The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-16


Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen begins at the Taheris' house with "lafz, the ceremony of "giving word." Even though Baba is very ill, he proclaims it "the happiest day of [his] life." Baba made a speech and General Taheri welcomed Amir into his family. Then Soraya joined the celebration and kissed Baba's hands. Traditionally, lafz is followed by an engagement party called Shirini-kori and an engagement period, but everyone agreed that they should skip it because Baba was so close to death. Baba spent almost all the money he had left on the traditional Afghan wedding ceremony, called awroussi. According to the ceremony, Amir and Soraya were left alone together under a veil to gaze at each other's reflections in a mirror. There, Amir told her he loved her for the first time. Amir could not help wondering whether Hassan had gotten married and what his wife was like. The party continued until the early morning, after which Amir and Soraya made love for the first time.

Soraya moved in with Amir and Baba after the wedding so that Amir could spend his father's last days with him. Soraya cared for Baba as though he were her own father, bathing him, reading to him, cooking for him, and giving him anything else he needed. One day, Amir came home to find Soraya hiding Rahim Khan's notebook under Baba's mattress. Baba admitted that he had coaxed Soraya to read him Amir's stories. Amir left the room to cry tears of joy, since he knew Baba disliked seeing him cry. A month after the wedding, Soraya's family came over to Baba's for dinner. Amir could see how happy Baba was to see him happily married. At the end of the night, Soraya and Amir helped Baba into bed. He refused his morphine, saying, "There is no pain tonight." He died in his sleep.

Baba's funeral took place at a nearby mosque. The men's and women's sections of the mosque were separate, so Amir sat next to General Taheri while Soraya and her mother were in another room. Amir acknowledged that Baba was his obstinate self until the end; he even died "on his own terms." Countless people whom Amir had never seen shook his hand and told him how Baba had helped them in one way or another. As he listened to their remarks, Amir realized that he no longer had Baba to define him or guide him; he felt terribly alone. After the burial, Amir and Soraya walked through the cemetery together and Amir cried at last.

After Baba's death, Amir got to know the Taheris much more closely. General Taheri was a complicated man. He did not work and collected welfare because he considered this more dignified than taking on a blue collar job as Baba had. He suffered from terrible headaches lasting days, and spent the rest of his time waiting for the liberation of Afghanistan. He felt sure that he would be called back to serve in the government at any time, so he always wore his grey suit and watch in preparation to leave. Khanum Taheri was a talented singer, but the general forbid her to sing. Instead, she focused her energies on homemaking. Now that Soraya was married, Khanum Taheri focused much of her attention on Amir. She adored him especially because he listened to her long list of imagined ailments; ever since her stroke, she became convinced that every small disturbance in her body was a serious ailment. Amir knew that Khanum Taheri was grateful to him not only for this, but for relieving her of her greatest fear-of Soraya becoming a spinster.

One night, Soraya told Amir the story of how the general forced her to end her affair. He came to her lover's house and told him he would kill him and himself if Soraya did not come home. Soraya told her father she wished he was dead, but she came home with him. At home, he made her cut off all her hair. Ever after, Soraya heard derogatory whispers everywhere she went. After Soraya told Amir the story, he asked her never to mention it again. He understood too well the torment of guilt and betrayal, but he also pitied Soraya for being a woman in Afghan society; even in America, she was subject to a double standard regarding sexual behavior.

Amir and Soraya moved into their own apartment. The Taheris helped them furnish it, and the general gave Amir a typewriter. They both enrolled at San Jose University, where Amir worked toward a degree in English and Soraya, in teaching. In 1988, Amir finished his first novel, "a father-son story set in Kabul." Soon after, he got a lierary agent and became a published writer. Amir's feelings of success were tempered with his guilt; he felt himself to be undeserving. That same year, international politics were particularly fraught. The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, but a new conflict erupted between the Mujahedin and the remaining communist government. The Berlin wall was destroyed and the Tiananmen Square riots occurred. In their safe American abode, Amir and Soraya began trying to conceive a child.

After months of trying to conceive, Amir and Soraya consulted fertility doctors. Neither of them had any detectable fertility problems, but they were still unable to have a child. When they told Soraya's parents, General Taheri and Khanum Taheri were disappointed. The general urged them not to adopt, most of all because Afghan society depends on the line of succession, which the act of adoption obliterates. Amir thought privately that his and Soraya's infertility was punishment for his betraying Hassan so many years before. Soon after they discovered they could not have a family, Amir and Soraya bought a house. Despite their newfound material comforts, the absence of a child tormented them both.

