Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Amir lives with his father, Baba, in Kabul, Afghanistan. His mother, who had died during childbirth, had left behind a collection of Sufi literature. From early childhood, Amir likes to read stories from her books to his servant and playmate, Hassan. While Amir is privileged and able to go to school, Hassan is busy with housework. However, in their free time they are good friends. To commemorate these happy times, Amir carves their names on a pomegranate tree.
Living in a single-parent home, Amir yearns for his father’s attention and gets jealous of Hassan when his father bestows favors on Hassan, favors like arranging cosmetic surgery for his harelip. Amir’s desire for his father’s affection also stems from his father’s indifference toward his son’s interest in books. When it is time for the local kite-flying contest, Amir gets excited because he knows that his father will be watching him with genuine interest.
Hassan is excited about the contest, too, and after Amir wins, Hassan runs and catches the prizewinning kite for his friend. Unfortunately, the neighborhood bully, Assef, and his companions stop Hassan and demand the kite from him. Hassan does not surrender the kite and is physically assaulted and raped by Assef. Amir sees the assault but, fearing confrontation with the bully, does nothing—an act of betrayal that will affect Amir into adulthood and forever change his relationship with Hassan.
Both Amir and...
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Chapter 1 Summary
An unidentified narrator claims that everything he is today can be traced back to something that happened to him when he was twelve years old. Though he is much older now, he remembers everything about the exact moment. On a “frigid overcast” day in the winter of 1975, he was crouched behind a crumbling wall of mud, looking into the alley located near the frozen creek. Though this incident happened a very long time ago, the memory is vivid. The narrator has learned that what others claim is not true. The past cannot be buried; it always manages to claw its way back out of its figurative grave. Looking back, he realizes that he has been gazing into that alley near for the past twenty-six years. Last summer he received a phone call that changed everything.
His friend Rahim Khan calls the narrator from Pakistan one day and asks if he will come for a visit. As he listens to the request, the narrator knows it is more than just an old friend calling on the telephone—it is also the unatoned sins of his past calling to him. After he hangs up the telephone, the man goes for a walk in Golden Gate Park, along Spreckels Lake. The sun glistens on the water and a “crisp breeze” is blowing when he looks up and sees a pair of red kites with long blue tails dancing in the sky above him, flying high above the trees.
The side-by-side kites seem to him like a pair of eyes surveying the city of San Francisco (the town which he now claims as his home) below them. He can hear Hassan’s voice whispering to him: “For you, a thousand times over.” The man sits on a nearby park bench and thinks about one of the last things Rahim Khan said to him on the telephone before he ended his call. It seemed to be spoken almost as an afterthought, but Rahim Khan assured the narrator that there is a “way to be good again.”
Looking up at the kites, the narrator thinks about Hassan and Baba and Ali; he thinks about Kabul, Afghanistan. He thinks about his life before that winter day in 1975, the day when a frozen creek, a crumbling mud wall, and a dirty alleyway mattered. It was the day everything changed and made him what he is today.
(The entire section is 399 words.)
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Chapter 2 Summary
Amir [the narrator] and Hassan play together as children, and Amir goads the younger boy into mischief. When Amir begs him to slingshot some walnuts at the neighbor’s dog, Hassan does it. Hassan does not deny Amir anything and he is “deadly with a slingshot.” When Ali, Hassan’s gentle-spirited father, catches them, Hassan never tells his father the slingshot was Amir’s idea.
Amir’s father, his Baba, built his estate in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Kabul. Marble floors, elaborate mosaic tiles, tapestries stitched in gold, and a crystal chandelier are signs of his success. The living room has a wedding photograph of Baba and his bride, a “smiling young princess in white.” In another photograph, Baba is standing with his best friend and business partner, Rahim Khan; Baba is holding Amir in his arms, but Amir’s hand is curled around Rahim Khan’s finger.
The dining room is equally sumptuous and seats thirty guests every week when Baba holds dinner parties. The terrace overlooks “two acres of backyard and rows of cherry trees.” A little mud hut sits on the south side of the garden; Hassan and his father live here.
Amir has lived in the grand house with Baba for eighteen years but has only been inside Hassan’s home a handful of times. Hassan was born there in 1964, a year after Amir’s mother hemorrhaged to death after giving birth to Amir. Hassan had his mother for just a bit long than Amir; a week after Sanaubar gave birth to Hassan, she “ran off with a clan of traveling singers and dancers.” A neighbor claims that when Sanaubar saw Hassan’s cleft lip she laughed derisively, called him an idiot, and left five days later without ever holding her son.
Sanaubar’s departure was expected; she was nineteen years younger than Ali and had a questionable reputation when they married. She and Ali are both Shi’a Muslims and ethnic Hazaras, so they were well matched in that way; however, while she was temptingly beautiful, Ali was physically deformed from polio, though his expressive eyes reveal his deep soul. Despite their shared heritage, Sanaubar routinely ridiculed Ali for his appearance; most people assumed the marriage was arranged to help restore honor to Sanaubar’s family name. No one assumed their marriage would last.
Baba hired the wet nurse Amir had; so the boys were nursed at the same breast. Baba always claimed this made them as...
(The entire section is 513 words.)
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Chapter 3 Summary
Baba’s nickname is “Mr. Hurricane,” an apt description for the burly, bearded, thundering Pashtun man. He is an unavoidable force. When Amir was about five, Baba determined to build an orphanage. Rahim Khan later told Amir that Baba, without any architectural experience, built and paid for the three-year project from blueprints to completion. Amir was eight when it opened, and he remembers going to the lake with Baba the day before; Amir was supposed to ask Hassan to come along but Amir lied and said Hassan was not available because Amir is jealous that Baba likes Hassan more than his own son because Hassan is a better athlete. Amir and Baba eat their picnic lunch together, but Baba pays no attention to Amir because he is preparing his speech for the dedication ceremony.
Despite his successes, people always doubted Baba’s capabilities. When people said he would never be able to run a business, Baba proved them wrong by becoming one of the richest merchants in Kabul. When people said Baba would never marry well, he married an exceptionally accomplished and beautiful woman of royal descent. Baba shapes the world to suit him; however, he sees everything in black and white, causing others to both love and fear him, and perhaps even hating him a little.
Baba has taught Amir that the only sin is theft, and “every other sin is a variation of theft.” A person who kills, steals the right to life; a person who lies, steals someone’s right to truth; a person who cheats, steals the right to fairness. Other things which are deemed sin, such as drinking alcohol or eating pork, are nothing compared to theft. Amir always feels as if Baba hates him a little, probably because Amir killed his mother in childbirth but also because Amir is nothing like Baba.
To compensate for not having his father’s complete love and approval, Amir reads everything he can find, an activity which does not impress Baba. Though he married a poet, Baba is not impressed that his son would rather read poetry than hunt. Baba believes boys should be good at sports, and Amir is no good at all. Even worse, he has a poetic soul and is too soft-hearted for Baba’s liking in any boy, and especially in his son. Amir overhears Rahim Khan trying to convince Baba that he should be content that Amir is healthy before he calls his old friend “the most self-centered man” he knows. Baba has watched his son, and he is afraid Amir does not have the...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
In 1933, Zahir Shah began his forty-year rule of Afghanistan and Baba was born. Amir’s grandfather was a prominent judge, and he adjudicated a case which impacted his entire family. A couple of boys got high and drank too much before getting into a car and killing a young Hazara couple. The culprits were sentenced to a year of military service; the judge adopted the couple’s five-year-old son, Ali.
Ali and Baba grew up together in the same way their sons, Hassan and Amir, have done. Despite their many shared pranks and fond memories, Baba never refers to Ali as his friend; the same is true of Amir and Hassan. Though they are friends and grew up together, the religious distinctions between them keep them from being friends. Amir is a Pashtun and Sunni; Hassan is Hazara and Shi’a. Nothing is “ever going to change that. Nothing.”
For the first twelve years of his life, Amir plays with Hassan, and nearly all his memories are somehow connected to Hassan. Together they pursue mischief, go to movies, and stroll bazaars. On school days, Amir reluctantly gets out of bed and eats the breakfast Hassan prepared for him; while he eats, Hassan is upstairs making Amir’s bed, packing Amir’s school bag, and ironing Amir’s clothes for the day, singing all the while. Then Baba drives Amir to school in his Ford Mustang while Hassan stays home to help his father with the laundry, yard work, cooking, and housework.
After school, Amir comes home, grabs a book, and goes with Hassan to sit in a pomegranate tree which they claim as their personal domain. Though Hassan was destined to be illiterate because of his social status, he loves to hear Amir read from poetry and other books. When Amir discovers Hassan is much better than he at solving riddles, Amir only reads much easier things to Hassan.
Amir particularly enjoys it when Hassan has to ask about a particularly difficult word and mocks Hassan’s ignorance (though he often feels guilty about it later and gives Hassan one of his old or broken toys). In Hassan’s favorite story, a father fights and kills a valiant boy whom he discovers was actually his son. The story always makes Hassan weep. Amir does not understand that, for he assumes all fathers secretly wish to harm their sons.
One day Amir makes up a story. Hassan says it is the best story he has ever heard, prompting Amir to write a story. Baba is not interested in reading it, but...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
When the roar of explosions, gunfire, and sirens begins, Amir and Hassan huddle against Ali in fright; Ali tries to reassure the boys, but he is clearly shaken, too. They stay that way for hours, unaware that this night, July 17, 1973, marks a dramatic change in Afghanistan. While the king, Zahir Shah, was away in Italy, his cousin Daoud Khan staged a bloodless coup, ending his forty-year reign. Baba returns home and Amir is surprised to see an unfamiliar look of fear on his father’s face. When Baba wraps both boys in his arms, Amir is glad for an instant that this night happened.
The next day, Hassan is afraid he and Ali are going to have to move away now that things have changed; both boys are afraid of the word “republic” which they are hearing everywhere. Hassan asks Amir if he wants to go climb their tree, and Amir quickly grabs a book before they head toward the hill.
The two boys are walking through some undeveloped land when suddenly a rock hits Hassan in the back. When they turn around, Amir is dismayed to see Assef and his two thugs, Wali and Kamal. Assef is the son of one of Baba’s friends and lives a few streets from Amir. Assef is a bully, famous for his stainless-steel brass knuckles, and is what Amir will later learn is a sociopath.
Assef’s mother is German but he believes Hitler was a great leader and wishes he would have finished what he started. Assef is savage and “not entirely sane,” bigger than most other boys and always flanked by his toadying friends. Today Assef taunts Hassan for his heritage, calling him a “fag,” one of his favorite insults. He believes the Pashtuns are the only pure-blooded Afghans and every other ethnic group should be eradicated.
Assef blames Amir’s father for harboring such trash and brags that his father is close friends with Daoud Khan. Assef is going to ask him to rid Afghanistan of all the dirty Hazaras. As Assef speaks, Hassan creeps close behind Amir and Amir asks Assef to let them pass. Assef puts on his brass knuckles and rages toward Amir, ready to hurt him.
