The Phases of Tragedy

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ENG 4U The Kite Runner

Archetypes and Themes

The Phases of Tragedy

Complete Innocence:

- Hassan represents a suppliant character ("christ-like figure")

- His innocence is evident through his inability to harm others and his unquestioning loyalty to his position in life (servant class) and to Amir

- His unselfish personality/actions serve to amplify Amir's faults

- His innocence is lost during his rape (tragic fall) -- he learns of Amir's cowardice

Youthful Innocence of Inexperience:

- Hassan's innocence/belief in goodness in the world is lost when he is raped - (psychological turmoil) He is ashamed/unsure of how to react (though his depression is not long lasting)

- The controversial rape, watched by Amir marks his transition out of childhood. He is scarred by what he witnesses/ the knowledge that he betrayed a friend for fear of being hurt/shaming himself. As he is immature, he is unsure of how to handle his guilt (evident by his treatment of Hassan)

- Amir begins to see his surroundings as frightening -- he is haunted by the guilt of what he witnessed/lack of defense for his friend

- As Afghanistan becomes politically unstable, the innocence of the boys is also shattered as they realize their homeland is not a safe and idealistc place.

Completion of an Ideal:

- Hassan's ideal resides in his loyalty to Amir. His attempt to complete this ideal is evident in his loyaly to Amir -- even after the rape. He achieves completion of this ideal when he lies for Amir and admits to theft -- he realizes and accepts the decision that Amir wants him to leave. (final sacrifice)

- Amir's ideal is completed through the retrieval of the kite -- he has achieved his goal of proving his worth to his father, though this occurred at a great cost
Individual's Fault:

- Amir's fault resides in his selfishness (ex. purposely excludes Hassan from father son outings, as he wants to have "special" time with his father)

- This fault is further portrayed during the rape. Amir is traumatized by Hassan's treatment though does not intervene -- he is relieved only that he recieved the kite.

- Insecure and needs to feel superiour - exploits Hassan's iliteracy/loyalty (ex. you are an imbecile, would you eat dirt, etc.)

- As he cannot live with his guilty concsious, he wishes to send Hassan/Ali away from the only home they knew
- Baba's anger/unexplained resentment toward Amir is also a fault. This weakness makes Amir question his father's feelings toward him/Hassan. Baba gives little explanation for his distate for Amir and does not attempt to reconcile the rift between them -- this causes strife between them/leads Amir's enmity toward's Hassan and to end of friendship between the boys
- Hassan's blind loyalty can be seen as a fault. As Amir jealously exploits the boy, he is manipulated by Amir/tormented by Assef and friends -- His loyalty Amir brings him only to hardship in his childhood -- pain/knowledge of betrayal
Natural Law:

- Amir often wonders if God exists/questions God -- During the kite competition, he prays to win to prove his worth to his father

- Baba does not believe in religion -- though still has defining morals/ethics

- After Hassan's rape, Amir must seek redemption, questioning a higher power -- this quest for redemption from a higher power (Christ-like Hassan, etc) is a predominant theme throughout the novel

World of Shock and Horror:

- Hassan's rape is meant to both shock and horrify -- His rape is representative of 'man's inhumanity to man'/ the darkness in human nature

- The discrimanation of the Hazara's was also shocking -- the lack of empathy/humanity shown for a group of people, believed to be of a "lower class"

- Amir's actions toward Hassan were particularly shocking -- the manner in which he dealt with his guilt was detrimental to both Hassan and himself -- His lack of defense/later treatment for Hassan portrayed the human qualities of betrayal, cowardice, selfishness, thoughtlessness and jealousy

- Amir's/Baba's escape to America was horrifying -- the will to survive/hardships of the journey to America to get a better life (Baba defending woman in the truck on the way to Pakistan -- Hiding in the basement of a house for weeks, while waiting to be smuggled out of the country, death/suicide of people who have lost everything due to occupation)

- Russian occupation of Aghanistan -- disregard for human rights of others


Man’s Inhumanity to Man

1. Baba makes Amir feel unwanted and inadequate as his son

example pg. 25
2. Amir’s poor treatment towards Hassan, such as teasing, belittling, and exclusion

examples pg. 97/98 or pg. 110

3. Abuse inflicted upon Hassan by Assef and his friends because of the differences in classes

example pg. 80, pg.106

4. Discrimination and unfair treatment towards females

example pg. 121/122

Strength Of Character

- Exibits strength through his ability to endure the hardships of living with a father, who expects too much out of him and doesn't express any affection

-Also showed strength when he set a goal for himself and achieved it (kite tournament); Page 60

-The fact that he was able to live with the secret (of seeing Hassan get raped) shows that Amir is strong, in the sense that he didn't let it completely interfere with his daily life

-For the most part, Amir is depicted as having a lack of strength: he can't stand up for himself (Page 23-24), didn't save Hassan, lack of self-control (teasing/bullying Hassan), and the only way he can move on from "the incident" is by getting rid of Hassan


 Has a strong sense of humanity

o Knows his rights from wrongs

o Although many of his character strengths are good, they flaw him in the way that they keep him from his own integrity

 Love

o Hassan shows deep affection and respect for Amir

o Hassan does anything that Amir asks of him

o Hassan protects Amir from harm

o Hassan does all this without expecting anything in return from Amir, and continues to do so when Amir treats Hassan horribly
 Kindness

o Hassan is kind to everyone around him

o Hassan shows sympathy and compassion to Amir

o Hassan is humane, considerate, warm hearted and forgiving

 Loyalty

o Even though Amir continuously taunts, hurts (emotionally) , and mocks Hassan, Hassan continuously stands up for and helps Amir

o Nothing Amir does phases Hassan’s loyalty to him


1.) Respected member of any community

2.) He has great determination which, when focused, always leads to his success

3.) Lives by a code of honour that he does not let society influence or change

4.) He protects the innocent by standing up for what he believes is right

5.) He is fair and charitable, always gives to those in need

The resilience of the human spirit


  • Continues on after devastating losses (after the death of his wife he still lives life to the fullest, after losing everything he has in Afghanistan he tries his best in America for his son).

