- Amir – The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Amir is a wealthy boy who grows up in Kabul, Afghanistan with a sense of entitlement. Amir manipulates his privileged upbringing over his servant and loyal best friend, Hassan, whose aid he fails to come to when Hassan is being raped by older boys after a kite-fighting tournament. After Hassan is raped, the book focuses on Amir being driven by his feelings of guilt, his personal growth (as he and Baba move to the U.S.), and his quest for a way to redeem himself. Throughout the novel, his character ultimately changes from him being a selfish child to a selfless adult. He eventually marries Soraya, who cannot birth children, and they adopt Hassan's son, Sohrab.
- Baba – Father of Amir and also secretly to Hassan, Baba is a larger-than-life figure who works hard and doesn't let anyone's doubts stop him from accomplishing his goals, but stands by his own strict moral principles and is often tough on Amir. Baba’s great sin is committing adultery with Ali’s wife, a Hazara woman, and that he hides the fact that he is Hassan’s real father. Baba’s many works of charity, including the orphanage he builds, are part of his attempts to redeem himself from the guilty feeling of not being able to acknowledge Hassan as his son; however, his guilt does not diminish until him and Amir move to America and he is able to connect finally with at least one of his sons. Baba goes from a wealthy and well-respected, but unhappy, businessman in Afghanistan to a much happier gas station worker making little money in America.
- Hassan – Amir’s loyal childhood playmate/best friend/unknown half-brother/servant of Baba's, Hassan is a Hazara boy with a cleft lip — a symbol of his poor status in society. Hassan is an excellent kite runner, and is naturally intelligent, but because of his social class as a poor ethnic Hazara, is illiterate and seen as inferior in Afghan society. He becomes the victim of racism, rape, oppression, and murder over the course of his relatively short life, yet always remains loyal, forgiving, and good natured (especially to Amir) throughout the novel. Although he is not present for a majority of the novel, Hassan's plays a major role in the character development of Amir, Baba, and even Sohrab.
- Rahim Khan – Rahim Khan is Baba’s closest friend, business partner, and confidant. He is the only one who knows all of Baba's secrets (about his affair with Sanaubar and about Hassan). He serves as a friend and a father figure for Amir by giving him the attention and affection that Baba deprives him of, and by filling the void left by Baba’s emotional distance. For Sohrab, he serves as a Godsend by directing Amir to return to Afghanistan to adopt Sohrab after Hassan and Farzana are murdered by the Taliban.
- Sohrab – Son of Hassan and Farzana. For Amir, Sohrab serves as a means for Amir to atone for what happened between him and Hassan. Later on in the novel, he becomes the central focus of the plot as Amir seeks redemption by eventually adopting Sohrab. He is also an ethnic Hazara and is great with a slingshot, just like his father.
- Ali – One of Baba's loyal servants, Ali also acts as the "father" to Hassan. He loves Hassan, but he rarely openly expresses his emotions. A poor and an ethnic Hazara, he walks with a limp caused by polio.
- Soraya – Amir’s wife and the daughter of General Taheri. Soraya is smart and strong-willed, especially when it comes to the treatment of women in Afghan culture.
- Assef – The novel's primary antagonist. Assef is the rapist of Hassan and Sohrab and symbolizes all of the troubles plaguing Afghanistan. He is a racist whose goal is to get rid of all of the Hazaras in Afghanistan by inflicting sexual violence and abuse on the poor and defenseless.
- Kamal – At the beginning of the novel, Kamal is a coward who helps Assef rape Hassan. However, after he is raped himself, he becomes a representation of the violent nature destroying Afghanistan.
- Wali – One of the other boys from Amir and Hassan's neighborhood who also helped Assef rape Hassan.
- Sofia Akrami – Amir’s mother who died giving birth to him. Though Amir never got to know her, he learns that she had a love for literature just like him. Amir seeks more information about Sofia throughout the novel.
- General Taheri – Soraya’s father and a friend of Baba. General Taheri is a stereotypical Afghan male, both as a father and husband, by placing extreme value on upholding traditional Afghan customs.
- Sanaubar – Hassan’s mother and Ali’s wife for a time. Although Sanaubar is infamous for having an affair with Baba and abandoning Hassan, she becomes a caring grandmother to Sohrab when she later appears again in the novel.
- Farid – Amir’s driver and loyal friend. Farid helps Amir in his search to find and rescue Sohrab. A former mujahedin fighter, Farid represents the hardships that many Afghans faced during the warfare that ravaged the country.
