Importance of Setting
Social Castes – Amir = high caste (Pashtun) and Hasaan = low caste (Hazara).
Historical – just before the Russian invasion.
Cultural – Islamic country
Political – Baba was a powerful figure in Kabul Society
Explain the importance of setting (historical, social, cultural and political), and it’s influence on how the narrator (Amir) tells his story. Chapters 1-11 of the Kite Runner are set in Kabul in the year 1975, the years before the Russian invasion occurred. Kabul is hugely socially, politically and culturally important in the novel. The story is told from Amir’s point of view, retelling those years he was growing up in Kabul and events that influenced his life, and his journey to reach redemption.
Because the story is set in Afghanistan and told from Amir’s point of view we learn different aspects of society. In Kabul social castes and religion are very prominent. Amir is a high caste, Pashtun whereas his friend and servant, Hassan is a low caste muslim. Also local festivals and activities – specifically the sport of Kite Running. We are also exposed to numerous Farsi language and Islamic words and phrases, which add cultural depth and authenticity to Amir’s voice. Life in Kabul is also shown to be disrupted by overthrowing of the monarchy, then the Russian invasion which eventually leads to Baba and Amir having to flee their home and move to America as refugees.
“I took the form and turned it in. That night, I waited until Baba fell asleep, and then folded a blanket. I used it as a prayer rug. Bowing my head to the ground, I recited half-forgotten verses from the Koran – verses the mullah had made us commit to memory in Kabul – and asked for kindness from a God I wasn’t sure existed. I envied the mullah now, envied his faith and certainty.”
“Never mind any of those things. Because history isn’t easy to overcome. Neither is religion. In the end, I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi’a, and nothing was ever going to change that. Nothing.”
“Afghanistan is the land of Pashtuns. It always has been, always will be. We are the true Afghans, the pure Afghans, not this Flat-Nose here. His people pollute our homeland, our watan. They dirty our blood.” He made a sweeping, grandiose gesture with his hands. “Afghanistan for Pashtuns, I say. That’s my vision.”
“You couldn’t trust anyone in Kabul any more – for a fee or under threat, people told on each other, neighbor on neighbor, child on parent, brother on brother, servant on master, friend on friend. […]. The rafiqs, the comrades, were everywhere and they’d split Kabul into two groups: those who eavesdropped and those who didn’t. The tricky part was that no one knew who belonged to which. A casual remark to the tailor while getting fitted for a suit might land you in the dungeons of Poleh-charkhi. Complain about the curfew to the butcher and next thing you knew, you were behind bars staring at the muzzle end of a Kalashnikov. Even at the dinner table, in the privacy of their home, people had to speak in a calculated manner – the rafiqs were in the classrooms too; they’d taught children to spy on their parents, what to listen for, whom to tell.”