What happens in The Kite Runner?

In The Kite Runner, Afghan Amir witnesses the rape of his servant and illegitimate half-brother Hassan. After moving to America, he loses track of Hassan. In the end, Amir discovers that Hassan has died. He tracks down and adopts Hassan's son, Sohrab.

The Kite Runner summary key points:

  • Amir longs for his critical father’s affection, and feels both friendship and jealousy toward servant and playmate Hassan.

  • Amir witnesses neighborhood bully Assef beat and rape Hassan; he does not help and, guilt-stricken, tries to get Baba to send Hassan away.

  • Amir and Baba immigrate to the US. Amir marries Soraya, Baba dies of cancer, and Amir becomes a successful novelist.

  • Fifteen years later, a family friend tells Amir that Hassan, now dead, was Baba’s son too, and that Hassan’s son is orphaned.

  • Amir goes to Afghanistan and attempts to rescue Sohrab. He fights Assef for the boy, who attempts suicide. Amir and Soraya adopt Sohrab.

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(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Amir lives with his father, Baba, in Kabul, Afghanistan. His mother, who had died during childbirth, had left behind a collection of Sufi literature. From early childhood, Amir likes to read stories from her books to his servant and playmate, Hassan. While Amir is privileged and able to go to school, Hassan is busy with housework. However, in their free time they are good friends. To commemorate these happy times, Amir carves their names on a pomegranate tree.

Living in a single-parent home, Amir yearns for his father’s attention and gets jealous of Hassan when his father bestows favors on Hassan, favors like arranging cosmetic surgery for his harelip. Amir’s desire for his father’s affection also stems from his father’s indifference toward his son’s interest in books. When it is time for the local kite-flying contest, Amir gets excited because he knows that his father will be watching him with genuine interest.

Hassan is excited about the contest, too, and after Amir wins, Hassan runs and catches the prizewinning kite for his friend. Unfortunately, the neighborhood bully, Assef, and his companions stop Hassan and demand the kite from him. Hassan does not surrender the kite and is physically assaulted and raped by Assef. Amir sees the assault but, fearing confrontation with the bully, does nothing—an act of betrayal that will affect Amir into adulthood and forever change his relationship with Hassan.

Both Amir and Hassan know the social gap that defines their identities. In Afghan culture, Amir is a Pashtun and Hassan is a Hazara, which makes him a servant. Religious difference also sets them apart, even though they both are Muslim: Amir is Sunni, and Hassan is Shia. Pashtuns, the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan, make fun of Hazaras, a minority ethnic group, treating them as pariahs. Children taunt Hassan’s father, Ali, as “a slant-eyed donkey,” and Assef insults Hassan as a “flat-nosed” Hazara who does not belong in Afghanistan.

Amir is not disturbed with his servant-master friendship until the kite incident. Even as a twelve-year-old kid, he is old enough to know that he has not been good. Hassan’s presence reminds him of his own guilt, so he asks his father to get new servants. Baba refuses but, instead, frames Hassan, accusing him of theft; Hassan and his father leave Kabul. A few years later, because of the Russian invasion, Baba and Amir secretly leave Kabul, too. They cross the border into Pakistan after a difficult journey and emigrate to the United States.

Baba adjusts to the cultural and economic challenges of living in the United States and is happy with Amir’s educational success. Amir had majored in English to pursue a writing career, his childhood dream. On weekends, he helps his father sell at the local flea market, where he meets Soraya, the daughter of an expatriate Afghan general. Amir and Soraya soon fall in love, and Amir’s father makes lavish arrangements for a grand wedding. Baba, who has been suffering from cancer, dies one month...

(The entire section is 24,160 words.)