Suddenly Hassan picks up a rock and Assef looks shocked as Hassan is poised with his slingshot. Though Hassan does not look scared, Amir knows him well and can see that he is very frightened; but Hassan does not back down and even threatens to put out Assef’s eye if he comes any closer. Assef sees Hassan’s resolve and it infuriates him;...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Amir, like most rich boys in Kabul, loves winter because his house is warm and there is no school during the icy season. He and Hassan spend their days going to movies and playing in the snow, but Amir loves this season mostly because it is a time when he and Baba are closer than usual. Though they live in the same house, the boy and his father have very little in common. Kites are the “one paper-thin slice of intersection” between their two worlds.
Every winter, each Kabul district holds a kite-fighting tournament. The night before the competition, Amir never sleeps, as if he is planning to fight a major battle the next day. In Kabul, kite-fighting is like going into battle. Amir and Hassan used to save their money and build their own kites. First they made the kite from bamboo and tissue paper; then they made the string, covered with glass and glue. Each spring, the boys at school would compare their many unhealed cuts, battle scars from the winter, before trudging unwillingly back to class.
Amir and Hassan soon discovered they were better kite-fighters than kite-makers, so Baba bought each boy three well made kites. Amir wishes his father would favor his own son, but he always buys the same thing for both boys. The goal of kite-fighting is to have the last kite flying amid all the other kite-flyers who are determined to cut the strings of every opponent’s kite. Each kite was flown by a team, the kite-fighter (Amir) and an assistant to hold the spool and feed the line (Hassan). Once a kite is cut, the kite runners begin searching for the fallen kites. Many are injured in the pursuit, but great prestige is attached to recovering the last fallen kite of the season. Hassan is the best kite runner; he seems to have an uncanny “inner compass” which tells him where the last kite will fall.
Amir cruelly tests Hassan’s loyalty by asking if Hassan would eat dirt if Amir told him to; Hassan’s expression never changes and he finally says he would eat dirt if Amir asked. Amir assures Hassan he would never ask, but that is a lie. Hassan would never lie, and he assumes others would never lie to him.
Hassan runs for the last kite for the last time in 1975. Four nights before the tournament, Baba casually suggests that Amir will perhaps win this year’s tournament. Baba won it, and he assumes his son is the same kind of winner. Amir is a good kite-fighter, but he has not won. He dreams about winning...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
The night before the competition, Hassan has a dream. A monster is in a lake and everyone is afraid to enter it; Amir is unafraid and both boys gain the favor of everyone watching. Ali prays as he closes the gates behind the boys; he always prays for his son when he leaves. Baba and Rahim Khan sit on the roof, ready to watch the tournament. Suddenly Amir feels as if he will again disappoint his father and does not want to compete. Hassan reassures Amir, as if he could read his friend’s fears, that there are no monsters; again Amir wonders how an uneducated boy is so much smarter than he is.
Soon, nearly fifty kites are in the air. Hassan’s hands are already bloody from the string when the cutting begins. Kites begin dropping everywhere, and Amir wonders if his father is cheering for him. Amir’s hands are bloody from cutting, but now only a dozen kites are still flying. As the number of kites dwindles, Amir’s neck is stiff and his legs ache, but soon there are only two kites—his and the blue kite which has wreaked havoc on the competition.
Something tells Amir he will eventually win this battle, and he does. The crowds cheer, Hassan is ecstatic, and Baba is pumping his fists and shouting, but now it is important to capture the blue kite. Hassan smiles at Amir (a smile Amir will not see from Hassan again until he sees a faded photo twenty-six years later). Amir envisions the emotional scene when he brings the kite to Baba.
Amir searches everywhere for Hassan and finally finds him at the end of an alley, shielding the blue kite as he faces Assef and his two cohorts. Hassan is cornered. Assef says he will forgive Hassan’s previous insults in exchange for the kite, but Hassan insists the kite is for his friend, Amir. Assef mocks the Hazara and says he is nothing but a dog to Amir. Assef decides to let Hassan keep the kite so he will never forget what happens next.
Amir could have done something now; everything might have been different if he had. Instead he remains unseen, silent, and unmoving. Wali and Kamal are afraid and refuse to do anything but hold Hassan as Assef rapes him. Amir sees Hassan’s silent resignation and turns away, weeping. He has one last chance to do something, but he runs.
Amir is ashamed but willing to sacrifice Hassan in order to win Baba’s love and approval. He waits until Assef and his friends go laughing by before going to find Hassan. The boy is...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Hassan does his chores, but he no longer sings. Amir does not see him for weeks. One day he asks Ali about Hassan; the boy claims to have had a scuffle over the kite and now stays in bed whenever he can. Ali begs Amir to tell him if anything else happened that day, but Amir is derisive and claims to know nothing.
Baba takes Amir to Jalalabad, but Baba spoils things by inviting dozens of people to join them. Baba brags about Amir’s win in the kite tournament. Everyone but Amir cheers; Rahim Khan looks at the quiet boy and tells Baba to pull over. Amir is carsick, but he is also sick from his guilt.
Amir should be happy, but he feels empty. When Baba again brags about Amir’s victory, Amir feels “like sticking a knife in [his] left eye.” Amir cannot sleep and realizes he is the monster who dragged Hassan to the bottom of the lake, and his new curse is the fact that he will get away with it. This is the night Amir becomes an insomniac.
Amir finally sees the haggard Hassan; Hassan asks Amir to go to their tree and read to him. Amir goes but immediately realizes things can never be what they once were. Hassan continues his efforts to rekindle their friendship, promising to stop doing whatever has upset Amir, but Amir only wants to be left alone.
He avoids Hassan and one day asks Baba if he would consider getting new servants. Baba is furious and threatens to hit Amir if he speaks about it again, reminding Amir that Ali has been part of Baba’s family for forty years. Amir cannot wait for school to begin again.
One day Amir asks Hassan to come with him to the tree so he can read his new story. Amir throws a pomegranate at Hassan and does everything he can to goad Hassan into hitting him back to assuage his guilt. Hassan finally crushes a pomegranate against his forehead; he leaves and Amir weeps.
Baba invites four hundred people to Amir’s thirteenth birthday party and he has to greet them all, including the arrogant Assef and his family. Assef seems to be exactly the kind of son Baba wishes he had, but Amir senses that Assef’s parents might be afraid of their son. Assef’s gift is a book which Amir opens in a vacant lot; it is a biography of Hitler. Rahim Khan leaves the party and finds the boy. He tells Amir that he and a beautiful Hazara girl had dreams of getting married, but his family sent her away. It is too hard to make the transition from servant to...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
The piles of birthday gifts and money mean nothing to Amir; he tosses them into a pile. To him, they are “blood money, things he never would have gotten if he had not won the kite tournament." Baba gave him two gifts. The first is a bright red Schwinn Stingray bicycle, something quite rare in Kabul and sure to make him the envy of everyone he knows. Amir feels no joy and offers his father only a perfunctory thank-you. Baba does not stay to see him open his second gift, a new watch. Amir throws it on the pile. The only untainted gift is the journal Rahim Khan gave him.
That afternoon Amir rides the Stingray for the first and last time. He sees Ali cleaning up from last night’s party and Ali gives Amir the gift from him and Hassan; though Amir deserves more than this modest gift, he hopes Amir will like it. It is a beautiful copy of Amir’s favorite book. Amir wants to say that he is the unworthy one, but he cannot speak. Amir adds the book to the pile of gifts.
That night Amir asks Baba if he has seen his new watch. The next morning Amir waits until Ali and Hassan leave and then places his new watch and a handful of the cash (from the pile of tainted gifts) under Hassan’s mattress. Thirty minutes later he knocks on Baba’s office door and tells what he hopes will be “the last in a long line of shameful lies.”
When Ali and Hassan return, Baba sits Amir down in his study; thirty minutes later Ali and his son enter the room. Both have been crying and Amir wonders how he became capable of causing such pain. Baba bluntly asks Hassan if he stole Amir’s watch and Hassan says yes. The answer is so surprising that Amir almost blurts the truth before he realizes this is Hassan’s final sacrifice for Amir. Baba knows Hassan never lies; if Hassan had said no, Baba would have believed him and then accused Amir. Hassan knows Amir has betrayed him but rescues him anyway. In that moment, Amir realizes he loves Hassan more than anything and almost tells the truth; however, he just wants everything to go away so he can start fresh.
Amir knows the unforgivable sin to Baba is theft, so Amir is shocked when Baba forgives Hassan. Amir can see that Hassan has told Ali the truth but begged his father not to tell, and Amir is almost relieved to have someone know him for what he is. Ali is determined that he and Hassan will leave and Baba begs them not to leave. He even weeps, which frightens Amir, but...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Baba, Amir, and some others are in the back of a truck, being smuggled out of Kabul to Jalalabad. It has been five years since Ali and Hassan left, but everything in Kabul has changed. Baba and Amir took very few belongings out of the house so they would not be quickly missed.
The old truck stops at a checkpoint and a young Russian guard demands payment for passage: half an hour with a young woman in the truck. Baba is appalled and asks where the soldier’s shame is; the soldier laughs and says there is no shame in wartime. Baba refuses to back down and Amir is certain he will soon be orphaned at the age of eighteen; however, an older officer intervenes and apologizes for the soldier’s behavior, explaining that young Russian soldiers arrive here and soon become drug abusers.
The truck arrives in Jalalabad just before sunrise and the driver, Karim, shuffles his passengers quickly inside where they discover that Karim has deceived them. Their ride to Peshawar with Karim’s brother will be delayed because his brother is waiting for parts for his truck. Baba is infuriated and nearly kills Karim; while Baba is capable of great nobility, he is also willing to kill a man who cares only for profit.
Others are waiting downstairs, a putrid, rat-infested place, and Amir is shocked to discover Kamal and his father. He is even more shocked when he sees Kamal’s face. The one-time arrogant bully is now “withered.” Later Amir hears Kamal’s father tell Baba that his son was raped by four men; now all Kamal does is stare silently.
After a week, Karim announces that his brother’s truck cannot be repaired and offers the fugitives the opportunity to be smuggled out of the country in a fuel truck, something he and his brother have done several other times. Nearly everyone decides to go. Baba starts to climb the ladder into the truck and then hops back down. He empties his snuff box and picks up a handful of dirt before kissing it and then placing some in the little container. He places the snuff box next to his heart before climbing back up the ladder.
It was dark in the basement, but it is sheer blackness in the fuel truck. Just as Amir feels panic rising, Baba shows him the glow of his watch and tells Amir to think about good and happy things. Amir thinks about flying a kite with Hassan, a beautiful memory. The truck arrives in Pakistan and Karim calls...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Fremont, California (1980s)
Baba loves the idea of America, but living here has given him an ulcer.
Despite his beliefs, Baba is unhappy with nearly everything he encounters in America and refuses to improve his English. It has been eighteen months since he and Amir arrived in the United States, and Baba has still not adapted well. He works at a gas station and misses everything about his homeland. While Baba mourns his memories in America, Amir tries to bury his memories here.
They live in a small, grimy apartment, but Baba knows all the neighbors, mostly Afghans. His body aches from the manual labor he does, the sacrifice Baba made for his son to go to school and have a better life. Baba proudly refuses food stamps as soon as he got a job, and is proud when Amir (at the age of twenty) graduates from high school.
To celebrate, Baba takes Amir to a bar and, of course, creates an instant party. On the way home, Baba shows Amir the car he bought for him to take to college. Amir is moved but does not speak his heart to avoid embarrassing Baba. They sit together in silence until Baba says he wishes Hassan had been here today. Amir feels as if he is choking.
