‘Hassan’s not going anywhere,’ Baba snapped. He dug a new hole with the trowel, striking the dirt harder than he had to. ‘He’s staying right here with us, where he belongs. This is his home and we’re his family. Don’t you ever ask me that question again!’
These words occur at the beginning at the novel, when Amir is recounting his childhood. After the incident in the alley, Amir is uncomfortable around Hassan, and asks whether Hassan and the servants can leave the house. Baba’s reaction reveals how important Hassan is to him and how he considers Hassan a part of the family. Baba says Amir’s request is shameful. It isn’t until later that Amir realizes why Baba’s reaction is so strong.
Tell him he’s wrong. War doesn’t negate decency. It demands it, even more than in times of peace.
Baba and Amir are on their way out of Kabul, and a Russian officer demands an hour with a woman in their truck in exchange for letting them pass. Baba refuses and asks the officer “where his shame is.” The officer replies that “there is no shame in war.” Baba’s retort that it’s quite the opposite—that times of war demand decency—shows his ability to take a stand and do the honorable thing. He stands up to the Russian officer.
‘Does he think I’m a thief?’ Baba said, his voice rising. People had gathered outside. They were staring. ‘What kind of a country is this? No one trusts anybody!’
Baba’s outrage occurs after he tries to pay for fruit in a store with a check. He has shopped at this store for years while living in America, and yet the cashier still asks to see his ID. In Afghanistan, years of being a loyal customer would have earned Baba trust. Baba is struggling to adjust to American culture, which feels impersonal and brutish compared to Afghanistan’s.
‘You’re twenty-two years old, Amir! A grown man! You …’ he opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, reconsidered. Above us, rain drummed on the canvas awning. ‘What’s going to happen to you, you say? All those years, that’s what I was trying to teach you, how to never have to ask that question.’
Amir recounts Baba’s reaction to his asking what would happen to him after Baba dies. This is an important point in the novel, because it underscores Amir’s transition into manhood. Baba’s reaction highlights his frustration with Amir, who should not have to ask this question. Amir is a man now, he should be in control of his own life.
‘Amir is going to be a great writer,’ Baba said. I did a double take at this. ‘He has finished his first year of college and earned A’s in all of his courses.’
Baba wants to impress General Taheri with his son’s accomplishments, so he brags about Amir’s grades. This comment makes Amir pause, because he knows it’s not entirely accurate. He also knows that Baba secretly disapproves of his desire to become a writer and shares General Taheri’s opinion that it’s a waste of time. Yet, Baba still says it. He shows both his desire to impress General Taheri and a reluctant pride in his son.