Cultural Differences in Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner”
Literature has the capacity to provide insight into cultures from around the world. In the books one reads and the stories one hears, glimpses of different worlds become apparent and one is able to see how the different aspects of a culture work together to create a national identity. The music, cuisine, language and art depict much of what a culture consists of but some of the most important cultural cues come in the types of relationships formed between people. Whether the stress is on friendships or in intimate relationships can say much about a cultural identity. In the novel "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini, American and Afghanistan cultures are compared and contrasted through the types of relationships that are formed by the main character and protagonist, Amir.
The novel begins in Afghanistan, the childhood home of Amir. In this part of the novel, there is a complete absence of women and the stress of relationships lies on the ties that are formed between males. Amir nor Hassan have a mother and there is absolutely no mention of women or the part they play in daily life in Afghanistan. Instead, there is much focus on the ties that exist between father and son and in the friendships made between males. There is the relationship between Hassan and his father, between Amir father and his best friend as well as the central relationship between Amir and his father and the friendship between Amir and Hassan. The relationship between Amir and his father, Baba, is a very strained one. Amir is continually vying for his father’s attention and feels as though he constantly falls short. In contrast, the father and son relationship between Hassan and his father is full of love, understanding and comradeship.
The friendship between Amir and Hassan is a central relationship throughout the entirety of the novel and showcases the brother-like understanding between the two boys during their childhood. In their friendship one understands the strong bonds that can exist between two boys who grow up together. Their childhood together creates between them a bond that will last through the subsequent war and through another generation. Likewise, the friendship between Amir’s father, Baba and Rahim Khan shows the loyalty and trust that can form between two men in a culture that emphasizes the relationships and friendships among men. In Afghanistan there is a strong focus on male to male relationships. This reflects a cultural difference to the Western world in which the focus on relationships lies in male to female relationships, which one sees in the second half of the novel.
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Midway through the novel, Amir and his father emigrate to America and this cultural change is seen in the shift in relationships formed. This is the first time women play a leading role and the presence of women is a crucial part of the American culture he is thrown in. Here he meets his wife, Soraya and the role she plays in his life as his main support and other half is very important. The relation Amir has with his wife is a stark contrast to that he had in the past with males. America, as a representation of the West, culturally reflects the emphasis on male to female relationships. The importance here lies on the bonds that form in intimate settings, within the bonds of marriage or those in dating. The equality of women and their presence in literature and culture is a crucial idea in Western culture.
This stark contrast in the types of relationships highlighted in literature also illuminates the differences in culture between Afghanistan and America. In Afghanistan, where the Eastern culture is represented by the strength of male relationships, Amir’s world is surrounded by males and the bonds he makes with each of them. It is a culture that judges the character of a person based on the strength of their male relationships and loyalties with one another. However upon Amir and his father’s immigration to America, the presence of women becomes apparent. Almost immediately Amir is surrounded by women and finds himself a wife, Soraya. Soraya and her mother become solid characters in the novel at this point, signifying the cultural shift between life in Afghanistan without women and life in America with women. Soraya becomes the confidant and best friend of Amir and it is she who he continually counts on and leans on in times of need. Soraya’s presence in the second of half of the novel, in Amir’s life in America, is a significant cultural shift from his childhood life in Afghanistan.
The cultural differences between America and Afghanistan in Khaled Hosseini’s novel "The Kite Runner" are best seen in the types of relationships the protagonist, Amir, makes with those around him. Through examining these relationships, one can see the contrasts in the two cultures and how each culture holds different ideals important. In Afghanistan, the focus lays in the bonds that are formed among males and the qualities of loyalty, manhood and trust. In America it is the relationships formed between males and females that are held most important. In these bonds it is the characteristics of comradeship and equality that become the foundation for relationships. In his journey from Afghanistan to America, Amir learns how to compromise these two cultures through the bonds he makes–first with his father and Hassan, and later with his wife, Soraya. Culture plays a large part in discerning the types of relationships we make in our lifetime. As in the Hosseini’s novel, where one lives plays a large part in who one is close to and holds dear to his or her heart.