Symbolism In The Kite Runner By Khaled Hosseini
In the book The Kite Runner, Hosseini utilizes the symbol of Hassan’s cleft lip in order to convey his unwavering loyalty towards Amir and his status in society . Oftentimes in literature and media, the mouth symbolizes the expression of what’s in one’s heart. The mouth is a doorway to one’s beliefs and internal monologue. In the New Testament, it states that if people can control the speech of their mouths, they can control their actions, therefore, slanderous speech reveals an evil heart (Rom 3:14). This notion is very much present in The Kite Runner. Hassan reveals his compassion and wisdom beyond his years through his mouth early on in the novel. Hosseini uses Hassan’s cleft lip to emphasize how Hassan’s intuitiveness and kindness is unlike anyone else around him. A unique trait fit for a unique character.
Right from the opening scenes of the novel, Hassan’s cleft lip is already mentioned. Amir describes Hassan as a Chinese doll and refers to Hassan’s cleft lip as where “the Chinese doll maker’s instrument may have slipped, or perhaps had grown careless” (Hosseini 3) It is easy to infer that the cleft lip will be salient in this novel since it is mentioned early on. Hassan’s loyalty towards Amir is proved forthwith after this scene. Amir convinces Hassan to shoot walnuts at the neighbor’s poor one-eyed german shepherd. “Hassan never wanted to, but if I asked, really asked, he wouldn’t deny me. Hassan never denied me anything” (Hosseini 4). It’s no coincidence that this scene occurred after Hassan’s cleft lip was introduced, the description of his cleft lip was a prologue to this scene. It is proven in this section of the book that Hassan’s cleft lip is a symbol of his status in society. Hassan has understood from a young age that because of his status, Amir’s needs come before his own.
The cleft lip itself is a symbol of many meanings. One of those meanings being Baba’s guilt. It is revealed towards the end of the book that not only did Hassan and Amir nurse from the same mother, Hassan is a direct descendant of Baba as well. Baba has always been guilty that Amir inherited his wealth and Hassan was doomed to be a servant because of his Hazara descent. In an attempt to release himself from this guilt, he gifts Hassan a surgeon to fix his harelip on his birthday. “Probably not what you hand in mind, but this present will last you forever” (Hosseini 54). Hassan’s cleft lip is a personification of Baba’s guilt and by him trying to get it surgically removed, he is attempting to untie himself from his guilt. Baba says that “this present will last you forever”, he is trying to atone for dooming Hassan to his milieu-deprived life.
Following the paradigm of atonement in this novel, the cleft lip represents Amir’s absolution from failing to report Hassan’s sexual assault. In the climax of the book, Amir atones for his past mistakes by fighting Assef, Hassan’s abuser, to save Sohrab, Hassan’s son. After having to live with several years of unjustified guilt due to his cowardice, he has stumbled upon the opportunity to redeem himself. “The impact had cut your upper lip, clean down the middle, like a harelip” (Hosseini 297) The impact from the fight left him with a scar, a scar eerily similar to the scar Hassan received years ago due to the surgery that Baba paid for.