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen opens in June of 2001, when Amir received a call from Rahim Khan. He told Amir he was very sick and asked him to come visit him in Pakistan. Amir considered what Rahim Khan had said before hanging up, "Come. There is a way to be good again." Suddenly, he understood that Rahim Khan knew, and had always known, what he did to Hassan. Amir was comfortable leaving Soraya with her parents; her relationship with them had improved in the years since the wedding. The General no longer insisted that Soraya change her career path away from teaching; sometimes he sat in on the classes Soraya taught and even took notes. That night, Amir dreamt of Hassan as he had seen him right before the rape, shouting, "For you, a thousand times over!" A week later, he left for Peshawar, Pakistan.

Chapter Fifteen

As Amir rode through the streets of Peshawar in a cab, he remembered being there in 1981 as a refugee. The city was bustling with vendors, families, and children. Rahim Khan was staying in the Afghan section. Amir had last seen him the night before he and Baba fled Kabul, and has barely spoken with him since. When Rahim Khan answered the door, Amir saw how emaciated his illness had made him. Still, Rahim Khan's face brightened in Amir's presence and at the news of his marriage fifteen years earlier. He did not remember the notebook he gave Amir.

Rahim Khan described how the Taliban was terrorizing Afghanistan, though they had been received initially as heroes. Once, at a soccer game, a man next to him cheered too loudly. A Talib pistol whipped Rahim Khan, thinking he had made the noise. People in Kabul were afraid to leave their houses because of frequent shootings and bombings. Even Baba's orphanage had been destroyed, with many children inside it. Then Rahim Khan told Amir that he did not have long to live. He laughed at Amir's offer to take him to America, saying he accepted his fate. Then he revealed to Amir that for all the years he lived in Baba's house after 1981, Hassan lived there with him. He told Amir that he needed a favor of him, but first wanted to tell him about Hassan.

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen is in Rahim Khan's voice; he is telling Amir the story of what happened to Hassan. He went searching for Hassan in 1986 because he was dreadfully lonely, so many of his relatives and friends having been killed or fled since 1981. He was managing to take care of the house and himself despite his age and arthritis, but when the news of Baba's death reached him, he felt the weight of it all was too much. He drove to Hazarajat, where Ali and Hassan had been living, and was directed to a village outside Bamiyan. He found Hassan, now in his early twenties, and his pregnant wife, Farzana, living in a small hut. Hassan was overcome with joy when he saw Rahim Khan. He told him that Ali had been killed by a land mine two years before. He asked many questions about Amir. Initially, Hassan and Farzana refused to move to Baba's house, but then Rahim told him of Baba's death. Hassan cried all through the night and in the morning he agreed to move in with Rahim Khan.

Despite Rahim Khan's protestations, Hassan and Farzana stayed in the servants' hut and did all the chores. Hassan also wore black for forty days in mourning for Baba. In the fall, their daughter was stillborn; they buried her and Hassan placed a flower on her grave every day. Then in 1990, Farzana became pregnant again and Hassan's mother, Sanaubar, came to find him. She collapsed at the gate of the house; when they carried her inside and removed her burqa, they discovered that the former beauty was malnourished, had no teeth, and had grotesque scars all over her face from being cut. Hassan ran out of the house and was gone for hours, but when he returned he accepted Sanaubar as his mother. She became healthy and a part of the family; she even delivered Farzana and Hassan's son. Hassan named him Sohrab, after the hero in his favorite story from the book Amir used to read him. Sohrab became inseparable from Sanaubar, whom he called Sasa. Four years later, Sanaubar died peacefully. Hassan tried to give Sohrab a good childhood despite the constant fighting and danger in Kabul. He even took him kite running in the winter. When the Taliban took over, most people celebrated, but Hassan knew Hazaras' lives were in peril. He was right; in 1998 the Taliban "massacred the Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif."


Just as the courtship had made Baba feel important again, so did the wedding. Knowing he is dying, he spends almost all his money on the ceremony, rings, and traditional clothing. Yet even had Baba not been dying, he would have wanted the wedding to be extravagant; it is his last chance to throw a grand party and feel as he once did in Kabul. The wedding also brings Amir back to Kabul momentarily, when he wonders about Hassan. Though Baba is reduced to having Amir and Soraya care for him in the last days of his life, his death restores his dignity once again. At the funeral, the Afghan community recognizes Baba for the man he was in Afghanistan. It is a small consolation for Amir, who feels more alone than ever before. Now he is alone not only with his sin and guilt but with all his decisions and his future. He says, "Listening to them, I realized how much of who I was, what I was had been defined by Baba and the marks he had left on people's lies. My whole life, I had been "Baba's son." Now he was gone. Baba couldn't show me the way anymore; I'd have to find it on my own." Despite the fact that he and Baba were estranged for much of his life, it is only now that Amir realizes he must form his own identity, independent of Baba.

