The Kite Runner Summary and Analysis
Amir is lying in his hospital bed, floating in and out of consciousness. He does not know where he is or how long ago he was brought in; all he can think of is that he wants to thank a child for something. In his fleeting moments of clarity, he sees a caretaker named Aisha, a doctor, and Farid-although he cannot remember names. Amir has a vision of Baba fighting a bear in Baluchistan, a story that is supposedly true. At the end of the vision, he sees that he is Baba.
When Amir finally regains full consciousness, the doctor, Dr. Faruqi, explains his injuries. He has had several surgeries in the two days since Farid brought him in; his jaw is wired together, his spleen ruptured and had to be removed, he suffered several broken ribs and a punctured lung, his upper lip was split open, and his eye socket bone broken. Dr. Faruqi said Amir was lucky to have survived such trauma. As Amir tried to take in the magnitude of what happened, one ironic fact stayed with him; he now had a harelip scar just like Hassan had.
The next day, Farid and Sohrab came to visit. When Farid asked what happened in the room with "the Talib official," Amir replied, "Let's just say we both got what we deserved." Farid told him that Rahim Khan had left Peshawar, leaving behind a key and a letter for Amir. Amir asked Farid to leave Sohrab with him for a few hours. Even though Amir tried to reach out to Sohrab and thanked him for saving his life, Sohrab was shy and refused to make eye contact. The day dragged on, but it was punctuated by the entrance of a strange man. He surveyed the room, stared at Amir, and left. Most likely, he was a spy sent by Assef to threaten Amir's life.
After Sohrab left, Amir read Rahim Khan's letter. In it, he revealed that Hassan told him about the rape soon after it happened. He told Amir that he did betray his friend, but reminded him that he was only a boy at the time. He assured Amir that he had suffered from his guilt so much only because he was a good, caring person. Rahim Khan explained that it was hard for him to watch Amir vying for Baba's attention. Baba, he said, was hard on Amir only because of his own guilt. His betrayal of Ali and the fact that he could never claim Hassan as his son tortured him. Rahim Khan believed that all of Baba's charity was in atonement for his sin. Amir, he said, should learn from Baba's example and try to redeem himself as well. He said he had left money for Amir in a safety deposit box, which the key would open. He ended the letter by requesting that Amir not look for him. Amir cried reading the letter. He was ashamed that, unlike Baba, he had acted out because of his guilt rather than doing good.
The next morning, Amir looked at his face in a mirror. His monstrous appearance shocked him. Then Farid came to visit. He warned Amir that they had to leave Peshawar right away before Taliban sympathizers tried to finish him off. Amir sent him to find John and Betty Caldwell and spent the day playing cards with Sohrab. They did not talk much, but eventually Sohrab told Amir what Hassan said about him, that he was "the best friend he ever had." Still, every time Amir tried to touch Sohrab's arm, he pulled away.
The next day, Amir left the hospital against Dr. Faruq's advice. He planned to use the money from the safety deposit box to pay his bills, leave Sohrab with the Caldwells, and fly home. When Farid arrived with Sohrab, he explained that there were no Caldwells in Peshawar, nor had there ever been. Farid drove Amir and Sohrab to Islamabad
Islamabad was much more modern and cleaner than Peshawar, and the hotel they stayed in even had a television-a big change from Kabul. Before Farid left to rejoin his family, Amir paid him a little over two thousand dollars, leaving his friend speechless. Sohrab fell asleep and then Amir did the same. When Amir awoke, Sohrab was gone. The hotel manager, Fayyaz, decided to help Amir find him, saying, "I will drive you because I am a father like you." They found Sohrab sitting in front of the giant Shah Faisal Mosque. Amir sat on the grass with Sohrab, who told him about his memories of his parents. Amir gave him the photograph that Rahim Khan took.
Sohrab asked Amir if he would go to hell for taking out Assef's eye. Amir told him that Assef was a bad man who had hurt Hassan many years before. He assured Sohrab that Hassan would have been very proud of him. Sohrab was tormented by a feeling that he was dirty because Assef and his men had molested him. Amir told him that he was not dirty and after some coaxing, Sohrab let him hold him in his arms. He asked Sohrab if he would come to America with him, but Sohrab only sobbed.
