Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1945
Essential Passage 1: Chapter 7
Then I was screaming, and everything was color and sound, everything was alive and good. I was throwing my free arm around Hassan and we were hopping up and down, both of us laughing, both of us weeping. “You won, Amir agha! You won!”
“We won! We won!” was all I could say. This wasn’t happening. In a moment, I’d blink and rouse from this beautiful dream, get out of bed, march down to the kitchen to eat breakfast with no one to talk to but Hassan. Get dressed. Wait for Baba. Give up. Back to my old life. Then I saw Baba on our roof. He was standing on the edge, pumping both of his fists. Hollering and clapping. And that right there was the single greatest moment of my twelve years of life, seeing Baba on that roof, proud of me at last.
But he was doing something now, motioning with his hands in an urgent way. Then I understood. “Hassan, we—.”
“I know,” he said, breaking our embrace. “Inshallah, we’ll celebrate later. Right now I’m going to run that blue kite for you,” he said. He dropped the spool and took off running, the hem of his green chapan dragging in the snow behind him.
“Hassan!” I called. “Come back with it!”
He was already turning the street corner, his rubber boots kicking up snow. He stopped, turned. He cupped his hands around his mouth. “For you a thousand times over!” he said. Then he smiled his Hassan smile and disappeared around the corner. The next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph.
Amir has become one of the best kite flyers in Kabul. Throughout the winter months, when there is no school, Amir participates in the kite flying contests. The purpose of these contests is to have the last surviving kite in the air, after having sawn through the strings of the other kites. Hassan, as a kite runner, chases the free-flying kites. Whoever finds these kites gets to keep them as a trophy. In this tournament, Amir at last emerges victorious, to the pleasure of himself, Hassan, and especially his father, Baba. Earning his father’s pride has immeasurable effects on Amir, for this is something he has long been seeking. Although often jealous of his father’s obvious love for Hassan, Amir shares his joy with him. Together, not Amir alone, they won the tournament. Hassan’s complete devotion to Amir is evident in his promise, “For you, a thousand times over.” As he smiles, Amir as the narrator reflects that he will not see that smile again until he is an adult, looking at a photograph of the then-dead Hassan with his son.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 7
Even from where I was standing, I could see the fear creeping into Hassan’s eyes, but he shook his head. “Amir agha won the tournament and I ran this kite for him. I ran it fairly. This is his kite.”
“A loyal Hazara. Loyal as a dog,” Assef said.
Kamel’s laugh was a shrill, nervous sound
“But before you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would he do the same for you? Have you ever wondered why he never includes you in games when he has guests? Why he only plays with you when no one else is around? I’ll tell you why, Hazara. Because to him, you’re nothing but an ugly pet. Something he can play with when he’s bored, something he can kick when he’s angry. Don’t ever fool yourself and think you’re something more.”
“Amir agha and I are friends,” Hassan said. He looked flushed.
“Friends?” Assef said, laughing. “You pathetic fool! Someday you’ll wake up from your little fantasy and learn just how good of a friend he is....”
Hassan, chasing the kite that Amir cut loose in the tournament, encounters the bully Assef along with two others. Assef, in his contempt for the Hazara, whom he considers ethnically inferior, demands the kite from Hassan. To Hassan, however, the kite is a trophy honorably won by his friend, and he refuses to give it up. To do so would be a betrayal of a friendship. Sensing this, Assef taunts Hassan with Amir’s treatment of him, sometimes as a friend, other times as a servant. He accurately describes exactly how Amir treats Hassan when others are present. He speaks enough truth to give Hassan pause. Thinking more of the times when the two of them are alone, Hassan still believes in Amir’s loyalty and stands firm in his own commitment to serve Amir. But Assef sees only how Amir treats Hassan in the presence of others, and points out the truth. Yet Hassan insists that the two are friends. Assef predicts that one day Hassan will realize that Amir is not the friend Hassan believes him to be. This prediction will come to pass within minutes, as Amir stands by and lets Hassan be raped.
Essential Passage 3: Chapter 9
Baba came right out and asked. “Did you steal that money? Did you steal Amir’s watch, Hassan?”
Hassan’s reply was a single word, delivered in a thin, raspy voice: “Yes.”
