Symbolism in The Kite Runner

Symbolism in The Kite Runner

Symbolism in The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini soars beyond mere decoration. It forms the very wings that lift the story from a compelling narrative to a profound exploration of the human condition. While the dance of kites across the Kabul sky is the most recognizable symbol, Hosseini employs a rich element of imagery, each element imbued with deeper meaning. What are these hidden messages? What is the significance of kites and other potent symbols that illuminate the characters’ motivations? How do they represent the harsh realities of war-torn Afghanistan? How does symbolism in the kite runner impact the enduring themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the possibility of redemption?

An Introduction to The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is a novel written by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. It was published in 2003. It takes us on a journey through war-torn Afghanistan, following the lives of two boys, Amir and Hassan. Their unlikely friendship blossoms amidst the thrill of kite fights, a cherished tradition. But a single act of betrayal shatters their bond, leaving Amir grappling with guilt and a yearning for redemption. As Afghanistan descends into chaos, their destinies become intertwined, leading Amir down a path of courage, self-discovery, and the fight for what truly matters. This is a story that explores loyalty and the enduring power of childhood bonds. Also, it highlights the possibility of forgiveness in the face of unimaginable hardship.

girl holding kite Symbolism in The Kite Runner
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

The Use of Symbolism in The Kite Runner

The inspiration for the story came from Hosseini’s background and a personal connection to kite flying in Afghanistan. He heard about the Taliban banning kites, which struck a chord with him as a symbol of a lost way of life and a carefree past. This experience sparked the story that explores themes of friendship, betrayal, guilt, and redemption against the backdrop of a turbulent Afghanistan.

The Kites

As mentioned earlier, kites are the most prevalent symbol. They represent carefree joy and innocence in Amir and Hassan’s childhood. furthermore, it morphs into a symbol of competition and yearning for Amir’s father’s approval. Following Amir’s betrayal, the kite becomes a constant reminder of his guilt and shame.

The Cleft Lip

Hassan’s cleft lip is a physical manifestation of the social and economic disparity between him and Amir. While Amir enjoys a life of privilege, Hassan’s cleft lip is a constant marker of his lower social standing. This highlights the unfair realities that exist beneath the surface.

The Pomegranate Tree

The pomegranate tree serves as a silent witness to Amir’s betrayal of Hassan. It represents hidden truths and buried memories. Just as pomegranates hold numerous seeds beneath a seemingly whole exterior, the truth about Amir’s actions festers beneath the surface, waiting to be revealed.

The Mountains

The towering mountains surrounding Kabul represent the daunting challenges the characters face. They symbolize the weight of history. Also, it represents the seemingly insurmountable struggles that lie ahead, particularly the hardships brought on by war.

The Slingshot

Hassan’s slingshot is a symbol of his unwavering loyalty and protectiveness. He uses it not just for hunting but also to defend Amir. This showcases his unwavering commitment to their friendship.

The Watch

The watch, a gift from Baba to Amir, becomes a source of immense guilt. When Amir accuses Hassan of stealing it, the watch transforms into a symbol of his cowardice and his willingness to manipulate the truth to avoid blame.

The Flea Market

The flea market, a place Amir frequents, becomes a symbol of his yearning for connection and a reminder of his past mistakes. It’s where he encounters the woman who becomes his wife, offering a chance for a new beginning. Yet, it’s also where he might see Hassan again, a constant reminder of his guilt.

The Notebook

The notebook gifted by Rahim Khan to Amir becomes a symbol of self-discovery and confronting the past. Writing in the notebook forces Amir to confront his buried memories and guilt, paving the way for potential redemption.

The Car

The car gifted by Baba to Amir upon graduation symbolizes Amir’s escape from Afghanistan and a life filled with difficult memories. The car represents a chance to start anew, but also highlights the physical and emotional distance between Amir and his past.

The Blue Kite

The coveted blue kite in the tournament holds different meanings throughout the story. Initially, it represents Amir’s longing for his father’s approval. Later, it becomes a symbol of Hassan’s loyalty when he retrieves it for Amir. Finally, during Amir’s act of redemption, it signifies hope for a potential reconciliation with Sohrab and a chance to heal the past.

Figurative Language in The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini’s use of symbolism in The Kite Runner transcends the power of physicalities with its masterful use of figurative language. These literary devices paint vivid pictures, evoke emotions, and add depth to the characters and their experiences. Let’s see some key figures of speech that elevate the novel:


Hosseini employs similes to create relatable comparisons. We see this when Amir describes Baba’s snoring as “so much like a growling truck engine” (pg. 13), highlighting Baba’s strength and masculinity.


Metaphors create a stronger connection by directly comparing things. Assef’s screams after being shot by Sohrab are described as “the cries of a wounded animal” (pg. 291), emphasizing his loss of control and vulnerability.


Giving human qualities to inanimate objects breathes life into the story. The author describes the harsh Kabul winter as a “beast that had clamped its icy jaws on the city” (pg. 38), conveying the harshness and unforgiving nature of the season.


Exaggeration for emphasis is another tool in Hosseini’s arsenal. Amir’s fear of Assef is depicted when he says, “a thousand memories, a thousand accusations, crashed down on me” (pg. 188), highlighting the overwhelming nature of his guilt.

These are just a few examples of how symbolism in the kite runner is achieved with words. The beauty lies in how Hosseini weaves them together. They paint a richer picture of Afghanistan, the characters’ emotions, and the weight of their experiences.

The symbolism in The Kite Runner is like a masterfully woven carpet. Each element builds the story’s depth and complexity. these symbols gives us a deeper understanding of the character’s motivations.

Do these symbols resonate with you? Perhaps they remind you of your own experiences or cultural touchstones. If you’d like to get more captivating reads, subscribe to my newsletter for all the books Gen Zs are raving about! You’ll also get exclusive content and recommendations to fuel your literary adventures.

Tags :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.