The Kite Runner – Chapter Summaries and Analysis Flashcard Example #80951

Chapter 1
Summary
– Amir, the narrator and main character of the novel, tells us about a phone call he received six months earlier from Rahim Khan, asking him to come to Pakistan
– After the call, he took a walk in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, where he now lives, and watched the kites being flown
– He remembered his boyhood friend Hassan, a kite runner with a cleft lip, and he remembered an event from his childhood in Afghanistan in which he watched something take place in an alley
– He thought about how that event moulded him as a person
Analysis
– The short opening chapter sets up the story in 1975 to be told retrospectively from December 2001 in a series of extended flashbacks (analepses), allowing the author to foreshadow events and build tension
– The inclusion of the four names of Rahim Khan, Hassan, Ali and Baba in the short first chapter indicates that they will be important characters alongside Amir
– The motif of kites is mentioned for the first time, reminding Amir of Kabul and Hassan, “the harelipped kite runner” – indicating to the audience that Hassan is significant to the progression of the plot – kite fighting had been a traditional sport in Afghanistan until it was banned by the Taliban in 1996 (AO4)
– The use of a first-person narrative shows that only Amir’s version of events are shown in the story which are not objective, making him an unreliable narrator (AO2) – the presence of an unreliable narrator categorises the novel as a postmodern text which often attempt to unsettle the reader or examine the meaning of texts (AO3)
– The language used by Amir when he recalls the past carried a great deal of emotion – he talks about how you can “bury” the past and how it “claws its way out”, invoking the image of something dead rising from its grave – he also recalls Rahim Khan’s words “there is a way to be good again”, suggesting that the events of the past include something for which Amir needs to atone – the repeated mention of “peeking into the alley” in Kabul in 1975 acts to foreshadow events and informs the reader that this will be a key incident in the story
– Pathetic fallacy is used to reflect the oppressive and chilling emotions Amir felt on that “frigid overcast day”
Chapter 2
Summary
– Amir looks back and recalls that Hassan was from a lower ethnic group, the Hazara
– Amir remembers how he and Hassan would get into trouble with Baba and Hassan would take the blame
– We learn that Amir’s mother (Sofia) died giving birth to him, whilst Hassan’s mother (Sanaubar) left Ali (who suffered from polio) 5 days after giving birth to Hassan
– Amir discovers that for a long time the Hazaras have been persecuted by his own people, the Pashtuns
Analysis
– Hassan’s importance Amir and the story is shown through Amir’s use of poetic imagery to describe him – “a face like a Chinese doll chiselled from hardware…eyes that looked, depending on the light, gold, green, even sapphire” – expressing the love he still feels for Hassan
– Amir’s first word as a baby was his father’s name whilst Hassan’s was “Amir” – reinforces that their relationship is based on Hassan’s unquestioning loyalty to his friend, and Amir’s somewhat more uncertain feelings about a friend who is also a servant
– Just as Amir’s descriptions of his experiences with Hassan set a pattern for their relationship, his first description of his father does the same thing – Amir wanted to spend time with his father, but Baba would tell him to leave and “read one of those books of yours”
Chapter 3
Summary
– Amir remembers time spent with Baba during his childhood and how his father was disappointed in his lack of manly attributes. Amir overhears Baba talking to Rahim Khan about how much more manly Hassan is and that he cannot believe that Amir is his son. Amir then takes out his resentment and jealousy on Hassan
– Baba was seen as a great man by the people around him – running a successful business, marrying a beautiful wife and building an orphanage