The issue of America lay dormant until a week later, when Amir and Sohrab took a day trip to a hill. There, he revealed to Sohrab that he and Hassan were half-brothers. Sohrab asked if Baba had loved him and Hassan equally, and Amir replied, "he loved us equally but differently." Back at the hotel, Amir promised to show Sohrab the Golden Gate Bridge and drive him up the steep streets of San Francisco. He promised Sohrab that he would never have to live in an orphanage again.
At last, Amir called Soraya. After fifteen years of marriage, he finally told her about Hassan's rape. She told Amir to bring Sohrab home. The next day, Amir took Sohrab to the American Embassy to see an official named Raymond Andrews. Amir told him he wanted to take his half-nephew to America, omitting all the information about Assef. Raymond Andrews told him that his chances of getting a visa for Sohrab were slim. He would have to prove that Sohrab was legally an orphan by providing death certificates for Hassan and Farzana; this would have been impossible even in pre-Taliban Kabul. Before leaving, Amir snapped at Raymond Andrews, "They ought to put someone in your chair who knows what it's like to want a child." As he and Sohrab left, the receptionist told Amir that Raymond Andrews's daughter had committed suicide.
It turned out that Soraya's cousin, Sharif, might be able to get Sohrab a visa because he worked for the INS. In the meantime, a lawyer named Omar Faisal came to consult with Amir at the hotel. He grew up in Berkeley but spoke perfect Farsi. Amir told him the unedited story of what happened with Assef. He repeated what Raymond Andrews had said about death certificates, but said there was some hope of adopting Sohrab if he was placed in an orphanage temporarily.
After Omar Faisal left, Amir told Sohrab that he might have to spend a little time in an orphanage. Terrified, Sohrab sobbed and begged Amir not to put him in an orphanage, but Amir could not bring himself to promise. He knew that an orphanage might be their best hope. Finally, Sohrab cried himself to sleep and Amir fell askeep as well. A call from Soraya awoke him; she gave the good news that Sharif would be able to get Sohrab a visa. Amir knocked on the bathroom door to tell Sohrab that all their fears were over, but he would not answer. Then Amir opened the door to the bathroom and began to scream; an ambulance took him and Sohrab to the hospital.
Amir is at the hospital, waiting for Sohrab. He finds a bedsheet and kneels on it to pray for the first time in over fifteen years. He mumbles the phrases of prayers he still remembers, his belief in God suddenly renewed. In his prayers, he begs God to let Sohrab live; he will do anything to ensure the boy's safety, saying, "My hands are stained with Hassan's blood; I pray God doesn't let them get stained with the blood of this boy too." He recounts what he saw when he opened the bathroom door; Sohrab lay dying in the bloody bathwater, having slit his wrists with Amir's razor. Finally, a doctor tells Amir that Sohrab will live. When he finally gets to visit Sohrab in the intensive care unit, Amir sees how hopeless he is. At Fayyaz's request, Amit stopped staying in his hotel. He barely said a word, even when Amir read him the story of his namesake from the Shahnamah. Finally, he told Amir, "I want my old life back" and that he wishes he was dead. Amir told him the good news from Soraya and asked Sohrab to forgive him for going back on his word. Sohrab just said he was tired and fell asleep.
Eventually, Amir did bring Sohrab home with him to San Francisco. We discover that Amir has been narrating the story in 2002, seven months after they arrived. Sohrab had not spoken a single word since then. He showed no interest in the books Soraya had bought him or any activity they suggested. They did not tell the Taheris the story of why exactly they were adopting Sohrab or how Amir had gotten injured. One day, General Taheri said, "People will ask. They will want to know why there is a Hazara boy living with our daughter. What do I tell them?" Amir, angered, told the general that Sohrab was the son of his illegitimate half-brother and told him never to call him a "Hazara boy" in front of him again.
The political landscape had changed in the interim since Amir and Sohrab arrived home. The Twin Towers had fallen in New York City and The United States had bombed Afghanistan, compounding the damage done by decades of fighting. Amir found it strange to hear non-Afghan Americans discussing the cities of his childhood. He and Soraya began to get involved on Afghanistan's behalf, trying to restore a hospital on the Pakistani border. Amir had kept his promise to pray after Sohrab had survived his suicide attempt.
