The Kite Runner is primarily an example of historical fiction in that it is set against a backdrop of historic events in Afghanistan, from the collapse of the monarchy to the rise and fall of the Taliban. As a genre, historical fiction focuses on a particular setting and the social conditions of the time period. Hosseini’s novel addresses the way real changes in Afghanistan’s political power permanently alter the lives of his fictional characters: the arrival of the Soviets forces Amir and Baba to immigrate to America and the Taliban’s reign leads to Hassan’s execution and orphans Sohrab. While these tumultuous events provide the action necessary to move The Kite Runner’s plot forward, Hosseini weaves in smaller-scale details of Afghanistan to create an authentic picture of his home country. For a mostly Western audience, details of the “musty-smelling bazaars” in Kabul, the tradition of winter kite-fighting tournaments, and the “bloodred pomegranate” trees provide rich glimpses into a largely unfamiliar setting and time.
The Kite Runner is considered a bildungsroman because it follows Amir’s transition from childhood to adulthood, telling the story of his development primarily in flashback. Bildungsromans are a subgenre of coming-of-age stories, and their focus is on the growth—both moral and psychological—of a young protagonist. From the very beginning, The Kite Runner establishes that twelve-year-old Amir’s life was profoundly shaped by witnessing Hassan’s rape. Throughout most of the novel, Amir wrestles with his inability to intervene in that moment and struggles to atone for his inaction. When Rahim Khan calls adult Amir and tells him “there is a way to be good again,” Amir leaves the life he has established in America to return to Afghanistan and make amends by rescuing Hassan’s son, Sohrab. As is typical of the bildungsroman genre, it is this return to his homeland that reveals Amir’s maturity, and after fighting Assef for Sohrab’s sake—something he couldn’t do for Hassan as a child—Amir notes that he is “healed at last.”