– Amir believes that his father hates him because his mother died during childbirth and he blames him
– Amir recalls becoming interested in reading and writing as a way to escape his father’s lack of interest in him. Baba is scornful when Amir tries to share what he has learned at school
Analysis
– Amir relates the tale that his father once wrestled a black bear, reinforcing the image created in the previous chapter of Baba as a strong, powerful man
– Baba teaches Amir that “there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft” – Amir is left with the feeling that he stole his mother’s life and that his father hates him for this
– When Amir confronts his father about his drinking, Baba says of the religious leaders, “God help us all if Afghanistan ever falls into their hands” – foreshadows the later rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan
– Talking about his father’s impressive abilities, Amir says “no one ever doubted the veracity of any story about Baba” – suggests that Baba was truly as impressive as Amir tells us he was, shows Amir’s great respect for his father which is bordering on awe, conveys the possibility that Amir’s impression of his father comes from others’ reactions to him
– Baba tells the young Amir something which he fails to understand. Amir is upset and tells us that: “Babe heaved a sigh of impatience” – Amir is a lesser man than his father and so constantly disappoints his father, Amir sees Baba as such a strong man that he cannot help but feel less able, Baba cannot empathise with a son who is very different from him and this emerges as disapproval
Chapter 4
Summary
– We learn that Ali was an orphan brought up by Baba’s father but Amir doesn’t remember hearing Baba refer to Ali as a friend
– When they were growing up, Hassan acted as Amir’s servant but they spent a lot of time together, with Amir reading stories to the illiterate Hassan
– After Hassan praises a story that Amir invented, Amir starts writing stories.
– Baba does not wish to read Amir’s story, but Rahim Khan does and praises Amir for it
Analysis
– The boys read in an old cemetery under a pomegranate tree – the disused cemetery represents both a place of death and life, it is a refuge where the real world cannot reach them – the pomegranate tree, bearing sweet fruits full of seeds, is symbolic of life and plenty, as well as the sweetness of the bond between the two boys before Amir reads to Hassan
– Amir’s reading to Hassan seems a friendly and compassionate act, but does not teach Hassan to read and therefore retains his power over the servant. He is then in a position to use this against Hassan by teasing him and teaching him the wrong meanings of certain words
– When Hassan points out a possible hole in the plot of Amir’s story, Amir becomes angry and his ‘mean streak’ is appears – “What does he know, that illiterate Hazara? He’ll never be anything but a cook”
Chapter 5
Summary
– Amir and Hassan’s conversation is interrupted by a loud roaring noise and the sound of gunfire. These are the sounds if a coup which overthrows the king of Afghanistan
– Amir and Hassan go to their tree to distract themselves from events. On the way, they are attacked by three bullies – Assef, Wali and Kamal – who question Amir about having a Hazara for a friend
– Hassan scares the bullies off with his slingshot and Assef promises revenge
– Baba arranges for Hassan’s cleft lip to be corrected as a birthday present. Amir informs us, however, in his role as narrator, that this was the winter when Hassan stopped smiling
Analysis
– “They were foreign to us then…Huddled together in the dining room…none of us had any notion that a way of life had ended” – the sounds of the coup are the start of the process which will lead to three decades of war
– The behaviour of Assef and his friends starts to change Amir’s relationship with Hassan and opens up the gap between them – “he’s not my friend! … He’s my servant!”
