The setting of Chapter 15 of The Kite Runner takes place in the Pakistan border city of Peshawar, where Rahim Khan is now living in the area known as "Afghan Town." Amir and Baba had spent some time there following their escape from Afghanistan, and the bustling city conjures up memories of his old haunts in Kabul.
Although it is a transitional chapter serving to introduce Amir to the background of the events that will lead to his dangerous return to Kabul, it does hit upon several of the main themes of the novel.
- Identity and Self-Discovery. He has made the trip back to Pakistan ostensibly to see his father's old friend, but he will soon have to make a decision about himself and whether he has the courage to fulfill Rahim Khan's request.
- Journey and Quest. In travelling from California to Pakistan, Amir has taken the first step of his most dangerous journey, one of physical hardships as well as emotional discoveries.
- Cultural Transition. Old memories about his boyhood days flood Amir during the taxi ride to Rahim's apartment, and his short visit to see the old man will soon be extended.
- Guilt and Redemption. The mention of Hassan's name "had broken a spell" and "old barbs of guilt bore into me once more."
Through the author's narrative steps, Amir makes the transition from the newly-arrived visitor, reveling in the old sounds and smells so reminiscent of his childhood; his excitement is suddenly stilled by the appearance of his sickly old friend--
... a thing made of skin and bones pretending to be Rahim Khan.
The "elephant sweating with us in the tiny room"--the unasked question about Rahim's health--is finally addressed: Rahim's death is imminent. Amir vainly tries to convince Rahim to return to America for better medical care, but the old man knows that nothing can save him. By the end of the chapter, Rahim's true intent concerning his request for Amir's presence becomes clear: He has a story to tell about Hassan, one that can show Amir that
"There is a way to be good again."