  • Eventually overcomes disappointment in Amir and learns to appreciate his writing.


  • In order to remain sane Amir separates himself and Hassan; his healing is frozen from that time on due to the lack of closure.

  • His desperation to make things right shows his desire to live.


  • Despite the rape and the coldness from his friend he endures, Hassan continues to do what he thinks is best for Amir.

Father and Son Relationship

Hassan and Ali:

-Ali's fatherly love is evident, they have a very open relationship in which Ali instills his own values in his son
Amir and Baba:

-Amir longs for Baba's approval, love, and acceptance

-Baba doesn't understand Amir and his actions and interests, however, Amir idolizes Baba and as a result understands his personality

-Baba is a very distant father, and rarely shows affection for Amir which affects Amir greatly

Rahim Khan and Amir:

-Rahim is a father-like figure or mentor to Amir because he understands Amir and encourages him to pursue his interest.

Discrimination,Biogtry, and Class Structure

  • Hassan and Ali are victims of both discrimination and bigotry due to their Hazara heritage

  • Through generations of prejudice, the Hazaras have become conditioned to accept slavery as their role; including the Hazara children. It is accepted by the culture as a normality and we see this when Amir does not realize why the Hazara people are servants and considered to be the lower class, but accepts it as something natural because he was born into a society that teaches acceptance of this bigotry.

  • Hazaras are also referred to as: mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkeys. (p.10)

  • Hassan and Ali are not only discriminated against because of their heritage, but also because of their physical appearance: Hassan’s cleft lip, and Ali’s facial appearance which cannot show any emotion as well as a deformed leg from getting polio in his youth.

  • Many instances when discrimination, class, and bigotry is portrayed throughout the novel:

    • Hassan and Ali live in a shack.

    • They are servants; fulfill errands such as grocery shopping from the market, laundry, ironing, serving meals, etc…

    • Hassan does not have the privilege to go to school, neither do any Hazara descent people, therefore they are illiterate.

Loyalty and Devotion


  • Shows unconditional loyalty towards Amir, even after the rape – pg. 111, pg. 94

  • “Blind devotion” – “The final sacrifice”


  • Loyal only to his own father (trying to redeem himself for killing his mom). Everything he does is with his father in mind; defends Baba, not Hassan


  • Shows loyalty to his Hazara servants (Ali because he is ‘like a brother’ and they grew up together) – “I forgive you” to Hassan and scolds Amir for wanting them to leave.



  • As a child, he lacked integrity, as demonstrated through his actions (even though he and Hassan are best friends, he doesn’t view Hassan as equal, abandoned Hassan at the most critical time)

  • Amir is older now and has integrity as he is reflecting


  • Stands up for his beliefs (protects the woman from Soviet – “War demands more decency…”

  • Establishment of orphanage is an example of “goodness of moral character”


  • There are two sides to this:

    • Hassan shows blind loyalty to Amir – sacrificing himself and getting raped is not worth Amir or his kite

    • On the other hand, Hassan has one value and moral only and that is to protect Hassan and maintain loyal to him. In this sense, he has a lot of integrity…

Tragic Hero

Amir is the tragic hero because he is flawed in many aspects, such as his daddy doesn’t love him and his mom isn’t alive. In that horrific act of rape, Amir couldn’t achieve his heroic pose; he couldn’t stand up for Hassan when it was most important. Amir is a liar, he isn’t brave, he does not stand up for himself, he’s a wimp and he’s irresponsible. Amir is tragic because he suffers, the love he feels he doesn’t receive from his dad, and especially with Hassan when he sees the love Baba gives Hassan. Amir is the hero because he’s the main character and he is an excellent kite fighter, so he’s heroic in that sense. He is also tragic because he got kicked out of his utopia when they left for America, because the Russians were mean. He can’t control most of this, such as the death of Baba, or even before that when they had to leave Afghanistan. These decisions were either made by Baba or another higher power, such as fate. Amir is the tragic hero because he is a victim of being tortured. He is tortured in his head with dreams and he can’t sleep.

Rahim Khan (Supporting character)

  • Very dear friend of Baba’s, also a business partner

  • Personality traits include: kind, forgiving, gentle, understanding, encouraging — also the “soothsayer figure” (foresees the inevitable), “Plain dealer” (represents the norm, or the accepted, an idol to Amir, from who Amir is gradually isolated)

  • We see several other sides to his character, and know that he is a complex character because he has faced several difficulties throughout his life (for example, falling in love with a Hazara, and being shunned by his family and separated from his love because of racial prejudices)

  • Acknowledges Amir’s creative writing ability, and is considered by Amir to be a very close friend, and even a father-like figure

  • Quotes: Page 1, Page 106, see also his letter to Amir

  • Persuades Amir to return to Afghanistan

Mr. A.G. Rehm Archetypes of Tragedy Page of

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