The next day Amir announces he will attend junior college and major in English or Creative Writing. Baba is displeased at his choice and Amir feels a great sense of guilt for following his passion “at the expense of [Baba’s] ulcer,” but he refuses to sacrifice his own desires for his father’s any longer. The last time he did that Amir condemned himself.
The first time Amir sees the Pacific Ocean, he nearly cries; it is exactly as he had imagined from the movies he and Hassan used to watch. Even after two years, America is a vast and grand place to Amir, a rushing river taking him away from the ghosts, memories, and sins of his past.
In the summer of 1984, Baba trades his Buick for a Volkswagen bus; every Saturday he and Amir fill the vehicle with garage sale items to resell for a profit at a flea market on Sunday. One Sunday in July, Baba introduces Amir to an old friend, General Sahib, Iqbal Taheri; the decorated general used to work for the Ministry of Defense in Kabul. Amir is surprised when Baba expresses pride in his son’s writing and is stunned by General Sahib’s daughter when she brings her father coffee.
On the way home, Amir remembers he has heard the name...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Amir thinks constantly about Soraya Taheri, using every excuse to see her on Sundays but never finding the courage to meet her eyes or speak to her. At the end of spring, Amir makes an excuse to go see her. Baba is not fooled and warns Amir that the general is a man of Pashtun honor and pride, especially concerning his daughter’s chastity.
Soraya is alone when Amir asks for the general, unable to meet her eyes. He stumbles through some pleasantries and leaves; before he loses his nerve, he turns back to her and asks what she is reading. It is a bold question by Afghan standards, but she answers him. She has heard that he is a writer, and he offers to show her one of his stories. Before he can leave, Soraya’s mother, Jamila, with a crooked smile, joins them. Jamila explains that she is his distant cousin, and Amir can see that Jamila has no objections to him.
For the next several weeks, Amir visits with Soraya. She tells him she has always wanted to be a teacher and he gives her one of his stories to read. Unfortunately, Soraya’s father appears and politely drops the pages into the trash, reminding Amir that all Afghans are storytellers before dismissing him. Amir does not brood for long because Baba gets sick.
He begins to cough blood, but Baba does not want to go to the doctor. Amir insists. The bleary-eyed intern writes a referral to a pulmonologist, as there is a spot on Baba’s lung that might be cancer. Weeks later, Baba is diagnosed with Oat Cell Carcinoma, advanced and inoperable. He refuses to have chemotherapy and is disgusted when Amir cries and asks what will happen to him if Baba dies. Baba insists that Amir tell no one about his diagnosis.
They go to garage sales and the flea market as usual, but shortly after the New Year Baba has a seizure at the flea market. He takes anti-seizure medication and steroids to stop the swelling in his brain. At the hospital the next morning, many people come to visit Baba and offer their help. Soraya comforts Amir with a gentle touch.
Baba refuses treatment. Once Baba returns home, Amir asks his father to speak to the general on his behalf about Soraya. Baba immediately calls the general for an appointment for tomorrow.
Dressed in his finest, Baba hobbles up the general’s driveway to do “one last fatherly duty.” The general accepts Baba’s offer. Soraya is thrilled but insists on telling Amir about her...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Baba and Amir go to the Taheris’ the next night for the betrothal ceremony. Baba is tired and weak but says it is the happiest day of his life. Soraya’s elegantly dressed mother greets them, and already she is weeping with joy. Baba and Amir formally greet the two dozen guests in the room; then Baba and the general give formal speeches of offering and acceptance. Finally Soraya appears and everyone is moved.
The traditional formalities of an engagement and wedding are shortened because everyone knows without saying that Baba does not have months to live. Amir is not allowed to be alone with Soraya during the preparations, so all he can do is imagine what it will be like when he is free to be close to her.
Baba spends nearly his entire life’s savings on the traditional wedding, but Amir remembers very little of it. He wishes Rahim Khan were here, and he wonders if Hassan has gotten married. After the wedding, the couple lives with Baba, and Soraya dedicates herself to caring for him. Their life is happy and Baba dies a contented man a month after the wedding. The funeral is well attended, and Amir realizes how much of his life has been shaped by his father. The thought of finding his way alone terrifies him.
Now Amir learns more about the Taheris. The general suffers from terrible migraines and has never held a job in America; Jamila has a beautiful singing voice (which her husband refuses to let her use in public) and is no longer afraid that her daughter will live and die alone. Amir cares nothing for Soraya’s past and they move into an apartment close to her parents; their housewarming gifts include a new typewriter for Amir. Amir sells Baba’s bus and never returns to the flea market.
Amir goes to college and starts writing his first novel. Soraya starts college a year later, though her father scorns her choice to be a teacher. In 1988 Amir sells his first novel, the story of a boy and his father set in Kabul; they celebrate with Soraya’s parents. That night Amir thinks of Hassan, and Amir wonders if he deserves all the good things that have happened to him. When his book is published the next year, Amir becomes a celebrity in the Afghan community as the war continues to rage in Afghanistan.
Amir and Soraya try for a year to have a baby but eventually discover she is infertile. When fertility treatments fail, they consider adoption but soon dismiss the idea for different...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Soraya is sitting with their cocker spaniel, Aflatoon, and grading papers; she has been a teacher for the past six years. Despite the subtle signs of aging and their fifteen years of marriage, she is still a beautiful woman. Amir hangs up the telephone and stares at it for a long time before his wife finally tells him he looks upset. He tells her he has to go to Pakistan because Rahim Khan is quite sick and wants to see him. Amir has told Soraya about the man who was as close to him as his father, so she knows he must go. He does not know how long he will be gone, but Amir assures Soraya he will be safe.
Amir drives to Golden Gate Park and walks along Spreckels Lake on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. He looks up and sees a pair of red kites with long blue tails flying high above the trees at the west end of the park. Amir reflects on the final comment Rahim Khan made to him before hanging up; it was a casual remark, made in passing, but it confirms what Amir has always suspected: Rahim Khan knows about Assef, the kite, the money, and the watch. Just before he ended the call, Rahim Khan said, “Come. There is a way to be good again.”
When Amir arrives home, Soraya is talking with her mother on the telephone, assuring her that it would only be for a week or two and both parents can come to stay with her. Since he shattered his hip in a fall, the general has been a rather frail man; this frailty and the passing of time have made him a softer man toward his daughter. They often walk together, and the general occasionally sits in on some of Soraya’s classes.
That night in bed, Amir thinks about how he and Soraya used to whisper into the night, speculating about their future children. Now they still whisper occasionally, but the subject is his new book, her job, or some silly occurrence. Their lovemaking is “still good” but has become something of an exercise in futility. On the nights when both of them are left feeling empty, they each roll to their side of the bed and escape. Soraya retreats to sleep; Amir retreats to a book. Tonight Amir does not sleep for a long time; when he does, he dreams of Hassan, running through the snow and looking behind him shouting, “For you, a thousand times over!”
A week later, Amir is on a flight from Pakistan to Afghanistan, still waiting for sleep to come.
(The entire section is 440 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Amir’s flight into Peshawar landed three hours ago, and now he is in a shabby taxicab riding perilously to Rahim Kahn’s house. He and Baba had spent several months here in 1981 and Amir remembers it well. The driver enters an area known as “Afghan Town.” He tells Amir that though many of Amir’s countrymen have opened businesses here, they are still quite poor.
Amir thinks about the last time he saw his father’s friend. Rahim Khan came to tell him and Baba goodbye in 1981 before they fled Afghanistan. The two men spoke by telephone four or five times a year, but the last time Amir spoke with Rahim Khan was shortly after Baba’s death but lost the connection after only a few moments. The driver stops in front of a narrow building. After Amir pays the driver, he walks to the second floor, checks the address, and knocks on the door. “A thing made of skin and bones pretending to be Rahim Khan” opens the door.
The first moments of their reunion are awkward with the specter of Rahim Khan’s obvious poor health hovering between them. Rahim finds it “wonderfully strange” to meet Amir as an adult. Amir grins and announces that he has been married for fifteen years to Soraya Taheri. Rahim Khan knows the family and asks if the couple has any children. The intuitive older man does not pursue the subject.
Amir tells his old friend about Baba: his job, the flea market, and his peaceful death. He tells Rahim Khan about his education and his four published books. Rahim Khan has never doubted Amir’s talent but does not remember the leather journal he once gave Amir. Eventually they talk about the Taliban, and Rahim Khan assures Amir that it is much worse than anything Amir has heard about it. He lived in Baba’s house, as the two men had arranged, starting in 1981. At the time, Baba thought things would get better and he would one day be able to return home, so he asked his friend to watch over his home until that happened.
When the Northern Alliance assumed power between 1992 and 1996, the violence was terrifying, but Rahim Khan did not leave because Kabul was his home. The Alliance destroyed everything, including Baba’s orphanage, so people cheered when the Taliban arrived and ousted the Alliance.
Rahim Khan admits he is dying, probably by the end of the summer. Immediately Amir begins to talk about experimental treatments, but Rahim Khan cuts him off and says it is God’s...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Rahim Khan tells the story. He struggled to maintain Baba’s house on his own but was so lonely that, after he learned Baba died, he went to find Hassan. Hassan and his wife Farzana were living in a mud house, in a cluster of mud houses, near Hazarajat. As soon as he recognized Rahim Khan, Hassan kissed his hands and would not stop.
Hassan was quite tall, darkened from the blistering sun, was missing several of his front teeth, and had “sparse strands of hair on his chin.” Otherwise, Hassan’s green eyes, the scar on his upper lip, and his friendly smile were unchanged and easily recognizable. His wife was a shy, courteous woman who looked at Hassan as if he were a prince. Ali died two years earlier in a land mine explosion, and they were expecting a baby that winter.
After dinner, Rahim Khan made his offer: he would like Hassan and Farzana to come live with him and he would pay them well to help him take care of Baba’s house. The couple said nothing, but later Hassan said they were content here. Hassan asked everything about Amir and Rahim Khan told him what he knew. Hassan has learned to read and write and wondered if Rahim Khan would send a letter to Amir and wonders if Amir would write him back. When he learned Baba was dead, Hassan wept.
That night Rahim Khan heard Farzana whispering and Hassan crying; in the morning Hassan and Farzana announced they would move to Kabul out of respect for Baba but insisted on living in Hassan’s former hut rather than the house. Hassan wore mourning black for forty days as he and Farzana cooked, cleaned, and tended the garden. Their daughter was stillborn late that fall and buried near the sweetbrier bushes.
The war raged around them, but for a time the three of them were content. In 1990, Farzana became pregnant again, and that summer a strange, sick woman appeared at the gate. She was missing teeth and had sores on her arms; under her burqa they discovered great cuts marring her face and left eye. The once-beautiful woman revealed herself as Sanaubar, Hassan’s mother. Hassan ran away for a day but returned, “looking tired and weary,” and nursed her back to health.