I flinched, like I’d been slapped. My heart sank and I almost blurted out the truth. Then I understood: This was Hassan’s final sacrifice for me. If he’d said no, Baba would have believed him because we all knew Hassan never lied. And if Baba believed him, then I’d be the accused; I would have to explain and I would be revealed for what I really was. Baba would never, ever forgive me. And that led to another understanding: Hassan knew. He knew I’d seen everything in that alley, that I’d stood there and done nothing. He knew I had betrayed him and yet he was rescuing me once again, maybe for the last time. I loved him in that moment, loved him more than I’d ever loved anyone, and I wanted to tell them all that I was the snake in the grass, the monster in the lake. I wasn’t worthy of this sacrifice; I was a liar, a cheat, and a thief. And I would have told, except that a part of me was glad. Glad that this would all be over with soon. Baba would dismiss them, there would be some pain, but life would move on. I wanted that, to move on, to forget, to start with a clean slate. I wanted to be able to breathe again.
Since refusing to intervene as Assef raped Hassan, Amir has been heavily burdened with guilt. He will barely speak to Hassan, and Hassan is incredibly sad and silent. Amir decides that he cannot live with this guilt anymore, and the only way he can find relief, in his opinion, is to see Hassan go. Following his thirteenth birthday celebration, Amir hides the watch that was given to him by his father, along with some money, under Hassan’s pillow. Amir reports to his father that his watch and money are missing and implies that Hassan might have taken them. Baba confronts Ali, Hassan’s father, and the missing articles are found. Baba asks Hassan, whom he loves as much as he does Amir, if he took the watch and the money. Hassan confesses to a crime he did not commit, out of loyalty to Amir, a friend whom he knows has betrayed him. Amir finds that the guilt has not lifted, yet he has hopes that it will in the future. He envisions that Baba will dismiss Ali and Hassan, hurt by their “betrayal” of his trust, and Amir will have the sole love of his father. Amir is shocked to find that Baba forgives Hassan, yet Ali states that they can no longer live there and must leave. This drives an even bigger wedge between Amir and his father, something he had not counted on.
Analysis of Essential Passages
The relationship between Amir and Hassan is problematic for Amir on many levels. First, Hassan is a Hazara, which is a despised ethnic group in Afghanistan. The racial differences prevent Amir from fully acknowledging Hassan as his friend in public, though he values his friendship in the lonely house, where it is only the two of them who enjoy each other’s company and share their hopes and dreams. In the company of others, Amir feels compelled to treat Hassan as a servant, which he indeed is, along with his father Ali. The relationship between master and servant thus stands as a further roadblock on Amir’s acceptance of Hassan’s friendship. On a more personal level, Amir is jealous of the obvious love that Baba has for Hassan. It is only many years later that Amir discovers that Hassan is in fact Baba’s illegitimate son, though neither Amir nor Hassan know this at the time.
While Amir has difficulties defining his friendship with Hassan, Hassan does not. From the beginning, Amir was his best friend, no matter what the circumstances. Amir’s name was the first word that Hassan spoke, and he is the first thing that Hassan thinks of every day and in every situation. The fact that he is Amir’s servant blends perfectly into Hassan’s concept of friendship. To be a friend is to be a servant. Whatever Amir would ask, that is what Hassan would do. Though Amir does not completely understand this, he accepts it.
The crucial moment between the two comes during the kite tournament. Flushed with victory, Amir is at last able to accept Hassan as his friend, willing to share his triumph with him, knowing that he is at last the object of pride of his father. No longer jealous of Hassan, his sense of security in his father’s love enables him to accept the friendship of Hassan and return it with his own. However, this lasts only for a minute. When Amir has the choice between friendship and betrayal, he chooses betrayal. Rather than stand alongside and protect Hassan, as Hassan has done for him on numerous occasions, Amir remains silent. Out of fear, he dares not face the bully Assef. Selfishly, he allows Hassan to be raped so that Assef will let him to keep the kite. The kite is a symbol of his triumph. He hopes the prize will increase his father’s pride in him.
Hassan’s friendship is based on self-sacrifice. Like a lamb allowing itself to be led to slaughter, Hassan submits to Assef’s abuse, rather than risk the loss of the kite for Amir. In the same way, he sacrifices his own honor in Baba’s eyes, as well as his lifelong home, by confessing to the theft of Amir’s watch and money. He knows he did not do it, and he knows that Amir knows he did not do it. To save Amir’s relationship with his father, Hassan sacrifices his own.
Amir’s search for Hassan’s son is an attempt “to be good again,” to regain the honor that Hassan had in his self-sacrifice. He cannot heal the wounds that he inflicted on Hassan, but he can endeavor to gain redemption by sacrificing himself in his search for Sohrab. By taking him into his home, by acknowledging the relationship between the two, he places himself into a status of friendship with Sohrab, to whom he pledges, as did Hassan to him, “for you, a thousand times over.”
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