cultural, political) and its influence on how the narrator (Amir) tells his story.
Social Castes :
- Amir (high caste, Pashtun)
- Hassan (low caste, Hagara)
- Just before the Russian invasion
- Islamic Country
- Baba was a powerful figure in Kabul society
The first three chapters of the novel tell us the basic facts of the story such as who the major characters are, their backgrounds, and what their relationships with each other are like. The section also establishes a context for the information: Amir, our narrator, is an adult living in the United States and looking back on his childhood years in Afghanistan. In fact, history is an important theme in the novel, and looking back on the past is a recurring motif. That’s because, for Amir, the past is not over. He believes it to be a fundamental part of who he is, and no matter how far he is in time or location from his childhood in Afghanistan, the events of that period are always with him, he feels a tremendous sense of guilt about those events, and he believes they shaped him into who he is. This guilt, informs the entire narrative.
“Almost two years had passed since we arrived in the U.S., and I was still marveling at the size of this country, its vastness. Beyond every freeway lay another freeway, beyond every city another city, hills beyond mountains and mountains beyond hills, and, beyond these, more cities and more people.
Long before the Roussi army marched into Afghanistan, long before villages were burned and schools destroyed, long before mines were planted like seeds of death and children buried in rock-piled graves, Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. A city of harelipped ghosts.
America was different, America was a river, roaring along, unmindful of the past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins.
If for nothing else, for that, I embraced America.”
What language techniques does Hosseini employ in this passage?
What is the effect of his use of these language techniques?
Explain the importance of the setting and its influence on how the narrator tells his story.
The setting of Kabul, Afghanistan is hugely socially, politically and culturally important in the novel The Kite Runner. The story is told from the point of view of Amir, retelling the years he was growing up in Kabul and events that influenced his life, and his long journey from guilt to redemption.
Because the story is set in Afghanistan and told from the point of view of a local boy, we learn aspects of a different society – Islamic religion, the different classes in Afghani society, local festivals and activities – specifically the sport of kite running. We are also exposed to numerous Farsi (Afghani) and Islamic words and phrases, which add cultural depth and authenticity to Amir’s voice.
We also see life in Kabul disrupted by the overthrow of the monarchy, then the Russian invasion which eventually leads to Baba and Amir having to flee Afghanistan and move to America as refugees. As Amir tells us:
“For me, America was a place to bury my memories. For Baba, a place to mourn his.”