This section contains 1,645 words
(approx. 6 pages at 300 words per page)
Amir recounts the story of how Ali came to be a member of the household. Amir’s grandfather was a judge in 1933, the year Baba was born. A pair of men had struck and killed a couple leaving their five-year-old son an orphan. That boy was Ali and Amir’s grandfather had taken the boy into his house. Amir says Baba has many stories about the mischief he and Ali caused as children. Ali says Baba came up with the ideas and he merely carried out Baba’s plans.
Each day during the school year, Hassan does chores while Baba drives Amir to school in his black Ford Mustang. After school, Amir and Hassan head to an abandoned cemetery where they eat pomegranates from a tree and Amir reads to Hassan. One day Amir stops reading the story in the book and begins making up a story instead. When he’s finished, Hassan applauds, saying he liked the story very much. Amir is amazed at the discovery and that night he writes a short story about a man who learns that if he cries into a magic cup the tears turn to pearls. In an effort to make himself cry, he goes to extremes, eventually killing his wife. Amir takes the story to his father’s study where Baba isn’t interested but Rahim Khan asks to read it. When Rahim Khan returns the story, he’s written a note of encouragement, saying Amir has talent. Then he and Baba leave for the evening. When Amir reads it to Hassan, he echoes the praise, predicting Amir will someday become a famous writer. Then Hassan points out that the man might have simply smelled an onion and Amir notes that he learned about the “plot hole” from Hassan, who couldn’t even read. Moments later, “Afghanistan changed forever.”
There are bombs exploding and the sound of gunfire. Ali appears and says someone is duck hunting. Amir notes that the generation of Afghani children who are familiar with constant gunfire has not yet been born. Baba doesn’t return until the following morning. Hassan and Amir remain inside all morning but eventually head out to play. They encounter a neighborhood bully named Assef and his friends, Kamal and Wali. Assef talks about the new order of things in Afghanistan since the coup of the previous night and predicts there is no room in the country for Amir’s race. The situation turns violent but Hassan pulls out a slingshot and threatens to put Assef’s left eye out. Assef and his friends leave.
A couple of years pass. One year, Baba buys the surgery to fix Hassan’s cleft lip as a birthday gift. The surgery is a success and Hassan is soon able to smile normally. As the chapter comes to a close, Amir notes that this is the year Amir stops smiling.
Winter arrives. Every youngster in Kabul loves winter because school is closed for the season and it’s time for kite flying along with the annual kite-fighting tournament. Amir and Hassan make their own kites, but there are always flaws with the designs. Baba begins buying their kites from a shoemaker who is famous for his kites. Amir says a new kid in the neighborhood talks about the rules for the tournaments in the Hindu culture. Amir says the Afghanistan people hate rules and there are no rules for the tournament. The goal is to cut the strings of all the other kites without having your string cut. When a kite string is cut, the kite runners rush to retrieve it. Hassan is the best of all the runners, seldom looking up to see where the kite is headed but always knowing where it will come down.
The day of the tournament draws near and Baba predicts Amir might win this year. Amir doesn’t know how to react to the praise but becomes determined to win. He says Baba wins at everything and has the right to expect Amir to win at this.
Amir is worried and almost decides not to fly his kite in the tournament at all but Hassan convinces him to go ahead. Soon there are only two kites remaining – Amir’s and a blue kite flown by someone he doesn’t know. When Amir makes the final cut, setting the blue kite free from its string, the crowd goes wild. Hassan pledges to go retrieve the blue kite. Amir drags his kite in and Ali congratulates him. Amir doesn’t yet go to his father, but imagines what the moment of congratulations will be. He believes this victory will change his relationship with his father and they will now live “happily ever after.”
