Similarly to Atonement, The Kite Runner is a first person narrative retrospective novel.
The narrator is Amir who looks back across his life. The story unfolds through the first person narrative mode, and is structured through the memory lane of the protagonist Amir whose sense of remorse and guilt over his sin make him commit acts of redemption similar to Briony in Atonement. Every memory Amir tells, even the happy ones, are tainted with guilt from his childhood and using retrospective narration gives the power of hindsight and maturity, and offers insight and judgement on his earlier experiences and mistakes. Rahim Khan, who recounts what happened in Afghanistan while Baba and Amir were living in America, narrates one chapter, chapter 16.
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By using a different narrator to Amir, Hosseini allows Amir to gain further insight into Baba’s character. This insight comes from knowledge that Rahim Khan has about the past and Amir’s father. To build up dramatic tension Hosseini maintains Amir’s limited point of view to guide the reader’s interpretation of the events that take place. The introduction of Rahim Khan’s voice allows us to understand some of the events and ambiguities that Amir felt were present in his relationship with his father. In the opening chapter of The Kite Runner we are told how Amir’s ‘unatoned sins’ have plagued his conscience and caused him to feel guilt and shame ever since he cowardly left his friend Hassan to be raped, “That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty six years.” Amir seeks atonement for this as he hopes it will bring some relief and peace after such a long time ‘twenty six years’, this highlights the importance of the event to the reader because of the long time period that he has been regretting his actions.
Hosseini conveys Amir’s exploration for redemption by expressing his guilt that drives him to go on his journey to Kabul to find Sorhab and redeem himself for his sins by rescuing him from a war torn country where he had lost all his family. Additionally the imagery of Amir ‘peeking into that deserted alley’ conveys to the reader how Amir has suffered from having this recurring image in his head throughout his life, contributing to this festering feelings of guilt. Amir believes he is the only sinner in his family, which furthermore contributes to his need for atonement so that he no longer has to carry his betrayal of Hassan on his conscience.
The moral standard Amir must meet to earn his redemption is set early on in the book, when Baba asserts that a “boy who doesn’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything” . As a boy, Amir fails to stand up for himself and as an adult, he can only redeem himself by proving he has the courage to stand up for what is right. As Amir is now older he still has a complex towards his fathers righteous character, which Hosseini uses to power Amir’s need for redemption and to show that he is no longer a coward.