Amir explains that four days earlier, a miracle happened. He and Soraya took Sohrab to an Afghan picnic in the park, along with Khanum Taheri. General Taheri was not there because he had finally gotten his wish; he had been offered a post in the Afghanistan ministry. By now, people had gotten used to Sohrab's silence and even Soraya could not bear trying to engage him anymore. Only Amir kept trying. Suddenly, Amir noticed kites flying over the park. He bought one and brought it to Sohrab. He told him that Hassan was the best kite runner he had ever known and asked Sohrab to fly the kite with him. Sohrab remained silent, but Amir knew what to do; he ran as fast as he could to launch the kite. As he stared up at it, he noticed that Sohrab had followed him and handed him the string. Sohrab soon gave it back to him. They stood in silence once more until they noticed a green kite closing in on theirs. When the kite came close enough, Amir performed Hassan's favorite kite-fighting trick, "the old lift-and-dive" as Sohrab watched, mesmerized. The green kite fell out of the air. When Amir looked down at Sohrab, he witnessed a half-smile steal over Sohrab's face. He asked, "Do you want me to run that kite for you?" Sohrab nodded, and Amir told him, "For you, a thousand times over." Amir ran among the children, after the kite.
Amir's recovery is the second time in the novel that Hosseini uses broken images to convey a sense of detachment from reality. The first was when Amir witnessed Hassan's rape in the alleyway. The most important image from Amir's recovery time is his dream about Baba wrestling the bear, in which he is Baba. The story about Baba and the bear was a neighborhood legend, which Amir had later taken to represent any trouble Baba went through. When Baba died, Amir called his cancer "the Bear he could not defeat." The dream is full of symbolism on many levels. One one level, Amir is Baba and Assef is the bear. Amir describes how "Spittle and blood fly; claw and hand swipe." He even says, "They fall to the ground with a loud thud," which also describes the moment just before Sohrab saved Amir. Amir knows that by escaping, he has bested Assef just as Baba supposedly killed the bear. On another level, the dream is about Amir coming to terms with his guilt, which the bear represents. When he puts himself in grave danger on Sohrab's behalf, Amir is challenging his guilt-challenging the bear. It is important that the dream ends with Amir beating the bear but not killing it. Just as he does not kill the bear in his dream, Amir has not yet defeated his guilt. Only when he runs the kite for Sohrab is he redeemed.
In Islamabad, Amir finds out that he is not the only one living in a cycle of guilt; like many victims of cruelty, Sohrab feels responsible for what has happened to him. Sohrab's fears make it clear that he took his fathers life lessons to heart. Like Hassan and Ali before him, Sohrab believes in God and does not believe that people should use violence to solve their problems. Sohrab does not feel safe with Amir, and rightfully so since he has been abused by so many adults. He believes himself to be "so dirty and full of isn." However, that is not the only reason Sohrab's fears are justified. Amir is still putting his own needs in front of Sohrab's because he is acting out of his guilt. When Sohrab disappears from the hotel, Amir says, "I imagined Sohrab lying in a ditch. Or in the trunk of some car, bound and gagged. I didn't want his blood on my hands. Not his too." Because Amir is not yet acting selflessly towards Sohrab, it is ironic when the hotel manager says, "I will drive you because I am a father like you."
Hosseini takes us into the mundane yet necessary world of bureaucracy to show how international policies often compound people's experiences of trauma. Raymond Andrews is a figurehead for the red tape that one finds throughout American, or any, immigration policies. Amir has spent weeks feeling like a privileged American in compassion to the Afghans. Now, he feels like an Afghan speaking to a privileged American who does not understand him. Amir's feeling of separation from Raymond Andrews is particularly clear when he describes the way Andrews "press[es] his hands palm to palm, as if he were kneeling before the Virgin Mary." He knows that Raymond Andrews is a "typical American," and he interprets his gesture as such-his gesture reminds Amir of Christianity instead of Islam.
Amir is shocked, as perhaps we are, to discover that even the sharpest image of hardship is not enough to cut through America's red tape. The fact that Sohrab has been raped, enslaved, and possibly seen his parents slaughtered still does not exempt him from procedure. Amir suddenly finds himself identifying with Afghanistan more strongly than he has in years. He has authority in his voice when he tells Raymond Andrews, "This is Afghanistan we're talking about. Most people there don't have birth certificates." The moment when Amir leaves the Embassy is doubly significant. In the first place, it serves to reconnect Amir to his American identity, from which he has felt estranged while talking to Raymond Andrews. When Amir finds out that Andrews lost his daughter in a violent way, he is reminded that violence exists everywhere in the world, even in privileged societies and situations. In the second place, the moment uses one of Hosseini's favorite techniques, foreshadowing.
