Essential Passage 1: Chapter 7
I stopped watching, turned away from the alley. Something warm was running down my wrist. I blinked, saw I was still biting down on my fist, hard enough to draw blood from the knuckles. I realized something else. I was weeping. From just around the corner, I could hear Assef’s quick, rhythmic grunts.
I had one last chance to make a decision. One final opportunity to decide who I was going to be. I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan—the way he’d stepped up for me all those times in the past—and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run.
In the end, I ran.
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. That’s what I made myself believe. I actually aspired to cowardice, because the alternative, the real reason I was running, was that Assef was right: Nothing was free in this world. Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba. Was it a fair price? The answer floated to my conscious mind before I could thwart it: He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?
Amir has just emerged victorious in the kite-flying tournament, having sawn through the string of the last remaining kite and thus freeing it to fly free. Hassan, the son of his father’s servant and also his friend, was the best kite runner in Kabul, chasing down the free-flying kites. Hassan had run off to find this kite that was a symbol of Amir’s victory, a victory that Amir hoped would bring some measure of pride to his father, Baba, for his only son. Amir, running to find Hassan, comes across his friend cornered in an alley by three bullies. Assef, whose mother was German and who had a keen fascination for Adolph Hitler, has demanded that Hassan give him the kite. Hassan refuses because he has promised it for Amir. Assef then agrees that Hassan should keep the kite so that it will remind him of what is about to happen to him. With his two friends holding Hassan down, Assef rapes Hassan. Amir is hiding, observing the rape take place. Too afraid to interfere and protect his friend, all he does is stand and watch. Overcome with fear and guilt, Amir runs, leaving Hassan in the hands of the bullies. This is a moment that will henceforth affect all the characters’ lives.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 14
I thought about a comment Rahim Khan had made just before we hung up. Made it in passing, almost as an afterthought. I closed my eyes and saw him at the other end of the scratchy long-distance line, saw him with his lips slightly parted, head tilted to one side. And again, something in his bottomless black eyes hinted at an unspoken secret between us. Except now I knew he knew. Suzanne...there is something in his bottomless black eyes hinted at an unspoken secret between us. Except now I knew he knew. My suspicions had been right all those years. He knew about Assef, the kite, the money, the watch with the lightning bolt hands. He had always known.
Come. There is a way to be good again, Rahim Khan had said on the phone just before hanging up. Said it in passing, almost as an afterthought.
A way to be good again.
In the summer of 2001, after living for many years in America, Amir receives a telephone call from Rahim Khan, his father’s old friend. Rahim tells Amir that he is ill and needs him to come to Pakistan. Amir senses there is some other reason, so he agrees to return to the East. A chance phrase at the end of the phone call makes Amir think about the past: "There is a way to be good again." For many years, Amir has kept secret the fact that he saw Hassan be raped and did nothing. Then, to assuage his guilt, he planted money and his watch under Hassan’s pillow. Amir accused Hassan of theft so that he would be sent away. With that one phrase from Rahim, however, Amir knows that it is not really a secret. Rahim knows all that he has done and that he has lived concealing the secrets of his acts of cowardice. Rahim knows...
(The entire section is 1762 words.)
Essential Passage 1: Chapter 7
Then I was screaming, and everything was color and sound, everything was alive and good. I was throwing my free arm around Hassan and we were hopping up and down, both of us laughing, both of us weeping. “You won, Amir agha! You won!”
“We won! We won!” was all I could say. This wasn’t happening. In a moment, I’d blink and rouse from this beautiful dream, get out of bed, march down to the kitchen to eat breakfast with no one to talk to but Hassan. Get dressed. Wait for Baba. Give up. Back to my old life. 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.
But he was doing something now, motioning with his hands in an urgent way. Then I understood. “Hassan, we—.”
“I know,” he said, breaking our embrace. “Inshallah, we’ll celebrate later. Right now I’m going to run that blue kite for you,” he said. He dropped the spool and took off running, the hem of his green chapan dragging in the snow behind him.
“Hassan!” I called. “Come back with it!”
He was already turning the street corner, his rubber boots kicking up snow. He stopped, turned. He cupped his hands around his mouth. “For you a thousand times over!” he said. Then he smiled his Hassan smile and disappeared around the corner. The next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph.
Amir has become one of the best kite flyers in Kabul. Throughout the winter months, when there is no school, Amir participates in the kite flying contests. The purpose of these contests is to have the last surviving kite in the air, after having sawn through the strings of the other kites. Hassan, as a kite runner, chases the free-flying kites. Whoever finds these kites gets to keep them as a trophy. In this tournament, Amir at last emerges victorious, to the pleasure of himself, Hassan, and especially his father, Baba. Earning his father’s pride has immeasurable effects on Amir, for this is something he has long been seeking. Although often jealous of his father’s obvious love for Hassan, Amir shares his joy with him. Together, not Amir alone, they won the tournament. Hassan’s complete devotion to Amir is evident in his promise, “For you, a thousand times over.” As he smiles, Amir as the narrator reflects that he will not see that smile again until he is an adult, looking at a photograph of the then-dead Hassan with his son.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 7
Even from where I was standing, I could see the fear creeping into Hassan’s eyes, but he shook his head. “Amir agha won the tournament and I ran this kite for him. I ran it fairly. This is his kite.”
“A loyal Hazara. Loyal as a dog,” Assef said.
Kamel’s laugh was a shrill, nervous sound
“But before you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would he do the same for you? Have you ever wondered why he never includes you in games when he has guests? Why he only plays with you when no one else is around? I’ll tell you why, Hazara. Because to him, you’re nothing but an ugly pet. Something he can play with when he’s bored, something he can kick when he’s angry. Don’t ever fool yourself and think you’re something more.”
“Amir agha and I are friends,” Hassan said. He looked flushed.
“Friends?” Assef said, laughing. “You pathetic fool! Someday you’ll wake up from your little fantasy and learn just how good of a friend he is....”
Hassan, chasing the kite that Amir cut loose in the tournament, encounters the bully Assef along with two others. Assef, in his contempt for the Hazara, whom he considers ethnically inferior, demands the kite from Hassan. To Hassan, however, the kite is a trophy honorably won by his friend, and he refuses to give it up. To do so would be a betrayal of a friendship. Sensing this, Assef taunts Hassan with Amir’s treatment of him, sometimes as a friend, other times as a servant. He accurately describes exactly how Amir treats Hassan when others are present. He speaks enough truth to give Hassan pause. Thinking more of the times when the two of them are alone, Hassan still believes in Amir’s loyalty and stands firm in his own commitment to serve Amir. But Assef sees only how Amir...
(The entire section is 1945 words.)