Richard Niebuhr, a bright theologian, from the early 1900’s wrote a number of books on theology, ethics, and inherent responsibility.  He once described his theory of responsibility as having four parts: response, interpretation, accountability, and social solidarity.  The ideas Richard brings to the table are exemplified in Khaled Housseini’s book, The Kite Runner, through the actions of the main character, Hassan.


Baba was the father of the two sons, Amir and Hassan. After he married, his wife had Amir.  Baba then committed adultery and ended up with a second son, Hassan. Since adultery is seen as a sin in Islam, Hassan was never recognized by Baba as a true son and was therefore hidden from the world in a sense. Due to these circumstances, Hassan would lead a life in the shadows, not being recognized for his responsibility.

The first part of responsibility is response. A popular tournament in Afghanistan where the story takes place, involves kite running. Everyone takes their kites and tries to run into the strings of other kites to knock them out of the sky. The normal response if a kite falls out of the sky is to run it down and keep it as a de facto trophy. When Amir went kite running and knocked down a kite, Hassan responded by running it down for him. The problem with the choice of action was that it would endanger him.

The neighborhood bully, Assef, cornered Hassan after he ran into an alley in an attempt to retrieve the kite. Assef asked for the kite and Hassan said, “Amir agha won the tournament and I ran this kite for him. I ran it fairly. This is his kite.” Hassan interpreted Assef’s question as meaning that Assef wanted the kite, so he responded accordingly in a mor aggressive manner.  Assef then raped Hassan in the alley and did not take the kite.

Amir had ran after Hassan and stopped at the corner of the alley in fear when he realized that Hassan was not alone. Amir watched as Assef raped Hassan. Amir showed no responsibility and ran home. Hassan, who was showing responsibility and standing up for Amir to get the kite, was held accountable for his actions when he refused to give the kite to Assef. This accountability is the third part of Niebuhr’s “theory of responsibility.” Although Hassan did nothing wrong, his actions caused a terrifying response by Assef.

The fourth and final component of Niebhur’s “theory of responsibility” is a social solidarity. Social solidarity is the idea that people are interdependent. Amir and Hassan are a perfect example of this, Amir needs Hassan to be around when he is bored and to protect him when he is in danger. Hassan needs Amir to be his friend and return the favor of helping him when he is in trouble. When Hassan was about to be raped, he needed Amir’s help, but Amir had already left. Responsibility in Amir’s case meant intervening in that catastrophic situation to ensure Hassan would get away from Assef, but instead he ran.  Responsibility differs greatly among the two characters early on.  Amir attempts to make up for his poor choices later in life by saving Hassan’s son from danger.

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