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The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini

Chapters 8–9

Chapters 6–7

Chapters 10–11

Summary: Chapter 8

After the rape, Amir and Hassan spend less time together. Baba and Amir take a trip to Jalalabad and stay at the house of Baba’s cousin. When they arrive they have a large traditional Afghan dinner. Baba proudly tells everyone about the kite tournament, but Amir does not enjoy it. After dinner, they all lie down to bed in the same room, but Amir cannot sleep. He says aloud that he watched Hassan get raped, but nobody is awake to hear him. He says this is the night he became an insomniac. When Amir and Baba return home, Hassan asks Amir if he wants to walk up the hill with him. They walk in silence, and when Hassan asks if Amir will read to him, Amir changes his mind and wants to go home.

Amir continues not to play with Hassan. When Hassan asks Amir what he did wrong, Amir tells Hassan to stop harassing him. After that, the boys avoid each other. One day, Amir asks Baba if he would ever get new servants. Baba becomes furious and says that he will never replace Ali and Hassan. With the start of school, Amir spends hours alone in his room. One afternoon he asks Hassan to walk up the hill with him so he can read him a story. They sit under a pomegranate tree, and Amir asks Hassan what he would do if he threw a pomegranate at him. Amir begins pelting Hassan with pomegranates and yells at Hassan to hit him back. But Hassan won’t. He crushes a pomegranate against his own forehead, asks Amir if he is satisfied, and leaves.

That summer of 1976, Amir turns thirteen. Baba invites more than 400 people to the party he plans. At the party Baba makes Amir greet each guest personally. Assef arrives and acts politely as he jokes with Baba. He tells Amir that he chose the gift himself. Amir cannot hide his discomfort, embarrassing Baba and forcing him to apologize. Once Amir is alone he opens the gift, a biography of Hitler, which he throws away. As Amir sits in the dark, Rahim Khan shows up and starts chatting with him, sharing that he was almost married once. The girl was a Hazara. They would meet secretly at night and imagine a life together. But when Rahim Khan told his father, his father became enraged and sent the girl and her family away. Rahim Khan says it was for the best. His family’s rejection of her would have been too painful in the long run. He tells Amir he is always there to listen, then gives him a leather-bound notebook for his stories. Fireworks begin, and the two rush back to the house, where Amir sees Hassan serving drinks to Assef and Wali.

Summary: Chapter 9

The next morning Amir opens his presents. He thinks to himself that either he or Hassan must leave. As he is going out later, Ali stops him and gives him his present. It is a new version of “Shahnamah,” the book of stories Amir would read to Hassan. The morning after, Amir waits for Hassan and Ali to leave. He takes his birthday money and a watch that Baba gave him and puts them under Hassan’s mattress. He tells Baba that Hassan stole them, and when Ali and Hassan return, Baba asks Hassan if he stole the money and the watch. To Amir’s surprise, Hassan says he did. Amir realizes Hassan saw him in the alley, and he knew also that Amir was setting him up now. Baba forgives Hassan, but Ali says they must leave. Baba pleads with him to stay, but Ali refuses. It rains when Ali and Hassan leave, and Amir watches from inside as they go.

Analysis

Further ironies stemming from Amir’s sacrifice of Hassan come to light in this section. Most notably, Amir allowed Hassan to be raped in part because he thought bringing home the kite would win him Baba’s love, relieving him of his guilt over his mother’s death and making him happy. To some degree he is correct, at least initially. Baba spends more of his time with him, invites him out to a movie when it was always Amir who had to ask, brags about his victory in the kite tournament, and organizes a large party for his birthday. But Amir is unable to fully enjoy it. He is so consumed by a different guilt—guilt over his inaction during Hassan’s rape—that he is constantly miserable. During the trip to Jalalabad, he tries to rid himself of this weight. While everyone is sleeping, he says aloud that he saw Hassan raped, hoping someone will hear him. But no one does, and Amir recognizes that his curse is getting away with it. What’s more, when he asks Baba if he would ever consider new servants, Baba is so upset he tells Amir that he is ashamed of him. A similar event occurs at Amir’s birthday party, when Baba is embarrassed by Amir’s rudeness toward Assef. In other words, Amir’s guilt leads him to do things that result in a loss of Baba’s approval. Rather than gain everything he wants, Amir loses the happiness he had.

Amir does not know how to deal with his feelings of guilt and unhappiness after Hassan’s rape. At first he tries to keep away from Hassan, who becomes a constant reminder to Amir of his own cowardice and selfishness. He seems to think avoiding Hassan means he won’t feel these things any longer. But Hassan is a part of the household, so Amir can never escape him completely. When the two are face-to-face, Amir wishes Hassan would punish him. He pelts Hassan with the pomegranates, for instance, because he wants Hassan to hit him back. Punishment, Amir feels, would at least begin to make up for the way he wronged Hassan. Hassan, however, will not retaliate, and this becomes the greatest torment for Amir. Hassan proves his love and loyalty to Amir are unshakable, whereas Amir proves that his love and loyalty are weak. One of Amir’s constant fears is realized: Hassan emerges as the stronger, better person. Amir cannot tolerate this truth and engineers a plan to make Ali and Hassan leave. Yet his guilt is only heightened when Hassan admits to stealing the money and watch. Amir recognizes that Hassan is sacrificing himself again, despite knowing that Amir did not do the same for him when he was raped.

There are also more examples in this section of the injustices against Hazaras. When Rahim Khan’s father becomes angry because Rahim Khan wants to marry a Hazara woman, he resolves the problem not by moving his own family, but by sending away the Hazara woman and her family. Similarly, to resolve the tension between Hassan and Amir, Ali decides that they will leave. Both the Hazara family from Rahim Khan’s story and Ali and Hassan go to Hazarajat, an isolated, mountainous region in central Afghanistan that is principally inhabited by Hazaras. But perhaps the most poignant image of the injustice toward Hazaras is the moment Amir witnesses Hassan serving drinks to Assef and Wali from a silver platter. Hassan cannot do anything about the rape because of his inferior status as a poor Hazara, and Assef, whose family is rich and powerful, knows it. Hassan dutifully serves Assef, the boy who raped him, and Assef expresses no remorse or shame during the encounter. Instead, he grins at Hassan and kneads him in the chest tauntingly with his knuckle.

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