The Kite Runner is a film which not only provides an interesting glimpse into Afghani culture but also provides an example of a clear case of social stratification. This essay, written for sample use by one of our freelance writers, reviews the Kite Runner in great detail; while it is not necessarily a critical review, it illustrates contemporary Afghani society, touching on concepts like socioeconomic class discrepancies in the Middle East.
The Kite Runner: A Critical Review
The Kite Runner is the story of a two young boys growing up in Afghanistan before the invasion by the Soviet Union. Amir is the son of a wealthy philanthropist. His best friend Hassan is the servant’s son. Despite their friendship, distinct class differences are present throughout their relationship. The class differences become ever more evident after a horrific incident shatters their friendship and shapes whom they will become as men.
Different classes of people depicted
The social stratification in the film is based on not just money but also on which ethnic class you belong. Hassan is a Hazara, which is a group of people in Afghanistan who have been discriminated against. Throughout the film, Hassan has to deal with the prejudices of being a servant and being part of a discriminated group of people. Hassan would still have been a servant if he hadn’t been a Hazara and he would have faced some injustices. However, the film indicates that Hassan faced far worse discrimination being that he was a Hazara and not just a servant.
The social stratification is evident on the first appearance of the boys. Amir is well dressed and tends to wear more western clothes. Hassan wears traditional Afghani clothing that appears to be older and worn away. Their living situations also demonstrate the class disparity. Hassan lives in a small hut with little furniture or decoration. Amir, on the other hand, has a lavish room that is bigger than Hassan’s living arrangements. Amir is also educated and can read while Hassan is illiterate.
The class difference is also depicted in the way in which the characters in the movie speak to each other. Hassan will frequently look down rather than look Amir straight in the eye. Hassan would also speak to Amir with a term of respect by calling him “Amir Jaan”. Amir never uses these terms when addressing Hassan. It also appeared throughout the film that Hassan was careful around Amir as he would use his words carefully or would always support anything Amir said. Even Hassan’s father who is a servant speaks to Amir in a tone of respect. Although it should be Amir addressing Hassan’s father with respect as he is older than him and is the father of his friend.
Materialism in The Kite Runner
The way in which the character approached materialism was also indicative of the social standing between the two. The wealthy family appeared to strive for material excess with their lavish vehicles and parties. Hassan and his family appeared to be happy with what they have and only strived to work hard. Hassan’s sole motivation throughout the film is to serve Amir and his family. When Amir’s father tells him, he is giving him a gift he does not expect it to be something material such as a kite.
The horrific act that occurred to Hassan could also be seen as occurring due to Amir’s drive for material objects. While the film does not give a clear reason for why Amir did not attempt to protect his film several assumptions can be made. Amir may have been afraid or may have felt that he could not have done anything. However, the assumption could also be made that Amir wanted the kite to take back to his father to prove that he won the competition. The kite is later shown to be hanging in the hallway in the family home as a trophy another indicator of material excess.
The downfall of Hassan in the film could lead to some interesting assertions by Karl Marx. The assertion could be made that Hassan belonged to the proletariat class and Amir belongs to the bourgeois class. Through this analysis, it could be determined that Hassan’s ever-striving need to please and serve his master led to his destruction. If Hassan had chosen not to go back and work for Amir’s interests, he might still have been alive. Furthermore, had Hassan left the home rather than choosing to protect it he would also have still been alive. The assumption could also be made that Amir fit the role of belonging to the bourgeois class well as he did not appear to stand up for Hassan until he found out he was his brother. Once he heard this, Amir went into even more dangerous territory to save his nephew.
Two scenes in the film bring the audience right into the issue of social stratification. The first is the scene in which the older boys attack Hassan. As Amir watches the attackers encourage Hassan to give up the kite. They state that he is just a servant to Amir and he does not care for him. They also state that Amir would never stand up for him, which Amir subsequently proves. During this scene Hassan is unwavering of his support of Amir as he chooses to get beat rather than give up the prize Amir has won. In this scene, Hassan is beaten because he is of a lower ethnic group but primarily as the servant of Amir he chooses to perform his duty at any cost.
In the second scene, Amir projects his feelings of guilt onto Hassan. While Hassan is attempting to learn to read on his own Amir insults him. Amir then begins to throw pomegranates at Hassan in an attempt to incite him. As Hassan has promised him that he would do anything for him, even eat dirt if Amir asked him to, he does not hit Amir. Rather he takes a piece of pomegranate and hits himself with it.
The hurt is evident in Hassan after these moments in the film, as he does not want to get out of bed or interact with others. However, after a while, Hassan returns to his dutiful role as the servant’s son. Hassan even confesses to a crime he did not do so as not to get Amir in trouble. His unwavering support towards Amir is left unfulfilled as Amir’s guilt causes him to shun Hassan. Although Amir appears to be in pain and missed his friend, he does not attempt to reconcile.
Lower class is a death sentence
Which social class they belong in also sets the future of the boys. When the Soviet Union invade Afghanistan, Amir is able to flee with his father and eventually arrives in the United States. Although as a Hazara it would have been more beneficial for Hassan to leave the country, lack of money prevents him from doing so. Hassan is forced to live in a village in Afghanistan and is eventually killed by the Taliban, an Islamic terrorist group. It could be assumed that if Hassan was not in the social class that he was, he might also have been able to flee the country to the refuge of the United States.
The Kite Runner is an excellent depiction in the way in which social stratification affects the way of life a person must lead but also the eventual outcome of a person’s life. In the film, Amir appears to have first world problems. He has to worry about his guilt and cowardice rather than how he will survive. Hassan, on the other hand, has to put survival first and foremost despite having experienced the worst atrocities. Hassan cannot focus on his guilt rather he has to keep working and serving those above him to eat.
The final act of the film in which Amir achieves redemption also depicts social stratification. In this act, a rich man commits a selfless act of charity in bringing a poor orphan boy into his home. Had we stayed with the family longer we may have seen a glimpse of the emotional pain the orphan is going through. We may also have seen the family having difficulty with the orphan not appreciating the material excess that he has now been given. Rather we are shown a happy ending in which the orphan appears to begin to trust his new family and rise in the ranks of a social class, which was something he would never have been able to do in Afghanistan. With arriving in the United States and losing the label of Hazara, the orphan was able to achieve the American dream.
Interested in other books turned into movies? Check out our comparative essay on The Sun Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
Forster, M. (Director). (2007). The Kite Runner [Motion picture]. USA: Dreamworks SKG.