Kite flying in the beginning of the novel is a symbol for Amir’s childhood and relationship with his father, Baba. Because of Baba’s past as a champion kite fighter, Amir can use kite fighting to gain the attention of and relate to his otherwise distant father. Amir pushes himself to become a strong kite fighter in order to impress his father: “Baba was telling me about the time he’d cut fourteen kites on the same day. I smiled, nodded, laughed at all the right places, but I hardly heard a word he said. I had a mission now. And I wasn’t going to fail Baba. Not this time.” (46). After winning the kite fighting tournament with Hassan, Amir finally makes Baba proud. “Then I saw Baba on our roof. He was standing on the edge, pumping both of his fists. Hollering and clapping. And that right there was the single greatest moment of my twelve years of life, seeing Baba on that roof, proud of me at last.” (55) Amir finds something to be interested in, leading to his happiest childhood memories. The kite also became a way for Amir to connect with Hassan, leading to it being a broad symbol for his happiness and childhood.
The presence of kites in the novel becomes increasingly less apparent after Hassan’s rape, in which the kite begins to act as a symbol for Amir’s guilt. While out flying the kite, Hassan is raped by Assef after attempting to retrieve the kite for Amir. He was unable to help Hassan here, leading to an overwhelming feeling of shame and regret inside Amir. “I ran because I was a coward. I was afraid of Assef and what he would do to me. I was afraid of getting hurt. That's what I told myself as I turned my back to the alley, to Hassan.” (65) Although his decision is to run, he regrets not standing up for Hassan in the time he needed him most. When Hassan hands the kite back to him, Amir immediately sees this as a reminder that he witnessed Hassan’s rape without stepping in, leading to a wave of guilt passing over him: “He had the blue kite in his hands; that was the first thing I saw. He stopped. Swayed on his feet like he was going to collapse. Handed me the kite.” (65). The kite serves as tangible symbol of the torment and pain Hassan went through that Amir didn’t prevent.
Although the image of kites is tainted with bad memories, Amir finds a way to bring light to it again after releasing his guilt of not protecting Hassan. Amir uses kite flying as a way to try to connect with Sohrab, using the new moments to remember his past happiness. “I hadn't flown a kite in a quarter of a century, but suddenly I was twelve again and all the old instincts came rushing back. I felt a presence next to me and looked down. It was Sohrab.” (325).With his newfound relief, he can live through Sohrab and embrace the happiness he felt as a child: “His gaze flitted between our kite and the green one. His face was a little flushed, his eyes suddenly alert. Awake. Alive. I wondered when I had forgotten that, despite everything, he was still just a child.” (326). For a moment, he could forget that he betrayed Hassan’s loyalty, and he can live on without the emotional torment.
With the development throughout the story and throughout Amir’s life, the symbol of the kite changes from a positive outlook of his childhood to the reminder of his guilt for not protecting his best friend, then shifts back to a reminder of his good memories after he relieves himself of the weight upon his shoulders from his past. Based on what we normally view kites as- childlike and innocent, Hosseini develops a deeper meaning to the symbolism behind the kite in the novel, “The Kite Runner”.