– A feeling of sexual threat always accompanies Assef’s role in the novel and foreshadows later events through him introducing himself with an insult containing a sexual swearword – “‘Good morning, kunis!’ Assef exclaimed, waving, ‘Fag.’ that was another of his favourite insults”
Chapter 6
Summary
– When Amir asks for a new kite, Baba buys it for him. However, he also buys the same kite for Hassan which makes Amir jealous
– Amir tests Hassan’s loyalty by asking him if he would ever eat dirt if commanded to do so. Hassan says that he would but challenges Amir over whether he would ever ask him to
– The night before the 1975 kite fighting tournament in Amir’s neighbourhood, the boys play cards and Amir suspects Hassan of letting him win
Analysis
– Amir describes kite fighting as “the one paper-thin slice of intersection” between his and his father’s otherwise separate spheres
– During a conversation Amir asks Hassan if he would “Eat dirt if I told you to” – Amir is testing Hassan’s loyalty to him, Amir is jealous of Hassan and the thought of forcing the boy to eat dirt pleases him and feeds his growing ‘mean streak’, ‘Eating dirt’ is a concept tied up with being at the lowest level in society so by using this image, Amir is showing his awareness of the different social levels he and Hassan inhibit
– “Would you ever ask me to do such a thing, Amir agha?” – shows that Hassan has a clearer understanding of the balance of power between the two of them than Amir does
– Amir’s descriptions of wintertime in Kabul using poetic imagery show his love for the way things were and how he cherishes those memories – “The sky is seamless and blue, the snow so white my eyes burn”
Chapter 7
Summary
– The night before the tournament, Hassan dreams the he and Amir are swimming in a lake with a monster in it. They survive the swim and the people watching rename the lake after the boys
– Despite being nervous, and with his father watching him, Amir wins the kite-fighting tournament. Hassan runs to catch his kite
– Amir returns home, but Hassan does not arrive with the kite, so Amir goes out to look for him
– Hassan is captured by Assef and the other bullies in an alley. Assef offers Hassan his freedom in return for the kite. Hassan refuses
– The boys rape Hassan while Amir watches, but Amir does not step in to rescue him
– When Hassan comes out of the alley, Amir takes the kite from him but does not comment on the other boy’s distressed state
– Back home, Amir gets the warm welcome from his father that he has been seeking
Analysis
– This is the key chapter of the novel and provides the pivotal moment on which the rest of the story hangs. The rape of Hassan by Assef is the event that Amir has been foreshadowing and one which he refers back to
– With the image of the lurking monster “swimming beneath the surface” in the dream, there is a suggestion that Hassan is conscious of the cruelty which hides beneath Amir’s friendly surface and wishes his friend to banish this side of his personality, just as he banishes the monster in the dream
– The juxtaposition of the tournament and the attack means that the act of winning is immediately contrasted with the act of losing, and the latter is shown to outweigh the former. Upon witnessing the rape, Amir is forced to choose between his friend and his father
– At the moment just before the rape, Amir sees Hassan’s expression and recognises it as the same look of resignation that the boy wore when Amir was asking him if he would eat dirt if ordered to – Amir draws a direct comparison between what he threatened to do to Hassan and what Assef is actually doing
Chapter 8
Summary
– After the rape, Amir feels guilty for not having helped Hassan. Hassan retreats to his bed and when Ali asks Amir if anything happened to Hassan, Amir suggests that he is just unwell
– Baba takes Amir to Jalalabad for the weekend. Amir becomes car sick on the journey, embarrassing his father
– After Amir returns, Hassan tries to patch up their relationship, but Amir rejects him. Amir’s treatment of Hassan becomes more cruel
– Amir has a birthday party. Assef the bully comes and brings him a biography of Hitler as a present
– At the party, Rahim Khan tells Amir a story about a girl he wanted to marry as an example of how Amir should not let Hassan being a Hazara be a barrier to their friendship. He gives Amir a notebook in which to write his stories
Analysis