- Sharif – Soraya’s uncle who is instrumental in helping get Sohrab into the United States.
- Farzana – Hassan’s wife and Sohrab’s mother.
- Father & Son Relationship – The most important relationships in The Kite Runner are the ones between fathers and their sons. As with any parent-child relationship, there are ups and downs along the way to mutual respect and admiration, and The Kite Runner depicts the turbulent road well. The flawed relationship between Baba and Amir is the primary example of this theme, as Amir struggles to win over his father for affection throughout the novel, meanwhile Baba tries to love Amir despite them having little in common. When Amir learns that Baba is also Hassan’s father, he realizes that Baba had to hide his affection for Hassan – an illegitimate son who was also a servant, but was in many ways more like Baba than Amir was. The father-son relationship becomes a critical part of Amir's character growth during his quest for redemption, as he attempts to be a father to Sohrab by rescuing him and adopting him. Although the novel never shows Sohrab and Hassan together, it is understood that Hassan was a great father to Sohrab before he was killed.
- Guilt & Redemption – Khaled Hosseini describes the destructive ability of guilt to consume one’s life through the the relationships of Amir and Hassan, Baba and Ali, and Amir and Sohrab. The guilt that Amir feels far outweighs that of the other characters in the novel, though Baba's guilt comes close as his quest for redemption for his wrongdoings closely resembles that of Amir's. Amir discovers the consequences of guilt after making decisions throughout his childhood that were destructive. Throughout the novel, Amir is constantly tormented by his actions, but doesn’t know how to resolve the situation until Rahim Khan tells him that there is a way to redeem himself: rescuing Sohrab and adopting him. Many things made him feel guilty, starting at birth. Amir started feeling guilty for killing his mother during childbirth, even though it was out of his control. The guilt that Amir feels due to his actions, which destroyed his relationship with Hassan, haunts him throughout his entire life as illustrated over the course of the novel. The use of guilt in the story proves that we all make mistakes all the time, and are ridden by guilt because of actions, but there is always a way to redeem and forgive oneself, and to be forgiven by others.
- Price of Betrayal – The betrayal of a loyal friend by a wealthier, more corrupt “master” is a recurring theme in The Kite Runner, and Amir and Baba’s feelings of guilt for their betrayals drive much of the novel’s action. The central betrayal comes when Amir watches and does nothing as Hassan, who has always stood up for Amir in the past, gets raped by Assef. Amir then worsens the betrayal by driving Ali and Hassan from the household. Later in the book, Amir learns that Baba also betrayed his own best friend and servant – Ali, Hassan’s father – by fathering a child (Hassan) with Ali’s wife Sanaubar. This knowledge comes as another kind of betrayal for Amir, who had always hero-worshipped Baba and is shocked to learn of his father’s flaws.
"I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. 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."
―The Kite Runner, chapter 1, pg. 1.
"With me as the glaring exception, my father molded the world around him to his liking. The problem, of course, was that Baba saw the world in black and white. And he got to decide what was black and what was white. You can’t love a person who lives that way without fearing him too. Maybe even hating him a little."
― The Kite Runner, chapter 3, pg. 15.
"I watched him fill his glass at the bar and wondered how much time would pass before we talked again the way we just had. Because the truth of it was, I always felt like Baba hated me a little. And why not? After all, I had killed his beloved wife, his beautiful princess, hadn't I? The least I could have done was to have had the decency to have turned out a little more like him. But I hadn't turned out like him. Not at all."
― The Kite Runner, chapter 3, pg. 19.
"For me, America was a place to bury my memories.
For Baba, a place to mourn his."
― The Kite Runner, chapter 11, pg. 129.
"I looked at the round face in the Polaroid again, the way the sun fell on it. My brother's face. Hassan had loved me once, loved me in a way that no one ever had or ever would again. He was gone now, but a little part of him lived on. It was in Kabul. Waiting. "
― The Kite Runner, chapter 17, pg. 227.
"I hear a whimpering and realize it is mine, my lips are salty with the tears trickling down my face. I feel the eyes of everyone in this corridor on me and still I bow to the west. I pray. I pray that my sins have not caught up with me the way I'd always feared they would."
― The Kite Runner, chapter 25, pg. 346.
"When you kill a man, you steal a life," Baba said. "You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?"
― The Kite Runner, chapter 3, pg. 18.
