The Kite Runner Summary and Analysis
The morning of the tournament, Hassan described his dream to Amir. In it, the two boys amazed the people of Kabul by swimming in a lake and proving it contained no monster. Then the boys were lauded as heroes and became the lake's owners. When Amir said he didn't want to fly a kite, Hassan told him, "no monster," and convinced him to proceed. Amir and Hassan were a great team and theirs was one of the last two kites left in the sky. Their hands were bloodied from holding the sharp string, but their hearts were filled with hope of winning the tournament. Amir focused hard and to his surprise, he cut the last, blue kite and won. The true victory for Amir was seeing Baba hollering with pride. Hassan took off to run the blue kite and Amir followed after bringing his kite home. A merchant told Amir that he had seen Hassan running by with the blue kite. He finally found Hassan facing Assef and his two friends, who were trying to steal the kite from him. Assef told Hassan that even Amir considered him worthless, but Hassan defended himself and Amir, saying that they were friends. Amir stood frozen in shock as the fight began.
The chapter is interrupted with Amir's memories, which appear in italics. The first is of Ali's words about his kinship with Hassan because they had the same nursemaid. The second is of Amir and Hassan visiting a fortune teller who gets a look of doom on his face while reading Hassan's fortune. Next is a dream, also in italics. Amir is lost in a snowstorm until he takes Hassan's outstretched hand in his. Suddenly the boys are in a bright, grassy field, looking up at colorful kites.
Amir transports us back to the moment when he hid in the alley, watching Assef and his friends seizing Hassan. He remembers the blue kite and Hassan's pants lying on the ground. Assef told both his friends to rape Hassan, but they refused. They consented to hold Hassan down while Assef raped him. Amir saw "the look of the lamb," the look of defeat, on Hassan's face.
The chapter is interrupted by another italicized memory. Baba, Ali, and their sons gathered in the yard to sacrifice a lamb for Eid-e-Qorban, in honor of the prophet Ibrahim's near sacrifice of his son. A mullah makes the meat halal and the tradition is to give one third to family, one third to friends, and one third to the poor. Baba's tradition is to give all the meat to the poor because he says, "The rich are fat enough already." Just before the mullah slaughtered the lamb, Amir saw its look of acceptance, as though it understood that its death was for "a higher purpose." The look would haunt him forever after.
We return to Hassan's rape. Amir turned away, weeping, still hearing Assef's grunts issuing from the alleyway. Instead of standing up for Hassan the way his friend had for him so many times, he fled. Amir tried to convince himself that he ran out of fear, but he knew that he felt Hassan to be his sacrificial lamb, the one to suffer for him so that he could live happily. In spite of himself, Amir thought, "He was just a Hazara, wasn't he?"
Some time later, Amir found Hassan walking down the streets, holding the blue kite. He pretended that he hadn't seen the rape, but he was terrified that Hassan would know or worse, would show him devotion despite knowing. Hassan said nothing about the rape even though he was bleeding through his pants. The boys returned home and proud Baba wrapped Amir in his arms. Amir was so overjoyed that he momentarily forgot that he had just betrayed Hassan.
After the rape, Hassan did not spend time with Amir although he still did his chores. A worried Ali asked Amir about Hassan's torn shirt and bloodied pants the night of the tournament, but Amir pretended not to know what happened. That night, he asked Baba if they could go to Jalalabad; ever since Amir won the tournament, Baba had not denied him anything. When Baba suggested they invite Hassan along, Amir told him that Hassan was sick. Amir looked forward to having Baba to himself, but Baba invited three vans' worth of relatives and friends along. As they drove along in the car, one friend's twin daughters recounted Amir's victory at the kite-fighting tournament. At this, Amir's carsickness overwhelmed him and he vomited. As they aired out the van on the roadside, Amir saw Hassan's bloodied pants in his head.
Finally, they reached Kaka Homayoun's house in Jalalabad. Even though Amir finally had the intimacy with Baba he had wanted all his life, his guilt made him feel emptier than ever. As Amir, Baba, and everyone else slept in the same room, Amir confessed to the darkness, "I watched Hassan get raped." No one heard him. He realized that he was the monster in Hassan's dream and had dragged Hassan to the bottom of the lake. That night, Amir's insomnia began.
A week later, Hassan asked Amir to climb the hill with him and read to him. When they reached their favorite spot, Amir changed his mind and the boys walked back down. After that incident, Amir's memories of the winter of 1975 are unclear. He could not wait for winter to end and school to begin, even though he had fun with Baba. He made sure to never be in the same room as Hassan, although his loyal friend kept trying to make things better between them. One day, after Amir refused to walk to the market with him, Hassan asked Amir what he had done wrong. Amir told Hassan that he should stop harassing him. After that, Hassan left him alone. One day as they were planting tulips, Amir asked Baba if he would get new servants. Baba was furious and threatened to strike Amir if he ever suggested it again. Ali and Hassan were their family, he said.