– Amir’s realisation that he was the monster in Hassan’s dream has a self-pitying and melodramatic tone to it as he tells us “he’d been wrong about that. There was a monster in the lake…I was that monster” – Amir views his guilt and physical illness as a deserved punishment for his lack of ability to help Hassan, just as his poor relationship with his father is his punishment for his having ‘killed’ his mother during his birth
– Amir and Hassan’s return to their usual spot under the pomegranate tree is significant: this location is no longer the refuge from the world it used to be because Amir brings his feelings of guilt with him. Amir attacks Hassan with the pomegranates which used to be a symbol of their bond, thus finalising the breaking of the bond. By reacting as he does, hitting himself with a final pomegranate, Hassan once more shows the acceptance which Amir saw on his face at the time of the rape and refuses to let Amir assuage his guilt by fighting back
– When Amir tells his father that Hassan is unwell, Baba looks worried. Amir says he “couldn’t help hating the way his brow furrowed with worry” – this demonstrates Amir’s jealousy over Baba’s feelings for Hassan, this expression makes more sense to us later when we learn that Baba is Hassan’s father, Amir’s use of the word “hate” can be seen to be associated with his father as well as Hassan because he resents his strong desire to please his father
– At his own birthday party, Amir nearly tells Rahim Khan about witnessing the attack on Hassan, but he stops himself. He wonders what Rahim Khan would think of him and concludes, “He’d hate me, and rightfully” – fear of other people’s reactions is what prevents Amir from telling them what he witnessed, Rahim Khan’s opinion of Amir is as important to him as Baba’s opinion
Chapter 9
Summary
– For Amir’s birthday, Hassan and Ali give him a new copy of the book he used to read to Hassan
– Amir plants a watch that he received for his birthday under Hassan’s mattress, then goes to his father and falsely accuses Hassan of stealing birthday presents
– When asked about this by Baba, Hassan admits the theft. Amir is shocked and realises that Hassan knows he saw the attack in the alley
– Baba forgives Hassan, despite his earlier statements about theft. However, Ali and Hassan still decide to leave. Baba pleads with them to stay, something Amir has never seen his father do before
– Amir watches Ali and Hassan leave. It is raining and he imagines a scene from a film where he would run after the car and all would be forgiven, but he does not act on this
Analysis
Chapter 10
Summary
– It is 1981 and Amir and Baba are escaping from Russian-controlled Afghanistan. They stop so Amir can be sick, and he remembers all that they have had to abandon
– They are stopped at a roadblock and Baba stands up to a Russian soldier who is threatening to rape a female Afghan refugee. Baba is nearly shot, but the soldier is reined in by his commander
– They arrive in Jalalabad but the truck which is meant to take them out of the country is broken. They have to stay in the basement of a house with similarly stranded refugees
– They finally make the last part of their journey in an empty fuel tanker. One of the bullies from the attack in the alley, Kamal, who is also escaping, dies on the journey and his father kills himself
Analysis
Chapter 11
Summary
– It is the 1980’s and Amir and Baba are now living in California. Baba likes the strength of America, but the pollution and lack of fresh foods make him ill
– Baba refuses to learn English or adapt to his new country but is still capable of commanding respect amongst ex-pat Afghans
– Amir graduates from high school and decides to study English and creative writing at college. His father wants him to study something that will lead to a “proper job” but Amir stands his ground
– Baba and Amir buy items from garage sales and sell them from a stall in the Afghan section of the San Jose flea market
– Amir falls in love with a girl named Soraya, the daughter of an Afghan general, whom he meets at the flea market
Analysis
Chapter 12
Summary
– Amir is in love with Soraya and spends time with her at the flea market, talking about stories and books
– Amir’s attentions are welcomed by the girl’s mother, but he is warned off by her father
– Baba falls ill with lung cancer. He refuses to accept treatment and forbids Amir from telling anyone about his illness
– After Baba collapses at the flea market and is rushed to hospital, Amir asks him to approach Soraya’s family for her hand in marriage, and it is all agreed
– Soraya reveals to Amir that she ran away from home when younger and lived with a man. Amir wishes he could tell her his own guilty secret, but is unable to do so
