What does this quote from The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, mean?
"I had one last chance to make a decision. One final opportunity to decide who I was going to be. I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan--the way he'd stood up for me all these times in the past--and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run. In the end, I ran."
This quote from Khaled Hossein's The Kite Runner occurs in chapter seven and it comes during one of the pivotal events of the novel. It is not a very difficult quote to understand, as Amir says just what he means; however, it is what the quote means for the rest of Amir's and Hassan's lives that is significant.
Assef is a bully who has always mocked and hated Hassan and, by extension, Amir. On the day Hassan is acting as Amir's kite runner, Hassan is chasing down the blue kite when he is trapped in an alley by Assef and several of Assef's friends. Assef proceeds to sexually assault Hassan, and Amir is just around the corner. Amir can see what is happening but cannot be seen. He is quite aware of the awful thing which is happening to his friend, the loyal companion who would willingly do or take anything for Amir; however, Amir does nothing to stop it.
I stopped watching, turned away from the alley. Something warm was running down my wrist. I blinked, saw I was still biting down on my fist, hard enough to draw blood from the knuckles. I realized something else. I was weeping....
Amir sees, hears, and knows, but he does nothing. A moment later he finally chooses to do something:
I had one last chance to make a decision. One final opportunity to decide who I was going to be. I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan--the way he’d stood up for me all those times in the past--and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run.
In the end, I ran.
Perhaps Amir knows why he ran or perhaps he does not, but he does know he made the selfish choice, one he will have to live with for a many, many years. He knows he should have done something to help Hassan. Remember that this book is written from the perspective of time (Amir is older and writes as he looks back in time), so perhaps Amir could not articulate his thoughts at the time, but looking back he articulates his reasons this way:
I ran because I was a coward. I was afraid of Assef and what he would do to me. I was afraid of getting hurt. That’s what I told myself as I turned my back to the alley, to Hassan. That’s what I made myself believe. I actually aspired to cowardice, because the alternative, the real reason I was running, was that Assef was right: Nothing was free in this world. Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba. Was it a fair price? The answer floated to my conscious mind before I could thwart it: He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?
I ran back the way I’d come.
The quote is simple. Amir had a choice to stand up against a bully on behalf of his friend or be a coward and run; he chose to betray Hassan by running. That decision to run alters both Amir's and Hassan's live, though neither of them ever speaks a word about it.