Posted in Character Sketches

“For you, a thousand times over.”

The Kite is a symbol of freedom, of man’s primaeval need to fly, to be as light as a feather. When you can fly, the dangers and harm of the world seem inconsequential. In the neighbourhoods of Kabul, boys take part in kite-flying competitions, looking upwards in hope. Sometimes, though, hope is futile and becomes a mere empty word. 

In the Kite Runner, we travel from Kabul in the 1970s to San Francisco in 2001. Here, we meet Amir, who is a bright, bookish boy who loves writing stories and reading tragic tales of old. He is quiet and hates violence. But quietness and cowardliness are separated by a skinny line. Hassan is his best friend. Intelligent and brave and kind, he was born with a cleft lip. The same woman nursed him and Amir, and without knowing it, they became half-brothers. However, his bad luck is that he belongs to a low caste. And then tragedy strikes, born out of hatred and ridiculous discrimination. At that moment, Amir reveals an impossibly ugly side of his character, and his life is never the same again. 

Hassan is one of the pivotal characters of this novel, and he impacts the life of the protagonist, Amir, in more ways than one. If Amir’s character arc is about growth, Hassan’s arc is about not changing at all. Throughout his entire life, right till his death, Hassan remains the same: loyal, forgiving, and good-natured.

Motives, Actions & Values

Hassan’s absolute loyalty {especially towards Amir} and bravery is one of the most fundamental values that defined his entire life. Standing up for Amir at various instances of his life, he pays a huge price for his loyalty and love.

In fact, Hassan’s ability to suffer without becoming bitter is what truly separates Amir and Hassan. Even after being accused by Amir of stealing to losing his father to a land mine, Hassan’s letter to Amir is filled with love, warmth and brotherhood. Somehow it has never crossed Hassan’s mind to hold a grudge against Amir. It’s unthinkable for him and simply not a part of his character dynamic.

Another value that Hassan displayed throughout his life was an ingrained sense of morality. When Amir tells him to shoot a dog with his sling, Hassan is hesitant and eventually does so, only to prove his loyalty to Amir. Also, when he is asked to leave Baba’s house by the soldiers, he refuses to stand up to the injustice meted out to him and his wife – this eventually costs him his life. That’s not all – Hassan’s sense of morality was so strong that he successfully passes these traits and values to his son Sohrab as well. He even teaches Sohrab that he must not do bad things to anyone, not even bad people, because there might be a slight chance that they will become good later in their lives. That is why Sohrab is hesitant to shoot Assef with a slingshot, even when he had the opportunity and hit him only when he was finally backed into the corner and scared for Amir’s safety. 

Some other values that Hassan imbibed in his life are forgiveness, patience, integrity and a love for hard work. His forgiving nature is depicted best when after Amir betrayed him, he forgave him and refused to retaliate in any manner. As a child, Hassan was extremely hard working. He used to help his father Ali instead of going to school. 

Even as an adult, when he married and fathered Sohrab, he held these values close to his heart. Rahim Khan noted that his wife looked at him with a worshipping gaze, implying that Hassan was committed to his duties and remained a good father and husband till the end. 

Character Growth

All through the book, Hassan is portrayed as a flat character with characteristics opposite Amir. Hassan’s name means good or doer of good, and Amir describes him as a person who is “incapable of hurting anyone” (Hosseini 10). Furthermore, despite being subject to humiliation, injustice, and racism, Hassan remains complacent, good-natured, and meek. 

Belonging to the ethnic group of Hazaras, Hassan is brought up to serve the superior Pashtuns, and he does so without ever questioning his role in life. And even though Hassan is courageous enough to defend himself and Amir against bullies like Assef, he also acknowledges Assef’s social position about his own. Despite his small act of rebellion, Hassan is not challenging his own position as a Hazara in Afghanistan. His actions of standing up to Aseef have to be seen in the light of him defending his best friend and master, Amir and that way, and he continued to maintain the social structures.

Khaled Hosseini regards him as a flat character in terms of development; he is “a lovely guy, and you root for him, and you love him, but he’s not complicated.”

Conclusion

The main protagonist of Kite Runner might be Amir, but his story was incomplete without Hassan. Despite continuously being mistreated and betrayed, he still stands up for, protects, and loves Amir. Through his son, Sohrab, Hassan ultimately provides Amir a way to obtain salvation and an opportunity to atone for his previous wrongdoings. 

PS – According to Amir, the worst sin he committed was not saving Hassan from Aseef’s assault. That being said, Assef does enable Amir to forgive himself because it is only after Amir gets beaten by Aseef that he can forgive himself and take accountability for his actions. 

In the end, the comparison of Amir and Hassan, who have so many differences, helps us realise the importance of a person’s family and social status. The notion of loyalty that turns out to be one of Amir and Hassan’s similar qualities plays a vital role in both their lives. Although he is not present for most of the novel, Hassan’s plays a vital role in Amir, Baba, and even Sohrab.

Through the character traits mentioned above, it is easy to see why everyone admires Hassan. His qualities of courage, modesty, kind-heartedness and honesty are commendable, and he is a true testament of what loyalty means, even at the cost of personal hardships. 

Fan Letter 

An amazing letter penned by Shruti Sonal (@shruti_writes) was published on Terribly Tiny Tales. It was beautifully penned, and if you loved Hassan as much as we do, you would love it. Read the letter below.

Dear Hassan,

I saw a blue kite fly in the saffron sky today and thought of you. Thought of the first time I had found you, in the pages of a Khaled Hosseini novel, without knowing you will linger on in my memory for the rest of my life. I won’t lie to you. I have been in Amir’s shoes too many times, tongue-tied in situations that needed me to speak up. I have silently seen people close to me trembling in a dark alley and stood frozen in my spot. Your unconditional love and loyalty, even after being betrayed, taught me that there must be a way for all of us to be good again. You taught me that a small, skinny boy could store within himself an infinite sea of kindness and forgiveness. You taught me that friendship, in its purest form, would stand with courage a thousand times over. 

Because of you, I understood the silence of a generation of little boys in the streets of Afghanistan who were betrayed by empty promises and killed under the shadow of drones. Unfortunately, many more Hassans continue to disappear into pools of blood around the world. I write about you. I write about them. I write in the hope that one day, there would be enough words to fill the deafening silence. I know you watched Amir and your son rebuild their lives in a land far away from the streets of Kabul. Are there kites in heaven for you to run after? I hope, I really hope so. And even if there aren’t, I will send kites away to you, a million times over. ~ Shruti Sonal

Favourite Quotes From The Kite Runner

There is only one sin. and that is theft… when you tell a lie, you steal someones right to the truth.
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer.

Khaled Hosseini • The Kite Runner

It’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out.
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime…”
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

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