What does this quote from The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, mean?
“Beneath it, we found a toothless woman with stringy graying hair and scores on her arms. She looked like had not eaten for days. But the worst of it by far was her face. Someone had taken a knife to it and… Amir Jan, the slashes cut this way and that way. One of the cuts went from cheekbone to hairline and it had not spared her left eye on the way.”
Amir is the protagonist of The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, and he has a half-brother Hassan. Hassan's mother, Sanaubar, was a very beautiful woman, but she was certainly not a virtuous one. She has a reputation as a woman of low virtue and, in fact, her son is not even her husband's child.
When Hassan is born, Sanaubar sees that he has a hare lip and scorns her own child and leaves a few days later. The next time Hassan sees her is much later in life, when he and his wife, Farzana, are living in and caring for Amir and Baba's former house. Sanaubar appears at the door, and the once-beautiful woman's face is now a horrific sight. In chapter sixteen of the novel, Hassan writes this description in a letter to Amir:
Someone had taken a knife to it and... Amir jan, the slashes cut this way and that. One of the cuts went from cheekbone to hairline and it had not spared her left eye on the way. It was grotesque.
The woman had come back to this house (since Baba was Hassan's father) hoping to see Hassan. She had no other place to go now that her beauty cannot buy her favor, and the miracle for her is that Hassan (though not at first) is as gracious to her as he has always been to Amir, despite their despicable, cowardly, and even evil treatment of him.
Hassan and his mother experience a grand relationship fora time; it is as if her love for her son has been restored through her love for Hassan's son, Sohrab, whom Sanaubar delivered.
This quote is a reference to the irony that, as a beautiful woman Sanaubar was ugly on the inside; now, as an ugly woman who has suffered, she is much more beautiful on the inside.