"Is this about you and Hassan? I know there's something going on between you two, but whatever it is, you have to deal with it, not me. I'm staying out of it."
"I'm sorry Baba."
He put on his gloves again. "I grew up with Ali," he said through clenched teeth. "My father took him in, he loved Ali like his own son. Forty years Ali's been with my family. Forty goddamn years. And you think I'm just going to throw him out?" He turned to me now, his face as red as a tulip. "I've never laid a hand on you, Amir, but you ever say that again…" He looked away, shaking his head. "You bring me shame. And Hassan… Hassan's not going anywhere, do you understand?"
"Hassan's not going anywhere," Baba snapped. He dug a new hole with the trowel, striking the dirt harder than he had to. "He's staying right here with us, where he belongs. This is his home and we're his family. Don't you ever ask me that question again!"
― The Kite Runner, chapter 8, pg. 89-90.
"But before you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would he do the same for you? Have you ever wondered why he never includes you in games when he has guests? Why he only plays with you when no one else is around? I'll tell you why, Hazara. Because to him, you're nothing but an ugly pet. Something he can play with when he's bored, something he can kick when he's angry. Don't ever fool yourself and think you're something more."
― The Kite Runner, chapter 7, pg. 72.
"I've changed my mind," Assef said. "I'm letting you keep the kite, Hazara. I'll let you keep it so it will always remind you of what I'm about to do."
― The Kite Runner, chapter 7, pg. 73.
"We're thinking about playing a little game of volleyball tomorrow at my house," Assef said. "Maybe you'll join us. Bring Hassan if you want to."
― The Kite Runner, chapter 8, pg. 96.
"Remember, Amir agha. There's no monster, just a beautiful day."
― The Kite Runner, chapter 7, pg. 62.
"For you a thousand times over!" he said. Then he smiled his Hassan smile and disappeared around the corner. The next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph.
― The Kite Runner, chapter 7, pg. 67.
"And I'll tell you this, Amir jan: In the end, the world always wins. That's just the way of things."
― The Kite Runner, chapter 8, pg. 99.
"You know," Rahim Khan said, "one time, when you weren't around, your father and I were talking. And you know how he always worried about you in those days. I remember he said to me, 'Rahim, a boy who won't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up to anything.' I wonder, is that what you've become?"
― The Kite Runner, chapter 17, pg. 221.
Rahim Khan's letter to Amir:
"Amir jan, Inshallah, you have reached this letter safely. I pray that I have not put you in harm's way and that Afghanistan has not been too unlinked to you. You have been in my prayers since the day you left.
You were right all those years to suspect that I knew. I did know. Hassan told me shortly after it happened. What you did was wrong, Amir jan, but do not forget that you were a boy when it happened. A troubled little boy. You were too hard on yourself then, and you still are — I saw it in your eyes in Peshawar. But I hope you will heed this: A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer. I hope your suffering comes to an end with this journey to Afghanistan.
Amir jan, I know how hard your father was on you when you were growing up. I saw how you suffered and yearned for his affections, and my heart bled for you. But your father was a man torn between two halves, Amir jan: you and Hassan. He loved you both, but he could not love Hassan the way he longed to, openly, and as a father. So he took it out on you instead — Amir, the socially legitimate half, the half that represented the riches he had inherited and the sin-with-impunity privileges that came with them. When he saw you, he saw himself. And his guilt. You are still angry and I realize it is far too early to expect you to accept this, but maybe someday you will see that when your father was hard on you, he was also being hard on himself. Your father, like you, was a tortured soul, Amir jan.
I cannot describe to you the depth and blackness of the sorrow that came over me when I learned of his passing. I loved him because he was my friend, but also because he was a good man, maybe even a great man. And this is what I want you to understand, that good, real good, was born out of your father's remorse. Sometimes, I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good.
I know that in the end, God will forgive. He will forgive your father, me, and you too. God will forgive. I hope you can do the same. Forgive your father if you can. Forgive me if you wish. But, most important, forgive yourself.
I have left you some money, most of what I have left, in fact. I think you may have some expenses when you return here, and the money should be enough to cover them. There is a bank in Peshawar; Farid knows the location. The money is in a safe-deposit box. I have given you the key.
As for me, it is time to go. I have little time left and I wish to spend it alone. Please do not look for me. That is my final request of you.
I leave you in the hands of God.
Your friend always,
― The Kite Runner, chapter 22, pg. 300-302.
Danny Burke ’19