Symbolism within The Kite Runner

Synthaea By Synthaea, 12th Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Essays

A short (and somewhat unfinished) speech on symbolism within the novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Symbolism within The Kite Runner

Symbolism is the employment of something tangible to represent something abstract, typically a concept or idea. It is a literary device which Khaled Hosseini makes much use of throughout The Kite Runner, via a wide variety of media – objects, deeds, speech and even dreams have been woven into his carefully crafted text in order to better convey moral messages and deepen his characters. Motif, a branch of symbolism in which the symbol is recurrent, is particularly frequent throughout the novel.

A prime example of motif within The Kite Runner is the pomegranate tree, planted just north of Amir's property. Beneath the tree, Amir and Hassan spent much time together as children, and so for Amir it is representative of his more pleasant childhood days in Afghanistan.

Amir would read to Hassan beneath the tree, sometimes deliberately deceiving and mocking the illiterate Hazara - “Let's see. 'Imbecile'. It means smart, intelligent... when it comes to words, Hassan is an imbecile.” - but ultimately instilling a permanent love of literature in him. This exemplifies both Amir's “mean streak” and Hassan's endearing curiosity for “the mystery of words”. However, despite the cruelty Hassan endures beneath its branches, the pomegranate tree is largely symbolic of their close childhood friendship. Carved into its bark by Amir are the words: “Amir and Hassan, the Sultans of Kabul”, which according to Amir, “made it formal”: the tree was theirs.

The tree makes two significant reappearances within the tale. After Amir witnesses (and does nothing to prevent) Hassan's sodomy, he is naturally overwrought with guilt. In his naivety, he refuses to speak to Hassan. Eventually, they return to the pomegranate tree, their place of friendship, and Amir picks up an overripe pomegranate. “What would you do if I hit you with this?” He throws it at Hassan in the selfish hope that Hassan will retaliate, so that he can “get the punishment he craves, maybe finally sleep at night”. Hassan, ever-loyal to Amir, responds by crushing a pomegranate against his own forehead. This scene symbolises the disintegration of their friendship and juxtaposes the inherent natures of the two boys – selfishness versus loyalty.

Thirteen chapters later, Amir revisits the tree as an adult and thinks, “Hassan had said in his letter that the pomegranate tree hadn't borne fruit in years. Looking at the wilted, leafless tree, I doubted it ever would again.” The lifelessness of the tree can be perfectly likened to the withering of Amir and Hassan's friendship.

Another example of motif within The Kite Runner is the phrase “for you, a thousand times over”. It is uttered twice: once by Hassan to Amir before running to retrieve his kite, and likewise, Amir cries out the same phrase before running Sohrab's kite at the novel's conclusion. The words ring true with loyalty and devotion – Hassan's devotion to Amir, born of his lifetime of servitude to him, and Amir's devotion to Sohrab, born of his quest to redeem himself of the wrongs he did Hassan.


Afghanistan, Amir, Hassan, Kabul, Khaled Hosseini, Motif, Nicola Treadwell, Pomegranate, Pomegranate Tree, Symbolism, Synthaea, The Kite Runner

Meet the author

author avatar Synthaea
I'm quite a bizarre teenager. Intellect and eccentricity enthrall me. I am torn between science and literature, unsure which I wish my future to rest with.

Writing is my constant, and ensures my sanity (or perhaps lack thereof).
If you'd like to c...(more)

Share this page

moderator Chief Nut moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Gabbz
14th Aug 2012 (#)

great info it totally helped me with my homework

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?