Sanaubar delivered Hassan’s son, Sohrab, that winter, and the grandmother and child soon became inseparable. Sometime after the boy turned four, Sanaubar died peacefully in her sleep; both Hassan and his son were devastated at the loss. By 1995, the fighting was...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
As Rahim Khan speaks, Amir is struck by the enormity of his traitorous actions. When Amir asks if Hassan is still living in Baba’s house, Rahim Khan gives him a sealed envelope. Amir rips it open and finds a letter and a Polaroid photograph. Hassan and his son are standing at the front gates of the house, and both of them look happy, as if the world has been good to them. Amir would have recognized Hassan if he met him on the street.
The letter is in perfectly written Farsi, and it offers Hassan’s deepest respect for Amir. Hassan says he has shared many of their growing-up stories with his wife and son. He explains that the Afghanistan they knew as children is “long dead”; now only survival matters. The streets are full of starving orphans, and Hassan is just thankful to be alive to be husband and father to his wife and son.
Hassan explains his pride in Sohrab, a bright boy who can read and write, a boy he enjoys reading to and laughing with every day. He shares his concern about Rahim Khan’s health. Hassan also tells Amir he has been dreaming lately; though he sometimes has nightmares, mostly he has good dreams: that Rahim Khan will be well, that Sohrab will “grow up to be a good person, a free person, and an important person,” that kites will fly in Kabul again, and that someday Amir will return. When he does, he will find his faithful friend Hassan waiting for him.
Amir asks Rahim Khan about Hassan now. The letter was written six months ago, and the photo was taken a few days before Rahim Khan left for Peshawar. A month after arriving here, he received a telephone call from Kabul. Shortly after Rahim Khan left, two Taliban officials would not believe Hassan when he told them he was living in Baba’s house to help Rahim Khan, despite the neighbors’ corroboration. They dragged Hassan into the street, made him kneel, and shot him in the back of the head. Farzana attacked them and they killed her, too. Amir whispers “No. No. No.” over and over.
Hassan’s “life of unrequited loyalty” is over, “drifting from him like the windblown kites he used to chase.” Sohrab is in an orphanage. Rahim Khan wants Amir to go to Kabul and bring the boy here where he has made arrangements for him. Amir does not want to go. Rahim Amir is furious at his reluctance and says they both know why Amir is the one who must go. Rahim Khan wonders if Amir has become the man his father feared he might...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
Amir thinks about all the signs which should have revealed the truth to him: Baba finding a surgeon to fix Hassan’s harelip, Baba never missing Hassan’s birthday, Baba’s anger at Amir’s suggestion that Hassan should leave, and Baba weeping when Ali and Hassan left. Amir is angry that, by stealing the truth from him, Baba deprived Amir of the right to a brother, Hassan of his identity, and Ali of his honor.
Amir wonders how Ali and Baba could have lived so closely together with this awful knowledge between them. Ali had been dishonored in the worst way an Afghan man could be dishonored, yet he lived with and served Baba for so many years. Amir wonders how he will reconcile his former image of his father with this new information, but his next thought is that he and Baba are much more alike than Amir had ever realized. Both he and his father had betrayed the people who would willingly have given their lives for them.
Amir suddenly realizes that Rahim Khan summoned him here to atone both for his sins and for Baba’s. What Rahim Khan says is true; Amir is often too hard on himself. Amir did not make Ali step on the land mine which caused his death and he had not brought the Taliban to Baba’s house so they could shoot Hassan; however, he had deliberately driven Ali and Hassan out of Baba’s house and changed the course of their lives. Things might have turned out differently if he had not been so selfish. Baba might have brought Ali and Hassan with them to America, and perhaps Hassan would be alive and successful in a country that does not care if he is a Hazara.
Amir had told Rahim Khan that he could not go to Kabul because he has a wife, a home, and a career waiting for him in the United States, but now Amir wonders how he can go back to those things when he is the one who deprived Hassan of having the same things. Amir wishes Rahim Khan had never contacted him, forcing him to learn that his entire life “had been a cycle of lies, betrayals, and secrets.” Rahim Khan said there was a way to be good again, to end that cycle, and that way is to rescue Hassan’s son from an orphanage in Kabul.
On the rickshaw ride back to Rahim Khan’s apartment, thirty-eight-year-old Amir thinks that, for the first time in his life, he needs to do his own fighting. He looks at the picture of Hassan, and he knows that his brother loved him once, “in a way that no one ever had or ever...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
While riding in a rundown Land Cruiser through the Khyber Pass, Amir feels the familiar surge of carsickness. His driver, Farid, is one of many things Rahim Khan arranged for Amir’s trip to Kabul. Amir has Afghani money, the photograph of Hassan and Sohrab, and a “Shari’a-friendly” beard. Rahim Khan wanted Amir to stay with him longer and do more planning, but Amir was afraid he would change his mind if he did not leave immediately, afraid his current life would tempt him away from his “last chance at redemption.” He did not tell Soraya he was going to Afghanistan or she would have come here immediately.
As soon as Farid drives them across the border, Amir is struck by the poverty and he feels like a tourist in his own country. Farid derisively says Amir undoubtedly lived a privileged life or he would know that what he is seeing now is the real Afghanistan. Amir has always been a tourist here but did not know it until now. Rahim Khan had warned Amir that he was not likely to be welcomed by those who stayed behind to fight while he and his father fled, so Amir expresses condolences for everything Farid has lost. They are meaningless words to Farid.
Now they are close to Jalalabad, where Farid’s brother will let them stay for the night. The once-beautiful city has been ravaged by war, and Farid drives to a poor and dilapidated house. Farid introduces Amir to his brother Wahid and then leaves the men alone. Wahid is polite and asks about Amir’s profession. When Amir says he is a writer, Wahid asks if he writes about Afghanistan; he has, but certainly his newest work is nothing he would be proud to discuss with this man in this place. Wahid says Amir could reveal to the world what the Taliban has done here, but Amir says he is not that kind of a writer.
Over tea, Farid derisively says Amir is probably here to sell his family’s holdings and then escape back to America with the spoils; Wahid reprimands Farid for his rudeness. Amir decides there have been enough lies in his life before now and explains exactly why he is here: he wants to find his illegitimate half-brother’s son and take him back to Peshawar where he will be cared for. Wahid says Amir is an honorable Afghan and he is proud to have Amir in his home.
That night, Farid apologizes for his faulty assumptions and says he might help Amir look for the boy. Amir has a nightmare in which he is Hassan’s murderer; when he...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
Farid had warned him, but Amir is shocked by the death and destruction he sees everywhere they drive. When they arrive in Kabul, Amir is certain Farid must have taken him to the wrong place. This is not the Kabul he once knew.
Amir sees “rubble and beggars” everywhere he looks. While there used to be a few beggars in town, Amir is amazed that these beggars are dirty, starving children and their mothers. There are no fathers; the war has taken them. Wherever they drive, Amir has memories, but what he sees now does not match them. There are no trees and even the smells are different; the street that used to smell like lamb kabobs now smells like diesel fuel. No one but the Taliban gets meat any more, and diesel fuel is used because the electricity is unreliable.
A truckload of Taliban drives past, and Amir stares at them, feeling as naked and exposed as he ever has in his life. Farid warns Amir never to make eye contact with them, and an old beggar man nearby agrees. After a moment of conversation, Amir discovers that this filthy beggar once taught with his mother at university. He tells Amir that he saw her last when she was pregnant; they shared almond cake and tea and his mother said she was profoundly happy. The former professor could remember nothing else to share with Amir, but Amir is thankful; he learned more about his mother from this beggar in a few moments than from his father in nearly thirty years.
Amir and Farid find the orphanage but the man who meets them at the door quickly claims not to know the boy in the picture and shuts the door on them. Farid assures the man that they are not with the Taliban and Amir quietly relates details about Sohrab; when Amir says he is the boy’s half-uncle and will take him somewhere safe, they are admitted.
Zaman walks them through the orphanage where two hundred and fifty children live in deprivation. He hopes Sohrab, the boy who always has his slingshot with him, can be saved; he hopes it is not too late. Zaman reluctantly reveals that a Taliban official visits the orphanage every month, trading cash for one of the orphans, usually a girl. Farid nearly strangles Zaman, the man who is supposed to protect children. When Farid finally leaves the room in disgust, Zaman tells Amir that the official took Sohrab a month ago.
Zaman takes no salary and does the best he can in these desperate circumstances; if Zaman denies the man one child, the...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
The drive to Amir’s former house is full of dreadful sights, but as he and Farid get closer to Amir’s neighborhood, things do not seem so awful. Farid says it is because all the important people now live here, the Taliban as well as the people behind the Taliban: Arabs, Chechens, and Pakistanis. As they approach the house, Amir remembers playing with Hassan when they were boys.
Amir walks cautiously up the driveway. Everything seems smaller and less important than it was when he and Hassan had lived here. Everything has deteriorated, “like so much else in Kabul… a picture of fallen splendor.” Farid wants Amir to hurry so they will not have any trouble, but Amir wants to go see one more thing. When Farid tells him that it would be better for him to forget, Amir says he “does not want to forget anymore.”
Amir runs to the top of the hill where he and Hassan used to climb an old pomegranate tree and read. At the base of the tree, Amir finds what he is looking for, the carving from so long ago—“Amir and Hassan. The Sultans of Kabul.” He sits and looks, listening for the once-familiar sounds, until Farid honks for him to hurry.
Farid and Amir stay in a run-down hotel that night, talking about the bounty of America and trading jokes. Farid finally asks Amir why he is here just to save a Shi’a boy, and Amir has no answer for him.
Thousands of people have gathered in Ghazi Stadium for today’s soccer match. There is no longer grass on the field and both teams are wearing long pants, despite the heat. Each movement on the field causes clouds of dust to waft through the crowds and Taliban officials are patrolling, ready to whip anyone who cheers too loudly.
At halftime, two red pickups enter the stadium; one carries a blindfolded man and the other a woman in a green burqa. A third truck unloads a pile of stones. The woman screams “like a wild animal trying to pry its mangled leg from the bear trap” as she is placed chest-deep in a hole at one end of the field; the man is placed silently in a matching hole at the other end. A cleric prays over the loudspeaker and then arrogantly proclaims that these two people are adulterers who, according to God’s law, must be stoned to death.
The crowd erupts when a Taliban official in black sunglasses dramatically shows the crowd a rock before hurling it at the partially buried man. He throws rocks until...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
Farid drives Amir to a big house in Amir’s old neighborhood but says he will wait for him in the car. Amir is thankful but wishes he did not have to go into the meeting alone. If Baba were here, he would burst into the house and demand to see whoever is in charge. Amir just hopes he will see Farid again.
Armed guards frisk Amir before ushering him into an upstairs room where he waits nervously. Meeting with the man who had brutally murdered two people earlier today is irresponsible and insane. He eats a few grapes, not knowing it is the last solid food he will eat for a long time.
The two guards return with the black-sunglassed man, who sits across from Amir in silence. Amir notices signs of drug use under the man’s sleeves. Suddenly one of the guards rips the beard off Amir’s face and the man in the glasses begins to recount the glories of killing Hazara men in front of their own houses and families at the massacre in Mazar. The Taliban went door-to-door, stopping only for food and prayer.
The man starts to insult America, “that whore,” but Amir asks for Sohrab. Amir admits he is frightened when the man says he could have him arrested for treason, for leaving his country instead of staying to fight. When the man asks if Amir wants to see the boy, of course Amir says yes. When Sohrab enters, his resemblance to Hassan takes Amir’s breath away, despite the fact that the boy has been dressed to please men.
