The narrator and the protagonist of the story. Amir is the sensitive and intelligent son of a well-to-do businessman in Kabul, and he grows up with a sense of entitlement. His best friend is Hassan, and he goes back and forth between acting as a loyal friend and attacking Hassan out of jealousy whenever Hassan receives Amir’s father’s affection. Amir is a gifted storyteller and grows from aspiring writer to published novelist. His great desire to please his father is the primary motivation for his behavior early in the novel, and it is the main reason he allows Hassan to be raped. From that point forward, he is driven by his feelings of guilt as he searches to find a way to redeem himself. Ultimately he does so through courage and self-sacrifice, and he tells his story as a form of penance.
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Amir’s best friend and half-brother as well as a servant of Baba’s. Hassan proves himself a loyal friend to Amir repeatedly, defending Amir when he is attacked and always being ready to listen. His defining traits are bravery, selflessness, and intelligence, though his smarts are more instinctual than bookish, largely because he is uneducated. As a poor ethnic Hazara, he is considered an inferior in Afghan society, and he is the victim of racism throughout the novel as a result. He is Baba’s illegitimate child, though he is not aware of this fact, and he grows up with Ali acting as his father. His rape is an early catalyst in the story, and even though he is not present in a significant portion of the novel, he plays a major role throughout.
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Father of Amir and Hassan and a wealthy, well-respected businessman. Baba believes first and foremost in doing what is right and thinking for oneself, and he tries to impart these qualities to Amir. He also never lets anyone’s lack of belief in him stop him from accomplishing his goals. Although he distrusts religious fundamentalism, he follows his own moral code and acts with self-assurance and bravery. When necessary, he is even willing to risk his life for what he believes in. Yet his shame at having a child with a Hazara woman leads him to hide the fact that Hassan is his son. Because he cannot love Hassan openly, he is somewhat distant toward Amir and is often hard on him, though he undoubtedly loves him.
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Acting father to Hassan and a servant of Baba’s. Ali is defined by his modesty more than anything, and he works diligently as Baba’s servant. He loves Hassan deeply, though he rarely expresses his emotions outwardly. Poor and an ethnic Hazara, he suffers from partial paralysis of his face and walks with a limp caused by polio.
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Son of Hassan and Farzana. In many ways, Sohrab acts as a substitute for Hassan in the novel, and he is a central focus of the plot in the later sections of the book. He is also an ethnic Hazara and is great with a slingshot. His character arc takes him from being a normal little boy to the traumatized victim of sexual and physical abuse, and he goes from speaking very little to not at all.
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Hassan’s and Sohrab’s rapist and the novel’s antagonist. Assef represents all things wrong in Afghanistan. A racist who wishes to rid Afghanistan of Hazaras, he is incapable of remorse and enjoys inflicting violence and sexual abuse on those who are powerless. He even claims Hitler as a role model.
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Friend of Baba and Amir. Rahim Khan is Baba’s closest confidant, and the one man who knows all of Baba’s secrets. For Amir, he serves a father figure, often giving Amir the attention he craves and filling the holes left by Baba’s emotional distance.
Amir’s driver and friend. A former mujahedin fighter, Farid is at first gruff and unfriendly. But he becomes a valuable and loyal friend to Amir in Amir’s search to find and rescue Sohrab. He is missing toes and fingers from a landmine explosion and represents the difficulties that many Afghans faced in the years of warfare that ravaged the country.
Hassan’s mother and Ali’s wife for a time. Though Sanaubar is infamously immoral in her youth and abandons Hassan just after he is born, she proves herself a caring grandmother to Sohrab when she reappears later in the novel.
Amir’s wife. Soraya is steady, intelligent, and always there for Amir when he needs her. She can be strong-willed like her father, General Taheri, and deplores the way women are often treated in Afghan culture.
Soraya’s father and a friend of Baba. General Taheri is proud to the point of arrogance at times, and he places great value on upholding Afghan traditions. He is in many ways the stereotypical Afghan male, both in his roles as a father and husband.
General Taheri’s wife and Soraya’s mother. Jamila plays the part of the typical Afghan wife and mother. She obeys her husband without question and wants nothing more than to see her daughter married.
A boy from Amir’s and Hassan’s neighborhood. Cowardly and conformist, Kamal helps Assef rape Hassan. After he is raped himself, he becomes a symbol of the brutality that destroys Afghanistan.
Soraya’s uncle. When Sharif first appears, he is just a minor figure at Soraya’s and Amir’s wedding. Later, however, he becomes instrumental in helping to get Sohrab into the United States.
Amir’s mother. Though Sofia died during childbirth, Amir knows she loved literature as he does. Amir seeks information about her at various points in the novel.
Hassan’s wife and Sohrab’s mother. Farzana appears only briefly, but in that time she is portrayed as a loving mother.
One of the boys from the neighborhood who helps Assef to rape Hassan. Wali is depicted as a conformist.