When Amir and Soraya try to have a child, the idea of retribution makes a grand re-entrance. Because no medical explanation exists for their infertility, Amir decides that it is a result of his betraying Hassan. The silence that grows between him and Soraya over their inability to conceive is filled with Amir's feeling of responsibility for it. When General Taheri discourages the couple from adopting, he makes the case that adoption disconnects the family line and threatens the family's security. He says, "Blood is a powerful thing ... And when you adopt, you don't know whose blood you're bringing into your house." What neither he nor Amir knows is that adopting will allow Amir to continue his family line and also redeem himself from having wronged family so many years before. When Rahim Khan calls from Pakistan, he sets Amir's redemption into motion. Like Amir, Rahim Khan believes that life has certain inevitabilities; as he puts it, "There is such a thing as God's will." Just as certainly as he knows he is going to die, he knows that Amir must be the one to save Sohrab.

In Chapter Fourteen, we finally revisit the phrase that Amir mentions in Chapter One: "there is a way to be good again." Now we understand its magnitude; for the first time, Amir discovers that someone, Rahim Khan, knows his secret and has kept it for all these years. What he does not realize is that Rahim Khan does not want to be saved; he wants to save Amir. From the moment Amir sees Rahim Khan, it becomes clear to us how irrevocably Afghanistan has changed. Amir says, "A thing made of skin and bones pretending to be Rahim Khan opened the door." Their meeting is out of place-in Peshawar instead of Kabul-and so is Rahim Khan's appearance. The old man does not even remember the notebook that has meant so much to Amir for the last fifteen years. Yet once they begin to talk, it becomes clear how close they still are and how much influence Rahim Khan has over Amir.

Because guilt has plagued Amir all these years, it is surprising that he does not seize the opportunity to redeem himself. Rather, he is evasive and keeps forcing Rahim Khan to raise the stakes for him. When Rahim Khan plays his best card and tells Amir that Hassan was his brother, and that he needs to redeem Baba as well as himself, Amir storms out like an angry child. Suddenly, he understands what it is like to be betrayed. Later we find out that Rahim Khan knows Amir better than the latter ever thought. He realized that Amir would resist bringing Sohrab to America, so he made up the story about the Caldwells. Amir does save Sohrab by bringing to America, but only after he is effectively tricked into doing so. This is why it is the act of running the kite at the end that truly redeems Amir; unlike all the other heroic things he does, it is of his own volition and out of the spirit of true selflessness and loyalty.

Through Rahim Khan's words in Chapter Sixteen, we learn that Hassan remained a loyal and humble person until death. Even though he never found out Baba was his father, he still mourned for him the way a son does. He insisted on living in the servant's hut and keeping house for Rahim Khan, presumably out of respect to Baba and also to Ali, who never asked for anything more. Hassan was as forgiving as an adult as he was as a child. When Sanaubar returned decades after abandoning him, he merely took time to collect himself and then returned to welcome her with open arms. And as Sohrab tells Amir later, Hassan even forgave Amir and considered him "the best friend he ever had." In the end, Hassan died defending Baba's house and honor.

Rahim Khan and Hassan bring the war stories from Afghanistan alive for us before we see them through Amir's eyes. Both men describe public beatings at the slightest provocation. Sanaubar is forced to wear a burqa, as we know, on pain of death. The men's firsthand knowledge of these things highlights their difference from Amir. Whereas they are Afghans to the very end, Amir seems to have lost his connection to his identity. As he stated before, he was 'carried away' by America's promise of a fresh beginning without memories of Hassan or what he did to him. Amir had been exempt from violence the moment he boarded the plane to California, but Rahim Khan and Hassan remained surrounded by danger. They had come to know a new, though terrible, Afghanistan, while Amir had tried as hard as he could to forget all about it. Even before Farid points out the fact point-blank, we can see that Amir has become a foreigner in his own homeland. At the same time, he is very much the person he was. It is true that in America, Amir experienced suffering and hardship, from having to learn English to not having money to seeing Baba degraded to watching him get sick and die. But Amir returns to Afghanistan in many ways just as he left it: he is a person of privilege, a person who is afraid to stand up for others, and a person who does not want to take responsibility for his actions. Back on Afghan soil, he must finally learn to be what Baba wanted him to be, and what Wahid calls him later on - "a true Afghan."