The man dismisses the guards, caresses Sohrab, and then reveals himself to Amir; the sadistic man is Assef. Amir is nervous and offers Assef money for the boy, but Assef does not need money.
Assef joined the Taliban so he could purify Afghanistan by killing the Hazara, ethnic cleansing. Amir keeps insisting he wants the boy but will not tell Assef why. Finally Assef shoves the boy at Amir, but Amir must pay for the day, long ago, when he insulted Assef. Assef puts on his stainless-steel brass knuckles and the fight is brutal. Amir does not remember everything about the fight, but he remembers the end.
Amir’s body was completely broken, but he finally feels happy and healed for having gotten some revenge for Hassan. Though it hurts, Amir laughs at Assef, infuriating the man even more. Assef was ready to kill Amir when Sohrab asks him to stop. The tearful boy has his slingshot poised to shoot. Despite Assef’s threats and his own fears, Sohrab does not move; when...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
Amir hurts everywhere and is not sure where he is; he is only occasionally aware of the doctors and nurses who are treating him. He wants to ask where he is, but his mouth will not open.
Doctor Faruqi, a head-and-neck surgeon, says it is normal to experience disorientation after surgery. Amir has been at a hospital in Peshawar for two days and is “lucky to be alive.” He has a ruptured spleen, seven broken ribs, a punctured lung, an upper lip which was cut in two, some broken teeth, and a fracture in his left eye socket. The wires in his jaws can be removed in six weeks. Later Amir realizes his cut lip must look just like a harelip.
Farid and Sohrab visit Amir. Amir thanks Farid for everything and formally introduces himself to the boy. Sohrab asks if he is the Amir his father told him about; Amir says he is and thanks him for saving his life. Rahim Khan is gone—not dead, just gone. He left the day after Amir and Farid did, leaving Amir a letter and a key.
Sohrab stays with Amir, uninterested in talking or eating; he just sits and looks down at his hands, unmoving, for hours. Once Farid takes Sohrab home, Amir reads Rahim Khan’s letter. He writes that Hassan told him everything shortly after it happened, but he reminds Amir that his suffering proves he has a conscience. Rahim Khan hopes this trip causes Amir’s suffering to end. He apologizes for the lies and always saw Amir’s desire for Baba’s love; unfortunately, Baba was torn between two sons and saw his own guilt when he saw Amir. This guilt prompted Baba’s philanthropy, his redemption. Rahim Khan asks Amir to forgive everyone, especially himself. He has left most of his money in a safe deposit box. Rahim Khan wants to die alone. Amir weeps for everything.
Amir asks for a mirror and sees his face is a mess. Farid says Amir is not safe here and must leave Peshawar as soon as possible. The Taliban may already know where he is; as soon as Amir can walk, Farid will take him to Islamabad. He asks Farid for a favor; when Farid says, “For you a thousand times over,” Amir sobs. Finally he asks Farid to find the Caldwells, the American family with whom Rahim Khan made arrangements.
Amir and Sohrab play panipar, just as he and Hassan used to do. Hassan told his son that Amir “was the best friend he ever had,” but Amir confesses that he was “not such a good friend.” He asks Sohrab to be his...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
Farid takes Amir and Sohrab to an Islamabad hotel. Farid is moved when Amir gives him two thousand dollars and his thanks. Amir never sees Farid again. Sohrab is mesmerized by the television and Amir takes pain medication and sleeps; when he wakes up the boy is gone. The man at the front desk scolds Amir for losing his son but is willing to drive Amir to the mosque where Amir thinks Sohrab may have gone. They find him sitting in the grass outside the mosque.
Amir and Sohrab sit together and the boy finally talks. He is starting to forget what his parents look like. Amir gives him the photograph Rahim Khan took. Soon Sohrab begins crying and asks Amir if God will condemn him for what he did to Assef. Amir explains that sometimes people are just bad and assures Sohrab that his father would not be disappointed in him but proud because he saved Amir’s life. Sohrab is ashamed of the vile things Assef and his men did to him, but he eventually lets Amir comfort and console him. As the boy weeps on his chest, Amir finally asks Sohrab if he wants to come to America and live with Amir and his wife.
A week passes and neither of them mentions the request. One day Amir tells Sohrab that he and Hassan were brothers who shared the same father, but Hassan never knew it. Amir only discovered it recently. Sohrab is frightened of having to go back to an orphanage, but Amir promises that will not happen and eventually Sohrab agrees to go.
Amir calls Soraya and assures her he is fine, since he has been gone for a month. He wants to tell her everything, but first he tells her he is bringing a boy with him and wants them to adopt him. For the first time in their marriage, Amir tells his wife everything for the first time. She is overwhelmed, but she agrees that Sohrab must be their son.
At the American embassy, Amir tells a modified version of the truth about coming to Afghanistan to bring home his half-brother’s son. Amir cannot prove that Sohrab’s parents are dead, so the agent recommends an immigration lawyer. Amir updates Soraya, and she tells him her cousin Sharif is going to talk to his INS contacts.
Omar Faisal is the lawyer, and Amir tells him everything. While Faisal is sympathetic, he is not optimistic. Amir’s best hope is to place Sohrab back in an orphanage and then begin formal adoption proceedings. When Amir breaks the sad news to Sohrab, the boy begs, pleads, and cries until he falls...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
Sohrab is wheeled into surgery and though Amir has not prayed for nearly fifteen years, he prays now, offering to do anything if God will spare Sohrab’s life. He cannot bear to add Sohrab’s life to his guilt. Five hours have passed and Hassan keeps remembering Sohrab lying in the bathtub, his arm sliced with a razor and hanging over the side. Finally Amir sleeps.
The surgeon wakes Amir and says Sohrab will live because he is “young and strong.” Amir keeps vigil until Sohrab wakes; the boy is listless and does not speak when Amir reads and talks to him. Finally Sohrab says he is “tired of everything” and wants “his old life back.” Amir is heartbroken for the boy and does not know what to say when Sohrab says he wishes Amir “had left him in the water.”
Finally Amir tells Sohrab that he can come to America with him now. Amir asks Sohrab to forgive him for breaking his promise, even for a short time; he blames himself for leaving the boy alone after telling him the worst possible news. Now he wonders when Sohrab will trust him again, if ever. It will be a year before Amir hears another word from Sohrab. Sohrab neither accepts nor rejects Amir’s offer, but he does accompany him to America.
In August 2001, Soraya picks Amir and Sohrab up from the airport. She has turned their upstairs study into Sohrab’s bedroom, equipped with everything a young boy could want. Sohrab says nothing, just sleeps. Amir checks on him later and under his pillow finds the photograph he gave Sohrab. Amir thinks that Hassan was the nobler brother and Baba may have loved him best, but the thought does not hurt. Amir wonders if this is the beginning of forgiveness.
Soraya’s parents come to visit. The general eventually asks why Amir brought a Hazara boy here. Amir succinctly tells the truth and warns the general never to call Sohrab “Hazara boy” again.
Sohrab is not silent; he is quiet, almost unnoticeable even in his own home. Both Amir’s and Soraya’s dreams for Sohrab are in ruins. The Twin Towers fall and the Taliban in Afghanistan “scurrie[s] like rats into the caves.” America is in turmoil but Sohrab is still silent.
In March 2002, a small miracle happens. Amir takes his family to a festive picnic with other Afghanis to celebrate the Afghan New Year. As always, Sohrab blends into the background and connects with no one. Amir buys a kite and eventually Sohrab joins...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Summary and Analysis
In the opening chapter of the book, the narrator, Amir, provides the framework for the rest of the story. It is December 2001, and Amir, who is an adult and has been living in the United States for the past two decades, has just received a phone call from Rahim Khan, an old family friend in Afghanistan. After requesting that Amir return to his homeland to see him, Rahim Khan had closed the conversation by saying cryptically, "There is a way to be good again". The old man's words cause Amir to remember people and a host of memories - "Hassan...Baba...Ali...Kabul... the life (he) had lived until the winter of 1975 came along and changed everything".
Amir goes for a walk along the edge of Golden Gate Park near his home in San Francisco. His attention is caught by the sight of "a pair of kites, red with long blue tails, soaring in the sky". As he watches them dance high above the city, he suddently hears Hassan's voice in his head, whispering the words, "for you, a thousand times over". In Amir's past there lurks the spectre of "unatoned sins". What happened "on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975" while the twelve-year-old Amir crouched "behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek" was a determining factor in his life, and has "made (him) what (he is) today."
(The entire section is 236 words.)
Amir's (the narrartor's) friend Hassan is introduced to us. Hassan is a very faithful friend of Amir and is constantly trying to please him. Amir often makes him do things which are obviously wrong, but Hassan never complains and takes the blame on himself. One of their childhood pranks is to climb the poplar tree in the driveway of Baba's house and reflect sunlight into their neighbours' house. Hassan has a cleft lip, it was as though "the chinese doll maker's instrument may have slipped," otherwise he is beautiful.
Hassan lives with his father, Ali in a mud hut on Amir's property. His mother,Sanaubar deserted the family a week after Hassan was born to live with a group of travelling dancers. Hassan's family is forced to live with this stigma forever.
Amir's father is prosperous and owns an estate in an affluent neighbourhood of Kabul. Hassan's father works for Baba. Amir's father is affectionately called by him as Baba. Baba has many friends chief among them is Rahim Khan. Amir's mother died while giving birth to him.
Ali who is a Hazara and a Shi'a Muslim is slightly physically challenged. Ali and Hassan have to endure a lot of discrimination because Shiite muslims were a minority and resembled the chinese because of their mongol descent. Ali's lower facial muscles are paralyzed, so he cannot show any emotion, and his right leg is twisted so he walks with a stange gait. Amir's family, however, is Pashtun and they are Sunni Muslims. Although Amir and Hassan are both ethnicaly different, they are thick friends and grow up together. Amir's first word is "Baba" and Hassan's first word is "Amir."
(The entire section is 278 words.)
Baba is one of the richest merchants in Kabul. Some of his businesses are an orphanage, a restaurant, and a carpet-exporting business. Baba is a formidable man, both in stature and business. Amir is not able to draw close to his father because he is afraid of his father for his mother died while giving birth to him. Amir imagines that he is indirectly responsible for his mother's death and that his father hates him for that.
Baba says that theft is the one true sin. All other sins (such as murder) are variants of theft. He believes that a murderer robs a wife of a husband, a child of a father. Baba’s father was murdered when Baba was a child.
One day, Amir overhears a conversation between Baba and Rahim Khan. Baba says that he doesn’t understand his son Amir who is so timid and is unable to defend himself. Even when teased and pushed in the streets, it's Hassan who has to defend him. Baba does not respect this quality, and Baba says that if he had not been an eywitness to Amir’s birth, he would not believe that Amir is his son.
Rahim Khan says Amir just lacks a mean streak. Baba is glad Rahim Khan understands Amir and can be close to him.
The next day, Amir snaps at Hassan out of jealousy. Amir says he does have a mean streak.
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Baba’s father was a judge who had adopted the orphan Ali (Hassan's father) and raised the boy along with his son (Baba). Baba never refers to Ali as a friend, and Amir realizes that he also never refers to Hassan as a friend. This is because they were conscious of their ethnic superiority.