When school started, Amir was relieved to have homework to keep him busy. Then one day, he asked Hassan to climb the hill with him to hear a new story. Hassan joined him eagerly. After they picked pomegranates, Amir asked Hassan what he would do if he threw a pomegranate at him. When Hassan said nothing, he threw the fruit at him and demanded that Hassan throw one back. As Hassan refused to fight back, Amir threw countless pomegranates at him until he was stained in blood-red juice. Finally, Hassan smashed a pomegranate against his own forehead and asked, "Are you satisfied? Do you feel better?" before leaving.
That summer, Amir turned thirteen. Even though the coldness between him and Baba had returned, his father threw him a lavish birthday party with a guest list of four hundred people. Assef showed up with his parents and charmed Baba. He invited Amir to come play volleyball at his house and to bring along Hassan, but Amir refused. Then Assef offered Amir his gift, a book he picked out himself. After awkwardly excusing himself, he unwrapped the present alone; it was a biography of Hitler, which he threw into the bushes. Rahim Khan found him and told him a story. He had almost married a Hazara woman, but his family was outraged at the proposition and sent her and her family out of town. Then Rahim Khan told Amir that he could confide in him, but Amir could not bring himself to tell his friend what he had done. Rahim Khan gave him his present, a notebook for his stories. Then they hurried back to the party to watch the fireworks. In one flash of light, Amir saw Hassan serving drinks to Assef and Wali. He saw Assef playfully punch Hassan in the chest before, to his relief, the light faded.
The morning after his birthday party, Amir opened his presents joylessly. To him, each gift was tainted with Hassan's shed blood. He knew Baba never would have thrown him such an extravagant party if he had not won the tournament, and to him the victory was inseparable from Hassan's rape. Baba himself gave Amir a coveted Stingray bicycle and a fancy wristwatch, but they too felt like "blood money." The only gift Amir could stand to enjoy was the notebook from Rahim Khan. As he considered Rahim Khan's story about his Hazara fiancÃ©e, Amir decided that either he or Hassan had to leave their household in order for them to be happy.
When Amir took his new bike for a ride, Ali and Hassan were in the yard cleaning up the mess from the party. Ali stopped Amir to give him a present from himself and Hassan, a new copy of the Shahnamah, the book from which he had so often read to Hassan. When he got home, Amir buried the book at the bottom of his pile of presents so it would not torment him with guilt. Then he began scheming how to get rid of Hassan. Before he went to bed, he asked Baba if he had seen his new wristwatch.
The next morning, Amir hid his wristwatch and a bundle of cash under Hassan's bed. Then he told Baba that Hassan had stolen from him. Baba called a meeting with Ali and Hassan in his office. When they arrived, their eyes were red from crying. Hassan lied and said that he had stolen Amir's wristwatch and money. Amir felt a pang of guilt because he understood that Hassan was sacrificing himself for him as usual. He also understood that Hassan knew everything about the night he was raped, that Amir stood by and did nothing to help him. To his shock, Baba forgave Hassan, but Ali and Hassan had already resolved to leave. From Ali's cold glance, Amir understood that Hassan had told him about the rape and about Amir's nonaction. Despite Baba's begging, Ali and Hassan left. When they were gone, Amir saw Baba cry for the first time. As though echoing Baba's grief, the skies opened up and it stormed during the dry season in Kabul.
In Chapter Seven, we finally witness Hassan's rape, to which Amir has been alluding since Chapter One. Hassan's comparison to the lamb underscores the theme of sacrifice. Hassan is a very brave person, but in the fight with Assef and his friends he does not go down fighting. Rather, he accepts his fate-he gets "the look of the lamb" in his eyes-because his loyalty to Amir makes him willing to suffer even the terribly violent act of rape. Amir, in contrast, is not willing to sacrifice anything for Hassan. Amir is so selfish that he ends up forcing Hassan and Ali out of the house rather than risking the loss of Baba's pride in him. The Kite Runner can be considered Amir's journey of learning how to be unselfish and make sacrifices for other people. Even when Rahim Khan makes it his dying wish for Amir to bring Sohrab to Peshawar, Amir tries to make excuses. Ultimately, he goes seeking Sohrab not so much to save the boy, but to save himself from his lifelong guilt. As we have said, it is in the act of running the kite for Sohrab that Amir is finally unselfish. He transforms from the kite fighter, seeking personal glory and attention, to the kite runner, unselfishly bringing joy to someone else.
In Chapter Seven, Hosseini uses italicized memories to represent Amir's emotional dissociation during the rape. In the alley, he is overcome by fear and he sees images. Some of them are of his and Hassan's solidarity: their being nursed by the same woman, their holding hands, their looking up at kites together. Some of them are manifestations of doom: the sacrifice of the lamb and the visit to the fortuneteller. By breaking up the chapter with harried memories, Hosseini makes it clear that Amir was in a state of panic and internal conflict. Still, he makes a conscious decision to abandon Hassan, whom he feels on some level to be his "sacrificial lamb" and "just a Hazara." In light of this, we can see the interruption of italicized memories as a representation not only of Amir's confusion and panic, but the moment when he became a true coward. We could dismiss the act of running away because Amir was a frightened child, but after the rape, his fear of being discovered and his capacity for betrayal only intensifies. As Amir says in Chapter One, that moment in the alleyway defined the rest of his life and, twenty-six years later, sent him on a quest for redemption.