Amir goes in search of Hassan and an old man says he say Hassan being chased by some boys. When Amir catches up, Hassan is trapped at the end of an alley. Assef is there with some friends, including a boy named Kamal. Assef says he forgives Hassan for the threats during their previous meeting but the forgiveness comes with a price. He suggests Hassan hand over the blue kite. Hassan refuses and Assef says Amir would not make the same sacrifice for Hassan. Hassan argues that he and Amir are friends but Assef says Hassan is nothing more to Amir than a servant. He then says Hassan can keep the kite because that will remind him always of “what I’m about to do.” Assef then rapes Hassan while the other two boys hold Hassan down.
Amir steps back from the entrance of the alley. He knows that he has one final chance to stand up for Hassan, but he slips away without revealing his presence. Amir says that, perhaps, this is the price he has to pay to win Baba’s favor and that it might be a fair price. Amir waits for awhile then heads to the alley. He says he’d been looking for Hassan and their eyes don’t meet. Amir pretends he doesn’t see the “tiny drops that fell from between his legs and stained the snow black,” or that he’s limping. When they reach home, Baba is thrilled with Amir’s victory.
Amir says his relationship with Hassan mirrors that of Baba and Ali, at least to some degree. Baba tells stories of the mischief and he Ali caused when they were children. There is good-natured teasing between the two men but Amir notes that his father doesn’t refer to Ali as his friend. Amir says he and Hassan aren’t friends either, but that the bond between them is something that can’t be ignored. The class separation is obvious. Amir gets ready to go to school every morning and Hassan prepares Amir’s clothes and breakfast, serving Amir’s needs. This doesn’t seem at all strange until later when the reader learns that Hassan is actually Amir’s half brother.
Amir is sometimes mean when it comes to Hassan though it could be put down to something akin to sibling rivalry. For example, Hassan loves the stories Amir reads and they spend hours with Amir reading aloud to Hassan at the old cemetery. Sometimes Hassan stops Amir, asking for the meaning of a particular word. One day he asks what “imbecile” means. Amir says it means “smart,” and gives an example of the word in a sentence, saying “Hassan is an imbecile.” Amir says he later feels bad about it and sometimes gives Hassan an “old shirt or a broken toy” to make amends for what he tells himself is a “harmless prank.”
One of the books Amir reads to Hassan is about ancient Persia. Hassan’s favorite story from this book is about Rostam and Sohrab. In the story, Sohrab is mortally wounded by Rostam and as he is dying they discover that Sohrab is Rostam’s son. Sohrab’s dying words indicate that Rostam’s obstinacy denied him his rightful place as son. Hassan is incredibly moved by the story and sometimes cries. He later names his own son Sohrab. This could be a mere foreshadowing of the fact that Baba and Hassan are father and son and that Baba’s own pride and obstinacy are to blame for his refusal to publicly acknowledge Hassa. It may also be a hint that Hassan knows of the biological bond and that it will never be acknowledged. It’s obvious that Amir is jealous of Hassan. He notes that Baba buys kites for each of them each year for the flying season. If Amir asks for a larger kite, Baba complies with the request but then he buys the exact same kite for Hassan as well. Amir says he wishes he could – at least sometimes – be Baba’s favorite. It’s important for the reader to remember that Amir doesn’t yet know Baba is also Hassan’s father. One day he asks Hassan how far his loyalty goes. He asks if Hassan would eat dirt if Amir told him to. Hassan admits that he would but asks why Amir would possibly ask him to go to such an extreme. Hassan is not educated but he is very smart. He is also very unassuming and doesn’t seem to ask for anything from either Amir or Baba in return for his unwavering devotion to them.
Discussion Question 1
Describe the scene in the alley when Hassan is attacked. What does Amir do when he realizes Hassan is being attacked?
Discussion Question 2
What does Amir believe will happen to his relationship with his father after he wins the tournament?
Discussion Question 3
Why does Amir sometimes feel jealousy toward Hassan?
Impeccable, obstinacy, indecipherable, fascinating, humiliated, trepidation, magnificent, conveyed, coup, ironic, spheres, apparent, horses, abhor, austere, coveted.
This section contains 1,645 words
(approx. 6 pages at 300 words per page)