Hassan and Ali are servants in Baba’s home. Amir goes to school, but Hassan does not, so Amir would often read to Hassan. His favourite story was "Rustom and Sohrab." This is significant because later on Hassan will name his son "Sohrab." They would, however, spend a lot of time together chasing the nomads, hurling stones from Hassan's slingshot and watching American movies. Once, Amir pretends to read but makes up his own story. When he finishes, Hassan claps and says it is the best story he has heard and remarks that he would love to hear stories like the one he just heard.
This remark of Hassan inspires Amir to write his first short story that night. Amir brings the story to Baba, but he is not interested, because Baba does not want his son to become a writer. Rahim Khan reads the story and writes Amir a note, encouraging him to write because he has a God-given talent, especially his understanding of irony. Amir wishes Rahim Khan was his father. He shares the story with Hassan who praises him by remarking "bravo"—the same remark which Rahim Khan also made after reading the story. Hassan encourages Amir saying that God willing he will become an internationally famous writer. However, Hassan is intelligent enough to spot a problem with the plot. Amir is astounded and slightly angry, because an illiterate, uneducated boy could find something he could not. At the end of this chapter Amir says that suddenly Afghanistan changed forever.
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Amir and Hassan’s conversation is cut short by an explosion and gunfire. There's been a coup and the present monarchy has been overthrown. The bloodless coup, as Amir explains, has been carried out by Daoud Khan, the King's cousin who wishes to establish a Republic. Ali hides with the boys during the attack and he tries to calm the boys by saying that it is only a duck hunt.The coup, however, was followed eighteen months later by the Russian invansion.
One day, Amir and Hassan are stopped by Assef (the neighborhood bully) and his two friends Wali and Kamal. He insults them by calling them 'kunis' or fags. He is relentlessly cruel to Hassan and constantly bullies and harasses him because he is a Hazara. Assef brags to them that the new leader, Daoud Khan, dined at his house the night before. Assef praises Hitler saying that was a great leader. He asserts that their new president should do what Hitler did to the Jews to get rid of the Hazara. (Assef himself has blue eyes and blonde hair because his mother is German; he points out, however, that his mother despises Hitler.) He threatens, especially, Hassan by pulling out his brass knuckles and asking Amir how he can call Hassan as his friend. Assef intends to hurt Amir also since he and his father have "taken these people in." The talk of ethnic cleansing rouses the rage of Hassan who trains his slingshot on Assef, and Assef backs off saying that he will get even with them later.
Life goes on as usual in the Republic for the next few years. In the winter of 1974, as a present for Hassan’s twelfth birthday, Baba arranges for Hassan to have his cleft lip repaired by a plastic surgeon. After the successful surgery, his scar is barely noticeable.
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During the icy winter months, the schools of Kabul are closed. Kites and kite flying are popular recreations which keep the school children busy during this holiday season. Kite flying is the chief interest that Amir shares with Baba. Kabul holds many kite-fighting tournaments during this season that are greatly anticipated by everyone in Kabul.
The aim of the kite flying contest is to cut down your opponent's kite with your kite's string. In order to do this, the kite strings are coated with glue and powdered glass so that the opponent's kite string can be cut down easily during the kite fight. Initially, Amir and Hassan would themselves make the 'tar' -the glass coated string, but later they realised that they were better kite flyers than kite makers. So,Baba would take the boys to Saifo, an almost blind shoe repairman and the city’s most famous kite maker and buy them both equally priced kites. Once a kite is cut the kite runners chase them until they land. The runner who grabs the fallen kite gets to keep it. However the grand prize is the last cut kite.
Hassan was the greatest kite runner who had collected many a fallen kite. He seems to have a sixth sense about where the kite will land and often doesn’t follow it with his eyes, but with his ears and his feel for the wind. Once, Hassan just stopped and told Amir to sit down and wait, and that the kite would come. Amir thinks he is lying, but then, before his very eyes the Hazara boy stands up and the kite that they had been waiting for literally drops into his open arms.
In the winter of 1975, Amir sees Hassan run for a kite for the last time.This was the biggest tournament ever and Amir is very keen on winning it to impress Baba so that he would could call him affectionately as 'Amir Jan.'
Amir promises to buy Hassan a television and Hassan says he will put it on the table with his drawings. Hassan tells Amir that he is content to live forever in the mud hut behind Baba's house.
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Hassan tells Amir on the morning of the kite tournament that he had had a dream. In the dream, they are at Ghargha Lake with thousands of other people, but no one is swimming, because it is said that a monster has come to the lake. Amir responds to this fear by jumping into the lake and is followed by Hassan. The two of them go all the way to the middle and then swim back to prove that there is no monster. The people clap wildly for them and then change the name of the lake to Lake of Amir and Hassan, Sultans of Kabul. Neither boy has a clue to what the dream means.
Initially, Amir is scared and wants to withdraw from the tournament but Amir cheers him up and they send their kite up. Amir wins the annual kite fight after a long and hard fought battle with a blue kite. As soon as he cuts the blue kite he is thrilled to see Baba clapping his hands and hollering and pumping his fists wildly. However Amir has a nagging doubt and he wonders whether Baba is proud of him or proud of Hassan. Hassan runs after the last kite which Amir cut, which Amir plans to present to Baba as a trophy.
Amir looks for Hassan and finds him cornered in an alley by the bully Assef and his friends. They want to take the kite and beat up Hassan. Assef tells Hassan that he is not really Amir’s friend, but only his servant. They start to beat up Hassan as Amir crouches behind a wall, watching because he is too scared to step in to help Hassan.
Assef then sodomizes Hassan as his friends hold him down. Amir has one last chance to stand up for Hassan before this terrible hurt is inflicted on him. Instead, he runs terrified at what he saw. As he runs, he convinces himself that this is the price he has to pay to win Baba's affection. He later meets Hassan and pretends he doesn’t know what happened. Hassan gives Amir the kite, and Amir wonders if Hassan knows that Amir saw what he saw. Amir gives the kite to Baba, who is proud of Amir. He buries his face into his father’s chest and weeps, and for that moment he can forget what he has done.
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After this horrifying incident Hassan avoids Amir and spends most of his time in bed. Ali asks Amir if he knows what happened on the night of the kite fight. Amir snaps back and tells Ali to mind his own business.
From now onwards Baba begins to show a lot of interest in Amir, even taking him to the movies. For one particular outing, Amir hopes to go with just Baba, but Baba invites three van loads of friends to go along. Amir cannot enjoy any of this because he feels guilty that he has not stood up for his friend Hassan and saved him from Assef. Amir becomes an insomniac as a result of his guilt.
Hassan attempts to be friendly with Amir again, but Amir rejects his advances.
Amir angers Baba by asking if he ever thought about getting new servants; consequently, their relationship deteriorates.
Once Amir tries to start a pomegranate fight with Hassan, but Hassan will not fight back. He takes a pomegranate and smashes it into his own head instead of hitting Amir. This shows Hassan's loyalty to Amir.
Baba throws a huge and lavish thirteenth birthday party for Amir. Assef presents Amir with a gift- a biography of Hitler. Rahim Khan tells Amir that he can talk to him anytime and gifts him a blank book for his creative writing activities.
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Amir receives lavish gifts for his birthday, including a bicycle and expensive watch from his father. Although the gifts should have made Amir ecstatic, he finds no joy in them; they "feel like blood money", because Amir knows Baba would never have given them if Amir had not won the tournament. Of the many other gifts he receives, Amir feels that a simple, leather-bound notebook from Rahim Khan, and a new copy of his favorite book, Shahnamah, given by Ali and Hassan, are the most valuable, because they are given from the heart.
The next morning, Amir takes his watch and "a handful of Afghan bills", and hides them in Hassan's room under his mattress. He then reports the items missing to his father. Baba consults with Ali, then calls his old friend and Hassan before him. When he is asked if he stole the money and the watch, Hassan replies, "Yes". Amir, stunned, understands that with this "final sacrifice", Hassan is saving him from the disgrace of being exposed as a liar. Ali tells Baba that he and Hassan are leaving, because "life here is impossible for (them) now", and Amir knows that Hassan has told Ali everything.
Despite Baba's tearful entreaties, Ali stands firm in his resolve. As the rain falls desolately, Amir watches, sick with guilt, as Baba drives Ali and Hassan to the bus station.
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By March of 1981, the political situation in Afghanistan deteriorates to a point where "you (can't) trust anyone in Kabul anymore...people (tell) on each other", and dead bodies regularly turn up at the side of the road. Baba makes arrangements for himself and Amir to flee to Pakistan.
As they are being smuggled with a small group of people to Jalalabad, the truck in which Baba and Amir are riding is stopped by Russian soldiers. One soldier lewdly demands that he be allowed "a half-hour" with the wife of one of the refugees as "his price for letting (them) pass". Baba heroically stands up to the soldier, risking death to save the woman's honor. Amir, whose propensity for motion-sickness has already caused his father to be ashamed, is further reminded of his own inadequacies in the face of Baba's dramatic display of fearlessness.
The refugees are forced to hide in a dank basement in Jalalabad for over a week with another group, among which Amir recognizes Kamal, one of the boys who was present at the rape of Hassan. Ironically, Kamal himself has been victimized by group of hooligans in lawless Kabul, and is now catatonic. The refugees must make the last leg of their journey in the belly of a fuel tanker. By the time they arrive in Pakistan, Kamal has succumbed to the fumes, and his distraught father grabs a gun and shoots himself.
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Baba and Amir settle in Fremont, California. Baba does not fit in and is not happy working at a gas station. He says he came to America for Amir. Amir says, "For me, America was a place to bury my memories. For Baba, a place to mourn his." This statement expresses succinctly the trauma of the diaspora.
Amir graduates from high school in 1983 at the age of 20. After graduation Baba takes him out to dinner and then to a bar where they drink. Baba winds up drinking too much but makes a good impression on all the patrons of the bar and buys them free rounds of drinks. When they get home, Baba tells Amir to drive to the end of the block. A Ford Grand Torino is sitting there. Baba said it needed work, but it ran and will be needed for Amir to go to college.
Amir displeases his father when he tells him he wants to major in English in college.
Amir and Baba buy a VW bus and go to frequent garage sales. They then sell the items at a profit at the flea market. Amir meets Soraya, the daughter of Baba’s old friend, General Taheri.
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Amir meets Soraya at the flea market and is infatuated with her. From then on, every night of the week becomes a "Yelda" for him before he could see her once again at the weekly flea market. Metaphorically, "Yelda" was the "starless night tormented lovers kept vigil enduring the endless dark waiting for the sun to rise and bring with it their loved one." Sorya wants to become a teacher and she is majoring in general education at Ohlone Junior College in Fremont. The attraction is mutual and she asks him to read to her one of his stories. Baba who is able to understand that Amir is in love with Soraya tries to dissuade him by reminding him that General Taheri, Soraya's father a Pashtun will not permit his honour and pride to agree to the match. True to Baba's prediction General Taheri chances upon Amir when he gives a story he has written to Soraya and takes it from him and throws it into to the garbage can, remarking casually "They say it will rain this week. Hard to believe, isn't it."