Amir's guilt begins to consume him immediately after the rape. He becomes an insomniac. He cannot bear to be around Hassan, who reminds him of his guilt by merely existing. Instead of making him right his wrong, Amir's guilt leads him into a cycle of wrongdoing. First, he lies to Ali and says that nothing happened to Hassan. Next, Amir begins to ignore Hassan, effectively torturing him with silence and compounding his injury. The only thing that sickens Amir as much as his guilt is the fact that Hassan will not do anything to stand up for himself. The incident with the pomegranates embodies Hassan's insistence on 'taking the high road' when it comes to violence and anger. Instead of pelting Amir with pomegranates, he smashes one into his own forehead, as though he is truly incapable of hurting someone else. Later, we find out that even after Amir drove him out of Baba's house, Hassan considered Amir "the best friend he ever had" and passed onto Sohrab his belief in nonviolence. Hassan's name means "handsome," which is ironic because people make fun of Hassan's appearance; in another sense, it is perfectly fitting because Hassan's inner beauty and purity of spirit is what makes him such a respectable and lovable character. When Amir throws the pomegranates at Hassan, he is begging for Hassan to absolve him by hurting him. Instead, his torture continues; he sees juice running down Hassan's shirt like blood, reminding him that Hassan's blood is on his hands. In the end it is Assef who "heals" Amir by hurting him.
Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine contain clues that Hassan and Amir are brothers and bring into question the idea of family. When Amir watches Hassan get raped, he thinks of Ali's stories about the Hazara woman who nursed them both, and about the fact that they have a special connection because they "nursed from the same breast." When Amir suggests to Baba that they get new servants, his father threatens to hit him for the very first time and says that Hassan and Ali are their family. Baba is quick to forgive Hassan even when he admits to stealing from Amir, begs them to stay, and weeps when they leave anyway. From one perspective, we cannot blame Amir for feeling disconnected from Hassan and Ali; after all, he was raised to know them as servants-cherished ones, but servants nonetheless. Amir's name even means "prince," making it seem as though he should hold such a view. From another perspective, Hassan and Ali are human beings and it is cruel of Amir to treat them as inferior. Amir's actions toward his relatives, even though he does not know they are, call into question the importance of family ties.
In the story, there is a significant difference between being like family and being family. Even though Hassan is like a brother to Amir-"the person whose first spoken word had been [his] name," he still betrays him. When Amir discovers that Hassan was indeed his brother, he feels he must make things right. For him, the blood connection gives new validation to their relationship because he realizes that they really were equals. Suddenly, all Amir's feelings of entitlement-to his privileges and to Baba's affection-change because he understands that Hassan deserved those things, too. Family ties also bring Amir a new sense of entitlement to Sohrab. When Amir visits the orphanage in Karteh-Seh, his being the boy's half-uncle gives him legitimacy. Family ties also prove an obstacle; in order to prove that Sohrab is an orphan, Amir needs proof that the boy has no other family, that his parents are dead. It is ultimately family, Soraya's cousin Sharif, who makes it possible for Sohrab to come to America.
Nearly everything Amir does wrong, he does in order to win or keep Baba's attention and affection. His actions come out of his deep-seated belief that Baba blames him for his mother's death. He does not find out until many years later that Baba was blaming himself all along, for shaming Ali and not being able to treat Hassan like a true son. According to Rahim Khan, Baba was hard on Amir because he was trying to raise him to be like himself but more righteous. The irony is that in trying to redeem his own honor, Baba raised a child who felt neglected and who acted out in fear. When Amir wins the kite tournament, he bridges his and Baba's worlds through a sport. His true wish, however, is for Baba to acknowledge his special talent for writing. He says, "Maybe Baba would even read one of my stories. I'd write him a hundred if I thought he'd read one. Maybe he'd call me Amir jan like Rahim Khan did. And maybe, just maybe, I would finally be pardoned for killing my mother." From this statement, we also know that Rahim Khan is in many ways more of a father to Amir than Baba. Rahim Khan is the one who encourages Amir to write and buys him the special notebook that he keeps for so long. He is also the one who holds Amir accountable for his sins and for Baba's. Not surprisingly, Rahim's first name means "compassionate"; he is the person who understands people and protects them both by keeping their secrets and by making them atone.
The Kite Runner Essays and Related Content
- The Kite Runner: Major Themes
- The Kite Runner: Essays
- The Kite Runner: Questions
- The Kite Runner: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Khaled Hosseini: Biography
- The Kite Runner Summary
- About The Kite Runner
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-3
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 4-6
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-9
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-12
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-16
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 17-19
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 20-22
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 23-25
- The History of Afghanistan during the Time of The Kite Runner
- Related Links on The Kite Runner
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 5
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources