Famous British historian and eminent politician

Famous British historian and eminent politician, John Dalberg-Acton, once said “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Brainy Quote). Although John is referring to the leaders Britain in the late 19th and 20th centuries, there is a deep connection between his quote and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. In the novel, Hosseini paints a picture of the many experiences from the people of Afghanistan, the story is written in the perspective of the protagonist, Amir, who early on experiences trouble in trying to gain the affection of his father, Baba, and has frequent run-ins with the antagonist Assef, who causes trouble for for both Amir and his Hazara brother Hassan. The story focuses mainly on an event that happens in Amir’s childhood regarding Hassan, an event that is impossible to forget about, and he is tries to redeem himself later as an adult through taking care of Hassan’s child, Sohrab. In The Kite Runner, Hosseini provides a social commentary on the effects the corruption of power can have on the people of society through the use of the characters and culture presented in the book. The effects the corruption of power has on people in The Kite Runner is revealed through the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan, Assef’s physical abuse of power against the Hazaras and Baba’s manipulation of those lower than him in power.
In The Kite Runner, Hosseini uses the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan to outline the negative effects a corrupt power can have on the people of society. His commentary exposes how the abuse of the Taliban’s power leads to chaos and destruction. Later in the story, Amir and Farid witness the abuse of the Taliban’s power through the public stoning of a man in a stadium: “The Talib, looking absurdly like a baseball pitcher on the mound, hurled the stone at the blindfolded man in the hole. It struck the side of his head” (Hosseini 284). Amir’s description of this event showcases the brutal depiction of the Taliban’s abuse of power, as they violently punish a man because they deem it necessary. Hosseini also reveals the effects of the corrupt power through the Taliban’s rise in power is when Amir is heading to the stadium, he witnesses a man trying to sell his artificial leg and Farid claims “You can get good money for it on the black market. Feed your kids for a couple of weeks” (Hosseini 272). Farid’s statement proves the cruelness of what happens when a corrupt government, such as the Taliban, is in power. These situations with the Taliban in control of Afghanistan unveil how their corruptness through abusing their power impacts the people of society.
The effects the corruption of power can have on people is further revealed in The Kite Runner through Hosseini’s descriptive telling of Assef’s physical abuse of power against the Hazaras. Assef is the half Pashtun and half German antagonist of The Kite Runner that uses his power in many instances to desecrate the human rights of the Hazaras in Afghanistan. In an earlier chapter, Assef abuses his power as a Pashtun to assert his dominance over Hassan, an ethnic Hazara: “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” (Hosseini 78). These words Assef exchanges with Hassan is an excellent example of how Assef uses his power as a Pashtun to physically harm the Hazaras around him, in this undoubtedly disturbing scene he rapes Hassan, who he refuses to call by his name, and Assef essentially steals Hassan’s innocence because he is a Hazara trying to stand up for himself.
Another instance in the story where Assef physically abuses his power against the Hazaras of Afghanistan is during the ending chapters, where Assef becomes a leading member in the Taliban and tells Amir about his experience during the events of the Hazara massacre in Mazar-i-Sharif: “You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘liberating’ until you’ve done that, stood in a roomful of targets, let the bullets fly, free of guilt and remorse, knowing you are virtuous, good, and decent. Knowing you’re doing God’s work. It’s breathtaking” (Hosseini 290). It is through Assef’s telling of these events where his abuse of power against the Hazaras is further revealed. An interesting point from Assef’s speech how he specifically chooses to use the word ‘liberating’, as it is associated with setting a person free from oppression and seemingly giving them the power to be free. Although, this is completely contrary to what he is trying to accomplish with his power, he feels powerful knowing that he can freely slaughter many innocent human beings because of his status as a leading member in the Taliban. Therefore, Hosseini’s creation of the character, Assef, is exceptional in emphasizing how the abuse of someone’s power can gravely damage a society.
Whether being described as a father or a well-respected businessman, Baba is someone who has the power of both statuses, who manipulates the people of lower statuses, further revealing Hosseini’s social commentary on the effects the corruption of power has on the people of society. Throughout The Kite Runner, Baba often withholds his affection for Amir because he has an ideal perception of what he wants his son to be. Amir wants Baba’s affection, forcing him to become a puppet of Baba, allowing Baba to be able to manipulate Amir based on his emotions, which is clearly evident in the sequence where Amir devises a method to gain Baba’s affection through winning a kite running tournament: “I was going to win, and I was going to run that last kite. Then I’d bring it home and show it to Baba. Show him once and for all that his son was worthy” (Hosseini 60). These thoughts from Amir show how he strives for Baba’s affection, which is exactly what Baba wants from Amir as it only makes him feel more powerful. Baba also manipulates his servant, Ali, through having an affair with his wife, Hassan’s mother, which Amir eventually finds out later: “How had Baba brought himself to look Ali in the eye? How had Ali lived in that house, day in and day out, knowing he had been dishonored by his master in the single worst way an Afghan man can be dishonored” (Hosseini 237). By keeping Ali under his power, Baba is able to manipulate Ali into believing that Hassan is his own son, which also feeds Baba’s ego and need for power by having a secret to withhold from Ali. Overall, Hosseini’s use of Baba as a character enhances his commentary, through proving Baba to be corrupt through his manipulation of people and showing how his corrupt power hurt the people in his life.
The Kite Runner is a social commentary about the negative effects the corruption of power has on a society. Through his creative use of the events in the story, such as the Taliban’s rise to power, Assef’s physical abuse of power against the Hazaras and Baba’s manipulation of those lower than him in power, Hosseini proves how the corruption of power leads to the destruction of society. The story shows how government corruption, physical abuse, racism and manipulation endangers the people living in society. Hosseini’s novel works as a message to those seeking power in the world, power tends to corrupt and the corruption of power ends up ravaging society and it’s outlook on the powerful.