Analysis
Chapter 13
Summary
– Amir is engaged to Soraya. The engagement period is cut short because of Baba’s health. On his wedding day, Amir thinks about Rahim Khan and Hassan
– Soraya moves in with Amr to help look after Baba. One day Amir discovers she has been sharing his stories with Baba. This moves Amir to tears
– A month after the wedding, Baba dies. The funeral reminds Amir of his father’s stature in Kabul, and how much he relies on his father’s strength
– Amir secures a place at college and later has his first novel published
– Amir and Soraya try to have children but are unable to
Analysis
Chapter 14
Summary
– The story returns to June 2001 and Amir receives the phone call from Rahim Khan who is sick and wants Amir to come to Pakistan
– Rahim Khan’s message “There is a way to be good again” tells Amir that the older man has always known about the events in the alley
– Amir and Soraya are still childless. They really speak of this, but it is clearly a problem in their marriage
– Soraya arranges for her parents to stay whilst Amir is away. Then Amir flies to Pakistan
Analysis
Chapter 15
Summary
– Amir arrives in Peshawar in Pakistan and meets a very ill Rahim Khan. This is the first time Amir has seen his old friends since he and Baba left Kabul
– Rahim Khan recounts to Amir the terrible changes in Afghanistan and the brutality of the Taliban regime. He goes on to say that he is dying and wants Amir to perform a final favour for him. He then tells Amir about Hassan who lived on in Baba’s old house with Rahim Khan after Amir and Baba has left
Analysis
Chapter 16
Summary
– Rahim Khan relates the story of what has happened to him since Amir last saw him
– Unable to maintain Baba’s house by himself, Rahim Khan seeks out Ali and Hassan to help him
– He travels to a village just outside Bamiyan where he finds Hassan, who tells him that Ali was killed by a landmine
– Rahim Khan asks Hassan and his wife, Farzana, to live with him. Hassan at first refuses, but agrees after learning of Baba’s death
– Farzana gives birth to a stillborn baby, but later becomes pregnant again. Shortly afterwards, Hassan’s mother, Sanaubar, returns to the house, starving and ill
– Hassan and his wife nurse his mother back to health. She in turn deliver’s Farzana’s son, Sohrab. Sanaubar dies when Sohrab is four
– Hassan tries to give his son a normal life, despite the turmoil in the country. This becomes more difficult in 1996 when the Taliban take over the country
Analysis
Chapter 17
Summary
– After hearing Rahim Khan’s story, Amir asks if Hassan is still living in the house. Rahim Khan gives Amir a photograph of Hassan and Sohrab, and a letter in which Hassan says he would like to see Amir again
– Rahim Khan reveals, however, that Hassan and his wife were murdered by the Taliban a month after the letter was written. Their son, Sohrab, is now living in an orphanage in Kabul
– Rahim Khan asks Amir to go to Kabul and find Sohrab. He also tells him that Baba was Hassan’s real father, making Hassan Amir’s half-brother. Amir is angry at never knowing this and storms out of the apartment
Analysis
Chapter 18
Summary
– Amir considers the news that Hassan was his half-brother and realises that it explains Baba’s affection for the boy
– He considers the possibility that if he had not betrayed Hassan, him and Ali may now still be alive in the USA
– Amir realises that he has no choice but to go to Kabul to find his nephew
Analysis
Chapter 19
Summary
– Amir returns to Taliban-held Afghanistan to rescue Sohrab. On the way, he suffers a recurrence of his car sickness
– Once back in Afghanistan, Amir feels out of place – like a visitor. Farid, the driver who has helped Amir enter the country, accuses Amir of always having been a tourist in his own country
– Farid takes Amir to stay with his brother, Wahid. Wahid asks why he has returned and Amir explains about Sohrab
– Wahid says he is proud to have Amir stay in his house and gives him all the food he and his family have to eat. Farid is ashamed of his earlier accusations
– Farid agrees to help Amir with his mission now that he realises the reason for his return. Before they leave, Amir hides a handful of money under his mattress to repay the family for their kindness
Analysis
Chapter 20
Summary
– Amir is shocked by the state of Afghanistan. On arriving in Kabul, he discovers it has been severely damaged by twenty years of war
– The Taliban patrol the streets looking for people to punish. Amir is advised to avoid even looking at them
