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The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini
Main Ideas

Antagonist

Main Ideas Antagonist

Assef is the antagonist of the novel. Although Amir’s primary struggle is with himself and his decisions, Assef personifies the evil forces at work in Afghan culture and in Amir’s past that stand in Amir’s way. At the beginning of the novel, Assef terrorizes other children with his brass knuckles, idolizes Hitler, and eventually rapes Hassan. Assef instigates the rift in Amir and Hassan’s relationship and the intense guilt that haunts Amir throughout The Kite Runner. It is only when grown-up Amir physically confronts Assef, who has become a violent Taliban official, that the climax of the story is completed. Though Assef is an antagonist to Amir, the two men also share many commonalities. When Assef assaults and rapes Hassan as a child, Assef viciously manifests his sense of superiority. He feels racially, religiously, and socially superior to Hassan—a position which Amir also holds, although more implicitly. The parallel is apparent when Assef tells Amir, “We’re the same, you and I...You nursed with [Hassan], but you’re my twin.” Both men contributed to Hassan’s dehumanization: Assef by perpetrating the rape and Amir by failing to stop it.