The Kite Runner and Coming-of-Age Stories
The Kite Runner draws on the tradition of coming-of-age novels, which follow a young protagonist who begins the story as a child, but “comes of age” as a result of the events of the story, ending as a fully mature and enlightened adult. An early example is Homer’s Telemachy, the first four books of The Odyssey that depict Telemachus’s journey from boyhood to manhood, a necessary process in order for him to later help his father defeat their enemies. Hosseini likely drew from more recent coming-of-age stories, such as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, two American classics that are narrated after the fictional events take place, and emphasize the protagonists’ internal monologues. Hosseini similarly chooses to situate his story within the mind of Amir, who recounts his story in a memoir-like fashion.
Despite the similarities The Kite Runner shares with many coming-of-age stories, Hosseini plays with the expectations of the genre by presenting a story where Amir fails to come-of-age as a teenager. When faced with the decision to either defend Hassan and be beaten, or abandon Hassan and flee, Amir makes the child-like, fearful choice and essentially freezes his development in the trauma of that moment in the alley. When Amir is able to resume that moment as a thirty-eight-year old man in Afghanistan—by literally fighting Assef, the same person who raped Hassan—he resumes his development and reaches maturity.