The Kite Runner Summary
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a novel about two boys growing up in Afghanistan and how their friendship shapes the rest of their lives.
- As a boy, Amir witnesses the rape of his servant and illegitimate half-brother, Hassan.
- After moving to the United States, Amir loses track of Hassan, becomes a writer, and marries a woman named Soraya.
- Amir later discovers that Hassan has died. He tracks down Hassan's son, Sohrab, and rescues him from the Taliban. Amir and Soraya adopt Sohrab.
Last Updated on May 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1309
Amir reflects on his boyhood in Afghanistan and the events that occurred twenty-six years before, during the “frigid winter” of 1975. His past has haunted him but also made him the man he is today. After receiving a phone call from an old friend, Rahim Khan, Amir feels ready to atone for his past, and he begins to recount his childhood.
As a boy, Amir lives in the “most beautiful” home in his neighborhood in Kabul, alongside Baba, his father. Hassan and Ali, two Hazara Muslims, are their servants. Amir and Hassan are playmates, though Amir also makes fun of Hassan for being illiterate.
Amir longs to be accepted by his father. Baba instills in Amir the view that “theft” is the only true sin and that every other sin, including killing and lying, is a form of theft.
One day while out playing, Amir and Hassan encounter Assef, the son of a wealthy neighbor, who wears steel knuckles and terrorizes children in the neighborhood. After failing to engage Amir, Assef becomes frustrated and threatens him with his brass knuckles. Amir, Assef, and Assef’s friends are all astonished when they see that Hassan is holding a slingshot, aimed directly at Assef. Assef lets Amir and Hassan go but promises to seek revenge.
Amir and Hassan are also bonded by their love of kites, and that winter marks the beginning of the kite-fighting tournament. When the day arrives, Amir wins the tournament and Baba’s affection. Amir asks Hassan to run the losing blue kite for him. Noticing that Hassan has been gone a long time, he goes to look for him. He locates him in a desolate alleyway, having a confrontation with Assef. When Hassan refuses to give up the kite, Wali and Kamal hold Hassan down and Assef rapes him, while Amir watches in silent horror.
Afterward, Amir pretends not to have witnessed the incident and withdraws from Hassan. Desperate and consumed by guilt, he stuffs a bag of money under Hassan’s mattress and tells Baba that Hassan has committed the sin of theft. Hassan, though innocent, admits to stealing the money. Baba claims to forgive him and begs Hassan and Ali to stay, but that evening they depart the house forever.
The story moves forward to March 1981, as Amir and Baba, alongside other Afghan refugees, make an exodus out of Afghanistan. After a tumultuous journey, they arrive in Pakistan, where they stay for six months before moving to Fremont, California.
In California, Baba suffers from culture shock. He misses the customs and sense of community in Kabul and is forced to work menial jobs. In 1983, Amir graduates from high school aged twenty. Baba buys Amir a car to congratulate him.
Amir and his father begin selling goods at a flea market, where Amir meets Soraya Taheri, a “slim-hipped beauty.” During this time, Baba is diagnosed with lung cancer and, after refusing palliative treatment, learns that it has metastasized to his brain. As his “last fatherly duty,” Baba asks General Taheri’s consent for Amir to marry Soraya. General Taheri accepts the proposal. Amir and Soraya’s wedding is moved forward so that Baba can attend, and he dies a month later. Amir attains growing success as a novelist, and he and Soraya try, but fail, to conceive a child.
Thirteen years later, in June 2001, Amir receives a phone call from Rahim Khan, who has become gravely ill. He tells Amir that “There is a way to be good again,” implicitly acknowledging that he knows Amir’s secret. When they meet, Khan tells Amir of the devastation occurring in Afghanistan: Soviet rule has now been usurped by the tyranny of the Taliban. Amid the horror, Rahim Khan tracked down Hassan and persuaded him and his wife, Fazana, to move back into Baba’s old house. Here Fazana gave birth to a son, Sohrab. While Rahim Khan was away, the Taliban seized Baba’s old house, shot Hassan and his wife to death, and sent Sohrab to an orphanage.
Rahim Khan asks that Amir bring Sohrab to Pakistan, promising that there is a loving couple, the Caldwells, who want to adopt him. Amir is reluctant, but when Rahim Khan reveals a lifelong secret—that Hassan was Baba’s illegitimate son and Amir’s half-brother—Amir resolves to make the journey.
Amir arrives in Afghanistan, where he is driven from Peshawar by a man named Farid. When they find the orphanage, the director tells Amir that Sohrab has been taken away by a Taliban official in exchange for money but that the official can be found at Ghazi Stadium. The stadium is packed with spectators, and Amir notices that there are deep holes in the ground. The Taliban official brings out a man and woman accused of adultery and stones them to death for their alleged sins. Farid speaks to a guard and arranges a meeting with the official for later that day. When Amir arrives at the official’s house, he tells him that he is there to collect Sohrab.
Sohrab is brought in, wearing blusher and mascara, which implies that the men sexually abuse him. The official removes his sunglasses, and Amir realizes he is Assef. He insists that Amir must “earn” the boy and settle unfinished business by engaging in a fight. He beats Amir with his brass knuckles, snapping his ribs and disfiguring his face. Just as it seems that Assef will win, Sohrab threatens him with his slingshot before shooting him in the eye. Amir and Sohrab flee the house.
Amir wakes up in the hospital several days later, having had a splenectomy and other corrective operations. Just as Amir is planning to leave and take Sohrab to the Caldwells, it is revealed that the couple does not exist. As Amir grows closer to Sohrab, he asks him to come and live with himself and Soraya in the United States.
After a visit to the American Embassy, Amir learns that adopting Sohrab will be near impossible, as it cannot be proven that he is an orphan. Amir later consults a lawyer, Omar Faisal, who says that the adoption may be possible if Sohrab is temporarily placed in an orphanage. Later that night, Amir breaks the news to a devastated Sohrab that he may have to return to the orphanage. Amir wakes up to a phone call from Soraya, who excitedly tells him that her cousin Sharif, who works for the INS, can help procure a visa for Sohrab immediately. Amir runs into the bathroom to tell Sohrab the good news but finds him unconscious, having slit his wrists. As Amir waits in the hospital to hear if Sohrab will wake up, he prays for the first time in fifteen years. Sohrab lives but will not utter a word, and Amir has to become accustomed to sitting with him in silence.
It is now 2002, and a year has passed since Sohrab has spoken. Amir was able to bring him back to the US after his recovery, but nothing is as he envisaged. Amir also reveals that the previous September, the Twin Towers came down, and the world was forever changed.
One rainy afternoon, Amir and Soraya take Sohrab to an Afghan picnic, and Soraya notices that a kite-flying tournament has begun. Amir tells Sohrab about what a talented kite runner Hassan was and asks Sohrab if he wants to try flying the kite. Sohrab declines at first, but after watching curiously, he agrees to fly the kite with Amir. Amir cuts down another kite using Hassan’s favorite “lift-and-dive” trick, and the green kite plummets to the ground. Amir notices a small smile on Sohrab’s face and asks if he should run the kite for Sohrab. He repeats Hassan’s mantra, “For you, a thousand times over,” before setting off to run the kite.