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Quotes About Gender Inequality & Roles in The Kite Runner

Quotes About Gender Inequality & Roles in The Kite Runner
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  • 0:04 Gender Roles in The…
  • 0:43 Arranged Marriages
  • 2:19 The Role of the Wife
  • 3:08 Gender-Based Reputation
  • 4:33 Gender Under Taliban Rule
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine some of the gender roles and inequality in Afghan culture from the novel 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini. Furthermore, we will see how they changed once the Taliban took control of Kabul.

Gender Roles in The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner, a 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini, is a story that begins with the main character, Amir, during in his childhood in Afghanistan before he and his father, Baba, fled to the United States. Amir's mother died in childbirth, and his friend, Hassan, is also motherless. His mother left when he was five days old. Therefore, the central characters are all Afghan men. Although women are only on the periphery, there are a few instances when we get a glimpse inside the life of an Afghan woman. Let's examine some of the roles in the novel involving gender, meaning in this case the male/female traits present in most people.

Arranged Marriages

One of the big differences in men and women in Afghan society in the novel is that women have no voice in who they marry. This proves to be a problem with Hassan's parents, as his mother, Sanaubar, doesn't want to be married to Ali, who is her first cousin, 19 years older than her, disabled due to polio, and infertile. However, her father arranged the marriage to build his own reputation. As a result, she treats Ali badly and cheats on him, provides him with an illegitimate son, and then runs off with a clan of travelling musicians. Due to the standards of their culture, her departure brought a lot of shame to both Ali and Hassan. Most women don't act out in the same way in response to their father's choices.

When Amir first meets the woman he will later marry, Soraya, they speak a few times when her father is not around. She has somehow learned that Amir is a writer. He wonders how she knows that because although ''(f)athers and sons could talk freely about women . . . no Afghan girl--no decent and mohtaram (honorable) Afghan girl, at least--queried her father about a young man. And no father, especially a Pashtun with nang (honor) and namoos (pride), would discuss a mojarad (bachelor) with his daughter, not unless the fellow in question was a khastegar, a suitor, who had done the honorable thing and sent his father to knock on the door.''

When Baba goes to Soraya's father, General Taheri, it's up to him whether or not he'll allow Soraya and Amir to become engaged. They still aren't allowed to be alone together until the marriage.

The Role of the Wife

We learn the most about the traditional role of the Afghan wife from Soraya's mother, Jamila. The general never claimed to marry her for love or happiness, but because of honor and lineage. He's very controlling and, put simply, not very nice. Amir finds out Jamila ''had once been famous in Kabul for her enchanting singing voice. Though she had never sung professionally, she had had the talent.'' As a condition of her marriage to the general, she had to agree to never again sing in public.

What's more, Jamila did not share a bedroom with the general, and he was often rude and would make her cry because he didn't like the food she prepared for him. The general 'did not approve of women drinking alcohol,' so Jamila didn't drink and Soraya would wait until her parents were gone before having a glass of wine with her husband.

Gender-Based Reputation

Soraya becomes particularly frustrated about the double standard between what is expected of men and what is expected of women of Afghan heritage. She vents to Amir, ''Their sons go out to nightclubs looking for meat and get their girlfriends pregnant, they have kids out of wedlock and no one says a goddamn thing. Oh, they're just men having fun! I make one mistake and suddenly everyone is talking nang and namoos, and I have to have my face rubbed in it for the rest of my life.''

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