– They meet a beggar who was formerly a university lecturer working alongside Amir’s mother. The beggar gives them directions to the orphanage where they hope to find Sohrab
– Amir arrives at the orphanage and, after some argument, discovers that Sohrab has been sold by the director to a prominent member of the Taliban. Amir questions this activity and learns that it is the only way the man can fund the care of the remaining children
– The director tells them they will find the man who bought Sohrab at the next day’s football match
Analysis
Chapter 21
Summary
– Amir returns to his old neighbourhood. It is largely undamaged because it has been taken over by the new leaders, though it has not been maintained well
– Amir climbs the hill to the old cemetery and discovers that the old pomegranate tree has died. However, the inscription that he had carved into the trunk still remains
– Amir and Farid check into a hotel and Amir finds that things like the food and the humour are still unchanged. However, he also finds familiarity in Farid’s expression of casual prejudice against the Shi’a
– Amir and Farid watch the man in sunglasses – the man who bought Sohrab from the orphanage – stone two people to death at a football match. Farid makes arrangements for Amir to meet the man
Analysis
Chapter 22
Summary
– Amir, wearing a false beard to blend in, goes to a large house in his old neighbourhood to meet the man in sunglasses who has bought Sohrab. As he enters, he passes men with rifles, and wonders if he will survive the encounter
– The man appears, covered in the blood from the stoning, and removes Amir’s disguise. He taunts him with references to the stoning and the massacre at Mazir
– The man accuses Amir of treason for having left Afghanistan, then sends for Sohrab. The boy, who looks remarkably like his father, is forced to dance for them
– The man shows that he knows Amir’s identity and then reveals himself to be Assef, the bully from Amir’s childhood. He asks why Amir want the boy, but Amir refuses to tell him
– Eventually Assef gives Sohrab to Amir, but tells him that the price he must pay for the boy is to finish their childhood fight
– Assef fights with Amir and hurts him badly, but Amir is saved by Sohrab who, like his father, uses a slingshot and incapacitates Assef. Amir and the boy escape with Farid
Analysis
Chapter 23
Summary
– Amir is in hospital after his beating, having suffered severe injuries. He has a dream, in which his father wrestles the black bear before turning into Amir
– Rahim Khan has gone away to die in peace. He leaves a letter forgiving Amir for his childhood mistakes. He explains that Baba was hard on Amir because he could not openly show his love for Hassan
– Farid searches, but discovers no sign of the adoptive parents Rahim Khan promised for Sohrab
– Amir decides to take Sohrab with him to Islamabad while he considers what to do
Analysis
Chapter 24
Summary
– Sohrab goes missing in Islamabad, but Amir finds him near the Shah Fasai Mosque. They talk about Hassan and Sohrab tells Amir that the Taliban men “did things” to him of which he is ashamed. Amir invites Sohrab to return to the USA with him
– Amir explains to Sohrab that he is the boy’s uncle. Sohrab is scared that Amir might place him in another orphanage. Amir promises that this won’t happen
– Amir calls Soraya who is happy for him to bring Sohrab home. Amir discovers that the process of adoption is very difficult and admits to Sohrab that he may have to go into an orphanage for a time
– Soraya tells Amir to bring the boy home and complete the paperwork in the USA. Amir goes to tell Sohrab but is shocked by what he finds
Analysis
Chapter 25
Summary
– Sohrab has attempted suicide in the bath. Amir attempts to pray for both Sohrab and Hassan
– The boy survives but is uncommunicative and withdrawn. When Amir reads to him from a storybook, Sohrab wishes for the return of his old life or for death
– Amir takes Sohrab back to the USA, but the boy’s depression doesn’t lift
– When Soraya’s parents meet Sohrab, the General makes a dismissive comment about this “Hazara boy”. Amir challenges this racism and reveal’s Sohrab’s – and Hassan’s – parentage
– Months pass in which the events of 11 September 2001 occur and Amir and Soraya become involved in projects to end the years of war and unhappiness in their homeland
– The novel ends in the same park where it began. Sohrab helps Amir to fly a kite in a kite fight. This finally rekindles the boy’s spirit and Amir adopts the role of the kite runner
Analysis

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