Sohrab's suicide attempt breaks up the calm that falls over the story in Islamabad. Once Amir knows that he and Sohrab are in a safe place, he assumes that they are free from violence. Despite the massive injuries he has sustained, Amir still does not understand what it means to be wounded in one's soul, to be a true victim of war. He also is not yet the father that the hotel manager thought him to be because he has trouble understanding just how young and vulnerable Sohrab is. Amir has not yet learned that breaking a promise to a child makes that child feel unsafe. And with the terror that Sohrab has withstood, not feeling safe takes on a whole new meaning. Most children are afraid of pretend monsters, but Sohrab has faced real ones. The way in which Sohrab tries to kill himself speaks volumes about the guilt he himself feels. Not surprisingly, Amir's assurances that he is not "dirty" do little to comfort him. Not only does he die in the bathtub, but he drains the blood from his veins as though dying that way will clean him of his guilt and all his painful memories.
In several ways, Sohrab's suicide attempt teaches Amir how strong an influence fear has over people's lives. It is fear and panic that drive him to pray after fifteen years and convince him that God exists. Amir suddenly understands that people who are afraid need to believe in God in order to maintain their hope. He says, "There is a God, there always had been. I see Him here, in the eyes of the people in this corridor of desperation. This is the real house of God, this is where those who have lost God will find Him ... There is a God, there has to be." Believing in God makes Amir resemble Hassan more, because he is suddenly pious like his friend. However, as Amir acknowledges, his prayers flow from a selfish locus. He is bartering with God, promising to be a more devout Muslim in exchange for Sohrab's life. He is still acting out of his long-held guilt, praying, "My hands are stained with Hassan's blood; I pray God doesn't let them get stained with the blood of this boy too ... I pray my sins have not caught up with me the way I'd always feared they would." From these words, it is clear that even though Amir desperately wants Sohrab to live, the person he is most concerned with is still himself.
In the end, Rahim Khan is the one who knows the true path to redemption. He tells Amir in his letter, "I know that in the end, God will forgive. He will forgive your father, me, and you too. I hope you can do the same. Forgive your father if you can. Forgive me if you wish. But, most important, forgive yourself." Rahim Khan understands that Amir takes pleasure in torturing himself with his guilt. As long as he is directing his remorse inwards, he cannot truly help anyone else. Only when he forgives himself and stops feeling the pain of guilt can Amir direct his full focus on repaying his debt to Hassan and Baba's debt to Ali. As he puts it, true forgiveness involves "pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night." Once Amir has stopped merely 'not wanting to have blood on his hands,' he can make use of those hands. He does just that when he teaches Sohrab about kite fighting.
When Amir and Sohrab fight the blue kite, the story finally comes full circle. The sport takes Amir back to the moment before everything changed, when Hassan had not been raped and they were just two boys having fun together. He says, "I was twelve again." Now that Amir has forgiven himself, kite fighting reminds him of pleasure instead of pain. His memories no longer being painful, he shares them with Sohrab: "Did I ever tell you your father was the best kite runner in Wazir Akbar Khan? Maybe all of Kabul? ... Watch, Sohrab. I'm going to show you one of your father's favorite tricks, the old lift-and-dive." In the ultimate moment of circularity, Amir runs the kite for Sohrab just as Hassan ran his last kite for him half a century before. Finally Amir understands what it is like to be as loyal and loving as Hassan, and can truthfully repeat Hassan's words, "For you, a thousand times over." The kite is a symbol of Amir's good, fatherly wishes for Sohrab. He wants to bring him joy, opportunity, a sense of security, and the will to live again, if only this were as easy as bringing him the kite. The last time Amir went to find a kite, he ended up turning his back on Hassan for good by running away from the scene of his rape. This is why the novel's last words, "I ran," are so meaningful. Even though Amir's story has made a circle metaphorically speaking, it has not ended where it began. Amir is running in a positive way, away from Sohrab physically but toward him emotionally. He is finally running with freedom in his heart instead of fear.
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