Baba is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He refuses medical tratment and instructs Amir not to tell anyone remarking "I don't want anybody's sympathy." However, when he collapses with a seizure at the flea market everyone comes to know. Soraya and her family visit Baba. Days later, at Amir's insistence Baba arranges Amir’s engagement to Soraya after getting the approval of General Taheri. Soraya, in private,reveals to Amir her past: when she was eighteen and was living in Virginia she ran away with a man and lived with him for a month and her father searched for her and eventually brought her back home. Amir admits to her that he is slightly disturbed by her confession but that he loves her nevertheless. Amir recognises that she is a more courageous person than himself because he is unable to share his secret guilt with her of how he had betrayed Hassan:"I suspected there were many ways in which Soraya Taheri was a better person than me. Courage was just one of them."
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The "Lafz" or the ceremony of "giving word" takes place in the General's house, with Baba formally requesting that the two families be united and the General declaring, "we are honoured that your family and ours will be joined." The "Shirini-Khori" or the "Eating of the Sweets" ceremony is cancelled and the engagement period is curtailed because of Baba's sickness. Consequently Amir and Soraya never go out alone before their marriage. For the "awroussi" or the wedding ceremony Baba spent $35,000-almost all his savings. During the wedding ceremony Amir wonders whether Hassan was also married. By the time the celebrations are over it is almost daybreak. Amir remarks "that night, I discovered the tenderness of a woman."
Soraya moves in with Amir and Baba because Baba is so sick. She takes responsibility for Baba’s care and nurses him devotedly. He dies one month later in his sleep. At Baba's funeral Amir is desolate and remarks, "Baba couldn't show me the way anymore. I'd have to find it on my own. The thought of it terrified me." Fortunately for him, Soraya hugs him and comforts him when he begins to cry.
After Baba's death they move to a single bedroom apartment in Fremont. He sells Baba's old VW bus and stops going to the flea market. The General presents Amir with an IBM typewriter as a housewarming gift. The couple settles into a routine. Both of them enrol at San Jose State University. Amir as an English Major student and Soraya in the teaching track. Her father objects to her becoming a teacher but she determinedly remarks, "teaching may not pay much, but it's what I want to do."
Amir finishes his first novel ("a father-son story set in Kabul") in 1988. The book is released the following year and Amir becomes "a minor celebrity in the Afghan community." Amir remembers Hassan’s belief in his talent and ability for creative writing.
The couple try to conceive for one year. They are unsuccessful and try in-vitro fertilization but to no avail. They consider adoption but Soraya's father does not approve saying, "blood is a powerful thing, Bachem, and when you adopt you don't know whose blood you are bringing into the house," and so they decide not to adopt. However, the childlessness affects their intimacy: "it had seeped into our marriage, that emptiness, into our laughs and our lovemaking."
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The story shifts to June 2001. Amir and Soraya have a cocker spaniel named Aflatoon, which means Plato in Farsi. The General named him Plato because he said, “If you looked hard enough and long enough into the dog’s filmy black eyes you’d swear he was thinking wise thoughts.” Soraya, has been teaching at the same school for six years. She has aged gracefully and is as attractive as ever.
Amir gets a call from Rahim Khan one day asking him to come and visit him in Pakistan, remarking mysteriously "come.There is a way to be good again." Amir tells Soraya that he has to go to Pakistan to visit Rahim Khan, who is very sick. Amir believes that there is an unspoken secret between Rahim Khan and himself. This is foreshadowing the fact that Rahim Khan knows all about Hassan. Rahim Khan has also always known about the circumstances surrounding Hassan, being raped, and what Amir did in order to get Hassan and Ali out of his life. Amir finally decides to go to Pakistan and visit Rahim Khan.
Soraya's parents are to move in with her after Amir leaves for Pakistan. The General has fallen down and has broken his hip and is in poor health because of his failing kidneys. He is nursed lovingly by his wife. The General meanwhile has come to accept Soraya as a teacher and would sometimes even attend her classes.
Both Soraya and Amir have learnt to accept their childless state stoically, but it has begun to affect their marital happiness.
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Amir arrives at Peshawar in Pakistan. The taxi driver Gholam drops him off at Rahim's place and "a thing made of skin and bones pretending to be Rahim Khan opened the door." After the initial embarrassing moments they warm up to one another. Rahim Khan is happy to hear that Amir is married to General Taheri's daughter because the General's brother in law Sharif Jan is a former acquaintance of his. Amir tells "him a lot about Baba, his job, the flea market, and how, at the end, he died happy." Amir also talks about himself, his schooling and his success as a writer.
Gholam, the taxi driver, on the way to Rahim Khan's house had hinted to Amir of the brutality of the Taliban. Rahim Khan confirms this by telling him how he was violently assaulted by a Taliban youth for no fault of his during a soccer match. Rahim Khan tells Amir that life under Taliban rule is unbearable. Rahim Khan was in fact happy at first when the Taliban defeated the Russian soldiers because he thought life in Kabul would improve. He even danced on the street when the Taliban arrived to oust the Alliance. This was because as Rahim Khan himself remarks, "the Aliance did more damage to Kabul than the Shorawi" - even the orphanage built by Baba was destroyed by the Alliance. The Taliban was welcomed by everyone as liberating heroes because they expected the fighting to stop soon. The Taliban ushered in peace, but only to make matters worse. Amir asks him why he didn't leave Kabul to escape the harsh living conditions under the Taliban rule. Baba replies, "Kabul was my home, it still is."
Rahim Khan tells Amir that Hassan lived with him in Baba’s house in Kabul after he left. It's plain that Rahim Khan is very sick and dying. Amir's offer of taking him to America for medical treatment is turned down by Baba because he knows that he will die soon. Rahim Khan tells Amir that he has called him to Peshawar because he wants him to do something for him but before that he wants to tell Amir everything about Hassan - he wants to reveal the truth to Amir about Hassan's parentage.
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Rahim Khan begins by describing to Amir his desolate life in Kabul under Russian rule. He was growing old and finding it difficult to maintian Baba's large house all by himself. After Baba's death he was so overwhelmed by loneliness that he decided to take Hassan into the house. He managed to find Hassan who was living in a village outside Bamiyan. Hassan was married and his wife, Farzana Jan, was expecting. Hassan is saddened to hear from him that Ali had been killed by a land mine. Rahim Khan enjoys the meal cooked for him by Farzana and stays overnight. When Rahim Khan first asks Hassan to come with him to Kabul Hassan refuses saying he has settled down to a peaceful life in the village, but however the next morning he and his wife agree to come to Kabul. Hassan asks Rahim Kham many questions about Amir, and he answers him to the best of his knowledge. When Hassan hears about Baba's death he is grief stricken and cries his heart out.
When they arrive at Kabul, Hassan refuses to stay in the house saying it was a matter "ihtiram, a matter of respect," and moves in with his wife into the very same hut in the backyard where he was born. Hassan, then, mourned Baba's death by wearing black for forty days.
Hassan and his wife look after the house with great care as though they were expecting Amir to arrive from America any moment. Farzana gives birth to a still born girl child and is heartbroken. However, in early 1990, she becomes pregnant again. In the summer of that year Sanaubar, Hassan's mother makes a sudden appearance. She was once very attractive but now she is scarred beyond recognition, the victim of a brutal knife attack.She had eloped with a band of travelling singers and dancers in 1964 soon after giving birth to Hassan,without even holding him. Sanaubar is gradually nursed back to health and in course of time Hassan forgives her and is reconciled to her. In the winter of 1990 Sanaubar delivers Hassan's son, Sohrab. She and her grandson became very fond of one another: "the two of them were inseaparable." When Sohrab was four years old, Sanaubar died in her sleep.
In due course Hassan taught his son Sohrab, to be a kite runner. The Taliban,however, banned kite fighting shortly after taking power in 1996. The Taliban fighters indulged in ethnic cleansing and massacred the Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif.
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Amir asks Rahim Khan whether Hassan is still staying in Baba's house in Kabul. Rahim Khan hands him an envelope which contains a polaroid photograph of Hassan and his son and Hassan's letter addressed to Amir. The photograph was taken by Rahim Khan on the eve of his departure to Peshawar in Pakistan.
In that letter, Hassan describes his difficult life under Taliban rule and the hardhips he and his family face. Hassan writes in that letter, "kindness is gone from the land, and you cannot escape the killings. Always the killings." He tells him how Farzana was assaulted by a Taliban youth just because she spoke loudly in the bazaar. Hassan concludes the letter saying, "I dream that someday you will return to Kabul to revisit the land of our childhood. If you do, you will find an old faithful friend waiting for you."
Amir is shocked to hear of the brutal manner in which the Taliban officials shot and killed Hassan and Farzana a month after Rahim Khan had left for Pakistan. The Taliban officers came to take possession of Baba's house and when Hassan resisted he and his wife were shot dead.
Rahim Khan asks Amir to go to Kabul and bring 10 year old Sohrab who is now in an orphanage in Karteh Seh. Rahim Khan wants to place Sohrab in a charitable organisation run by an American couple Thomas and Betty Caldwell. Amir refuses saying that it is too dangerous to go to Kabul now and that he is ready to pay for someone to go to Kabul and bring Sohrab to Peshawar. Rahim Khan becomes angry and remarks that it is not a question of money and that there is another very important reason for Amir and only Amir to go and fetch Sohrab from Kabul.
He then reveals to Amir that Ali had been sterile and that Hassan was actually Baba’s son through Sanaubar. Hassan had all along been unaware that Baba was actually his biological father.When Amir hears this he is too shocked and angry and storms out of Rahim Khan's apartment.
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Amir feels betrayed and angry and does a lot of soul searching in "a smoky little samovar house," as he "took a gulp of the blackest tea he'd had in years." He feels as disoriented as a man who awakens in his own home and suddenly finds all the furniture completely rearranged. He now understood why Baba was so deeply attached to Hassan and why he had arranged for plastic surgery to correct Hassan's harelip and why "he (Baba) had wept, wept, when Ali announced that he and Hassan were leaving [them]." He is now convinced that his father is a thief, "and a thief of the worst kind, because the things he'd stolen had been sacred: from me the right to know I had a brother, from Hassan his identity, and from Ali his honor." He feels guilty that he, like his father, betrayed the one person who would have done anything for him: "we had both betrayed the people who would have given their lives for us." He realises that if Ali and Hassan had both come to America, "where most people didn't even know what a Hazara was" things would have been different. Amir decides to go to Kabul to set right matters by bringing Sohrab to Peshawar and thus "atone not just for his sins but for Baba's too."
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Amir enters Afghanistan with the help of Farid a battle scarred Tajik who drives a battered Land Cruiser. He has contempt for Amir because he was born with privilege. Farid dislikes Amir at first because he believes that the only reason Amir is returning to Afghanistan is so that he can sell off his property, and ultimately make money. Farid takes Amir to Wahid's (his brother) house in Jalalabad. There, Amir is served a dinner, which he offers to share with Wahid's children. Amir notices that the children are staring at his watch. During dinner, Amir reveals to Wahid and his family that he has returned to Afghanistan in order to rescue his half brother's son. Wahid is impressed and praises Amir saying, "you are an honorable man, Amir agha, a true Afghan." Later on, he overhears Wahid and his wife arguing that they had to give food to Amir since he was a guest, even though they barely had any food for themselves. Farid thinks better of him when he learns why he is going to Kabul. Farid and Amir leave the house, and Amir gives his watch to one of the children. However, Amir realizes the kids weren't staring at his watch at all, they were actually staring at his food. At the very end of the chapter, Amir reveals to us that he has put money under his matress for the children to find and buy food with. He also realized it had been 26 years since he had put money under someone's bed; the first time, however, was for a terrible purpose. This reveals how much Amir has grown and changed as a man.
