Different readersinterpret every piece of text or literary work differently. This variety ofinterpretation is a recurrent phenomenon in literature, mainly because thereisn’t any literary work that is interpreted exactly the same by differentreaders. The interpretation mainly depends on the context in which the readerreads the piece of literature.
Set in Afghanistan, The Kite Runner(TKR)is a bildungsroman (coming of age story) of the protagonist Amir. The grippingand emotional story of betrayal and redemption, explores themes of socialclass, family, atonement, guilt, destiny, power, storytelling and religion.Amir is a young Pashtun boy who witnesses the beating and rape of his bother-likefriend Hassan, but makes no effort to intervene. Amir only returns to hishomeland many years later to rescue Sohrab, the orphaned son of Hassan, as anattempt to find “a way to be good again”- after leaving Kabul during theinvasion by the Soviet forces. The two main different groups of readers thathave read TKR considered in this essay are American readers and Afghanreaders. Readers interpret the story differently due to their context, becauseof Khaled Hosseini’s use of language and characterization.
The main differencebetween the two groups of readers is their context. Context is the background, environment,setting, framework or surroundings of events. Context, if used correctly by theauthor, illuminates the meaning and relevance of the text. The reader’s contextin many cases is measured by the reader’s response. In 2011, Hosseini respondedto his take on how the Afghans responded to the book.
He said “the reception isa little complicated. For the most part it has been positive with Afghansseeing the mainstream success of the book as a point of pride in theircommunity”. Therefore, from this response one would imagine the voice of theHazara (the minority ethnic group)- as they would get a voice through TKR.On the other hand, the Pashtun (the majority ethnic group) response was that”its family business. Don’t air our dirty laundry, let’s keep it inhouse. Whyare you telling the world about this?”. This reply clearly shows how thecontext, among different Afghans, led to different interpretations of the book.On the American side of the readers, the initial interest of the book clearlylay in the promise that it might deliver more information in an accessiblemanner about Afghans after 9/11.
It fulfils the aim of Khaled Hosseini whichwas to humanize the Afghans who were all considered terrorists following theattack. The book fulfils it’s aims by showing the 30-year history of Afghanistan;from the 1978 civil war to the soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban.More importantly, the book replaces the image many Americans have ofAfghanistan as a culture of warlords and cave hideouts- with an enr9chedculture of family and religion. Hence, through the use of context, in the wordsof an American “my view of Afghanistan changed forever”.
Therefore, the contextof the Afghans and the Americans, led to different interpretations of the book.Another key factorthat led to different interpretations of TKR WAS THE LANGUAGE KhaledHosseini used. A key factor that led to the Americans to being more interestedin the book was the structure of the book that was highlighted by language. Tobegin with, the story was written as a bildungsroman. The genre’s veryexistence implies that at some point in real life, the protagonist teenagergrows into boots of mature self-possession and developing strong personalities.
This usually happens when the protagonist deviates from the traditional cultureand ‘finds themselves’. While this concept usually leads to admiration inAmerica, where the individualistic culture encourages it, it also leads tocondemnation in collectivist cultures such as theAfghanis- who look down on such actions. Therefore, my using the structure of abildungsroman, the different readers interpret the novel differently; Americanswill admire Amir while the Afghanis will look down upon him. A good example ofthis will be the reception of Amir’s first book; while General Taheri threw itin the bin.
Baba described General Taheri as “a Pashtun man with nang andnamoosh (pride and honour” who believed that “everyone here is a storyteller”.Soraya picked up the book and read it showing that she appreciates literatureas she grew up in America, in contrast to her father who grew up inAfghanistan. The final element that Hosseini used thatled to different interpretations was Hosseini’s presentation of characters.Amir is the sensitive and intelligent son of a well to do businessman in Kabuland he grows up with a sense of entitlement. For the most part of the novel,Amir is driven by guilt as he searches to redeem himself and “find a way to begood again”. While Afghans dislike him for never really understanding his homecountry and even fleeing it, Americans admire him for returning and empathizewith his childhood. The other character that could be interpreted differentlywas Baba.
The well-respected wealthy businessman who does what is right forhimself and tries to impart these qualities into Amir. Because Hassan isHazara, Baba cannot love him openly, and he becomes distant and hard on him. Asa result, Americans might despise his character while Pashtuns might respecthim for not associating with a Hazara. An example of this view is seen whenPashtun Assef says to Hassan “Afghanistan is the land of Pashtuns. It alwayshas been, always will be.
We are the true Afghans, the pure Afghans, not thisFlat-Nose here”. Therefore, the characterization of different characters couldlead to different interpretations of the characters.In conclusion, the way a certain group ofreaders interpret a text of literary work can be considered dependent on theboth the context of the literary work and the readers context, the languageused by the author and the characterization presented in the novel.
The contextof the Americans and Afghans led to different interpretations, the language andcharacterization both connect the story to the audience, but couldsimultaneously lead to different interpretations. Ultimately, differentinterpretations only build upon the quality of literary works as differentperspectives only give better understanding. Linking back to Khaled Hosseini’spurpose, he was ultimately able to tell the Afghanistan story through theperspective of both an Afghanistan citizen and an American, while partiallybridging the divide between the two sets of readers.