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The next day Amir and Farid leave Jalalabad and arrive at Kabul after a tiring four hour long "bone-jarring" ride on a road full of potholes. Amir is traumatised to see the battle scarred countryside devastated by both the Russians and theTaliban. Inspite of Farid warning him that the Kabul of today is not what it once was, Amir is shocked at what he sees: "rubble and beggars. Everywhere I looked that was what I saw." Most of the beggars are small children on their mothers' laps. The men folk have been killed in the successive wars.
Amir is traumatised to see all the familiar landmarks of his Afghan childhood completely destroyed, especially Jadeh Maywand the place where he used to buy his kites from Saifo the Kitemaker: "Jadeh Maywand had turned into a giant sand castle."
After driving a short while Amir comes face to face with the Taliban for the first time. A red Toyota pickup truck passes by with young bearded Taliban soldiers. Frightened, Amir stares at them as the truck passes slowly by them. Amir warns him not to provoke them by staring at them, for the Taliban are always on the look out for a reason to stir up trouble. Soon, they are joined in their conversation by an old beggar. Amir is pleasantly surprised to learn that the beggar is actually Dr.Rasul who had been a lecturer at the university from 1958 to 1996. Dr.Rasul had been acquainted with Amir's mother Sophia Akrami who had also been a lecturer at the university at that time. Amir is deeply touched when Dr.Rasul the beggar relates to him the details of his last conversation with her. Amir poignantly remarks, "I had just learned more about my my mother from this old man on the street than I ever did from Baba."
Amir and Farid finally locate the orphanage "in the northern part of Karteh-Seh along the banks of the dried-up Kabul river." The director of the orphanage, Zaman, disappoints them by saying that just a month ago he had sold Sohrab to a Taliban official. Farid is furious and almost strangles to death Zaman because he is indulging in child-trafficking. Zaman defends himself saying that the money that he earns by selling children is used to feed the other children in the orphanage, and that unlike the others he did not flee Afghanistan but stayed back to care for the orphaned children. Zaman instructs them to go to the Ghazi stadium the next day where they can meet a Taliban official wearing black sunglasses who will help them in locating...
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On the way to the Ghazi Stadium Amir and Farid see the corpse of a young man who had been hanged recently and a lame man selling his artificial leg. Shortly afterwards they arrive at Wazir Akbar Khan district and Amir identifies his childhood home correctly with the help of an old landmark.This neighbourhood is better maintained than the other places, because as Farid points out this is the locality where the Taliban and foreign VIPs reside.
Amir peers through the rusted iron bars of the gate of his childhood home and is transported back in time and a wave of nostalgia brings back all the memories of his childhood Eden.The entire house and its surroundings had suffered neglect and Amir remarks sadly, "like so much else in Kabul, my father's house was the picture of fallen splendor." With great difficulty he resists the temptation to go in. Farid is impatient to get to the stadium, but Amir tells him that he has look up one more thing. Amir climbs up the hill north to Baba's house visits the cemetry where Hassan's mother is buried and then sees the same pomegranate tree on whose trunk the legend "Amir and Hassan. The Sultans of Kabul" had been inscribed.
They spend the night in a very cheap hotel which had no electricity. Farid tells him about his past and they share many 'Mullah Nasruddin' jokes. Amir feels disgusted when Farid finds it difficult to believe why he should risk his life for a 'Shiia' boy and he loses all sleep while Farid snores away blissfully.
The next day, they go to Ghazi Stadium to find the official who bought Sohrab. The stadium is filled with people watching a game of soccer. In keeping with the strict rules laid down by the Taliban the players are wearing "long pants" and the spectators are prevented from cheering too noisily. During halftime, a man and a woman are stoned to death for adultery on the same soccer field by a man in white and wearing "John Lennon sunglasses" - the same Taliban official whom they had come to meet. After half time, the bodies are removed and the soccer game continues.
To their pleasant surprise and relief Amir and Farid arrange for a three o’clock appointment with the official.
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Amir goes in alone to see the official, who lives in a palatial home. He is verbally abused and threatened by the official, who instructs guards to bring Sohrab to the room. He looks just like Hassan. Sohrab is dressed almost like a court jester, wearing make-up, and forced to dance whenever music is played.
The official asks Amir where “babalu” is, in reference to Ali. He removes his glasses, and Amir realizes the official is actually Assef. Assef says he can have Sohrab, but first he has to earn him. Assef tells his guards not to come in the room, no matter what they hear. He and Amir have unsettled business. Only one of them will come out alive. If it is Amir, then the guards will have to let Amir and Sohrab go.
Assef beats Amir badly, breaking his nose and teeth. Amir starts laughing. He believes it is funny how just now that he is being beaten up he finally feels comfort. His laughing angers Assef more.
The fight ends when Sohrab points his slingshot at Assef, who lunges at Sohrab. Sohrab’s shot takes out Assef’s eye. This fulfilles the taunt of Hassan of calling him a "One Eyed Assef". Sohrab helps Amir out of the house. Farid drives them away.
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Amir fades in and out of consciousness. He wakes up two days later in a hospital in Peshawar with a broken jaw, punctured lung, ruptured spleen, and other injuries. Dr.Faruqi the-head and-neck surgeon has saved his life in the nick of the moment. Amir recovers slowly but surely under the devoted care of the nurse Aisha. Amir'supper lip is badly cut and Faruqi tells him that even after plastic surgery there will be a scar. Amir's upper lip has been cut and it now resembles a hare lip - like that of Hassan's before his surgery.
On the next day, Farid and Sohrab visit Amir. Amir introduces himself to Sohrab and thanks him for saving his life. But Sohrab,who is now wearing Farid's son's clothes, does not warm up to Amir and does not take Amir's hand when he offers it to him.
Rahim Khan has left town, leaving a letter for Amir and a small key. He tells Amir that he should forgive himself for what happened to Hassan and he should also forgive Baba someday. Rahim Khan explains that Baba was torn between his two sons and took out his frustration on Amir because Amir resembled him and constantly reminded him of his guilt: "when he saw you, he saw himself. And his guilt." Rahim Khan also leaves his money in a safe deposit box for Amir. The small key is the key to the safe deposit-box.
Amir has to be moved soon because the Taliban are looking for him. Amir writes down the names of the American couple John and Betty Caldwell so that Farid could look for them and he could arrange to leave Sohrab under their care. Amir bonds slowly with Sohrab over a game of cards called 'panjpar.' Farid confirms from the American consulate that there never was a couple called 'John and Betty Caldwell.' Amir realises that they were fictitious names created by Rahim Khan.
Amir gets himself discharged from the hospital, collects the money from the bank bids farewell to Farid and reaches Islamabad with Amir after a four hour long ride.
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Amir wakes up one night and Sohrab is gone. He finds him by the mosque. Sohrab says he is beginning to forget what his parents look like. Sohrab is ashamed of what Assef did to him. Amir offers to take him to live with him in America.
Amir calls his wife and tells her about Hassan, what happened in Kabul, and his desire to adopt Sohrab.
A man at the American Embassy in Islamabad says adopting Sohrab is impossible, due to the fact that Amir would need death certificates of his parents (Hassan and Farzana), when most people in Afghanistan hardly had birth certificates. Also, he would need to prove that Sohrab is really his half nephew, which was nearly impossible as well. However, he still gives them the name of an immigration lawyer. Amir meets with the lawyer who says Sohrab may have to wait in an orphanage. He is willing to help. Soraya arranges for a humanitarian visa to get Sohrab into the U.S. Later, Amir tells Sohrab that he would need to go to an orphanage again. Terrified, Sohrab becomes very upset. Later that night, Sohrab was taking a bath; Amir enters to talk with Sohrab, but finds that he has slit his wrists with a razorblade. It was said that Amir was still screaming after the ambulance arrived.
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Sohrab does not want to be put in an orphanage, so he tries to commit suicide by cutting his wrist while in the bath tub. Amir saves him and rushes him to the hospital in the nick of time. At the hospital Amir cries out in prayer: "I pray. I pray that my sins have not caught up with me the way I'd always feared they would" and he falls asleep. Dr.Nawaz wakes him up and gives him the good news that Sohrab has survived: "they would have lost him if his heart hadn't been young and strong." Three days later Sohrab is shifted out of the ICU. Amir is asked to vacate his hotel room.
Sohrab now shares a room with another patient - a teenaged Punjabi patient. Sohrab is very weak and refuses to talk to Amir. Amir tries his best to cheer him up but to no avail. Even when Amir reads the story about 'Sohrab and Rostam' from the "Shah namah" he shows no interest. He merely whispers, "tired of everything." Sohrab asks Amir to give him back his happy childhood past: "I want my old life back." and Amir says its simply not possible:"I can't give you that." Sohrab replies that he wished that Amir had allowed him to die. Amir assures him that even though he cannot give him back his lost childhood he has got him the visa to take him to America alongwith him. Amir seeks his forgiveness and asks him whether he will come with him to America. Sohrab has no choice and he meekly surrenders: "what he yearned for was his old life. What he got was me and America."
For a year after the suicide attempt Sohrab does not talk. A week later Amir and Sohrab arrive in America but Sohrab continues to remain silent. Even Soraya is not able to make him talk. Finally, Amir reveals to Soraya's parents Sohrab's real identity: "he's my nephew." Sohrab continues to remain silent and refuses to talk to Amir and Soraya. Amir is deeply saddened that all their attempts to cheer up Sohrab and give him a happy childhood have failed.
"Then on a cool rainy day in March 2002, a small, wondrous thing happened." At a party conducted by the American Afghan community, Amir buys Sohrab a kite. The two of them win the kite flying contest together just he and Hassan had done many years ago. Amir is Sohrab's kite runner and the novel ends with Sohrab smiling for the first time for Amir.
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The Kite Runner opens in December 2001. The narrator, Amir, meditates on the past, recalling a walk in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, and alludes to a more distant moment of crisis in 1976. The narrator considers the way that the past has a way of returning despite one's efforts to forget it. He mentions the names of several characters slated to appear in later chapters. After this opening, the novel uses a flashback, a device through which the narrator tells about events that happened before the present action of the story. This flashback lasts for many chapters, returning the reader, near the end of the novel, to 2001, the time in which the first chapter is set. The first five chapters sketch the details of Amir's childhood in Kabul, his daily life with his friend and servant Hassan in his father's large house, and his burgeoning interest in literature. Hassan and his father live on Amir's father's property in a separate servant's house. They are members of a minority ethnic group in Afghanistan known as the Hazara. Victims of casual discrimination by the privileged classes, the Hazara in The Kite Runner are derided for their appearance and generally live as second-class citizens. However, Hassan and his father Ali, servants in Baba's household, are treated fairly well as members of the family. Ali has known Baba for decades and Hassan and Amir, despite their differences in ethnicity and status, are constant...
(The entire section is 3093 words.)