Kite Runner : Novel Summary:chp 3-7
Summary of Chapter Three
Amir describes his father as a forceful man who commands respect and attention. In the 1960s his father had designed and built an orphanage himself in Kabul. As a boy, Amir proudly attended the opening of the orphanage when his father made a speech. Despite the doubts of others, the enterprising Baba successfully builds a carpet export business, two pharmacies, and a restaurant with his partner, Rahim Khan. Even at this time Amir learns how to lie to get private time with his father. His father wants to take him and Hassan to Ghargha Lake for a picnic, and Amir tells him that Hassan is sick. He remembers how Hassan was able to make a stone skip on the lake 8 times, while he could only manage 5. Baba praises Hassan for his strength, but often ignores the weaker Amir.
When Amir learns about religion in school from a mullah, a religious teacher—how to pray five times a day, learning verses of the Koran in Arabic, and what constitutes a sin—he becomes worried for his father. In Islam, drinking alcohol is a sin, but drinking is common in Kabul at that time, especially for the upper classes, with people buying alcohol in pharmacies in brown paper bags. Amir asks his father if he is going to go to hell because he drinks scotch. Baba tells Amir there is only one sin in life—theft. If you kill a man, you steal his life; if you tell a lie, you steal the truth.
Amir admires his father and grieves that he has not turned out like him. He thinks that is why his father hates him a little. He takes refuge from his father’s aloofness in his dead mother’s books and memorizes poems. He wins poetry contests in class. He buys books for himself. Amir feels his bookishness is a disappointment to his father who likes soccer and manly things. Amir is not good at soccer. When he cries at seeing a man die during a Buzkashi game, the national game like polo where a horseman has to snatch a goat carcass, his father is irritated by Amir’s softness. He overhears his father lamenting to Rahim Khan that Amir is weak. He wonders if Amir is really his son. Rahim Khan calls Baba a self-centered man and tells him to let Amir find his own way.
Commentary on Chapter Three
The scene where Amir hears his father doubt him is central to his subsequent behavior. He is humiliated when his father tells Rahim that Amir is cowardly. It is Hassan who is brave, he says, who defends Amir from bullies. Baba’s preference for the servant boy Hassan makes Amir jealous and divides him from Hassan. He is willing to do anything to get his father’s approval.
This chapter also brings out Baba’s views on religion. He is basically a secular businessman, not giving much thought to worship. He has his own set of ethics, which are black and white and based on physical integrity and honesty. He is strong, likes sports, and admires physical strength. Amir, on the other hand, fears physical fights. He cries on witnessing bloodshed. He prefers the intellectual life of books. His father makes him feel inferior. Hassan’s behavior is more to Baba’s liking, and he praises and rewards the servant boy over his own son.
Summary of Chapter Four
The narrator remembers the year of 1933 as the year of Baba’s birth and the beginning of the forty-year reign of Zahir Shah, the last monarch of Afghanistan. Amir’s grandfather, Baba’s father, was a respected judge who had to judge a case of two drunken aristocratic brothers running over a Hazara couple on the road with their car. He sentenced the two men to the army, and adopted the orphan Hazara boy into his household as a servant. That was Ali, who grew up as a companion to the young Baba, as Hassan and Amir had grown up together. Ali got polio, which paralyzed part of his face and left him with a twisted leg. He was very religious, however, and memorized the Koran. Though Ali and Baba were close, Amir realizes they are not called, “friends.” Amir loves Hassan more than anyone, yet they are not technically friends either since Amir is a Pashtun Sunni, and Hassan is a Hazara Sh’ite: “But we were kids who had learned to crawl together, and no history, ethnicity, society, or religion was going to change that” (22).
Amir remembers with fondness their games and pranks during the first twelve years of his life. They see their first Western together with John Wayne, and because of the dubbing in Farsi, they believe John Wayne is Iranian. Baba gives both boys the same allowance and presents, though Hassan waits on Amir. Hassan prepares Amir’s breakfast and lays out his school clothes. Amir goes off to school, but Hassan stays home and works with Ali to clean the house and cook. After school, Amir goes out on the hill with a book and reads to Hassan, because Hassan is illiterate and cannot go to school. Hassan is drawn to the mystery of words. Amir learns to tease Hassan with big words to expose his ignorance, then feeling guilty, gives him presents. Hassan’s favorite book is the tenth-century heroic epic, the Shahnamah. Amir shows his power over Hassan by misreading the words and making up his own version. Instead of being disappointed, Hassan likes the additions. Inspired, Amir begins to write his own short stories.
Amir proudly shows Baba a story he wrote, but Baba is not interested. It is his friend, Rahim Khan, who takes an interest in Amir’s stories, and Amir wishes Rahim Khan was his father. Rahim Khan tells him he will be a great writer some day. Both Rahim Khan and Hassan encourage his writing.
Commentary on Chapter Four
From the background on Amir’s family before the war, the reader learns that the family was rich and respected, allied to the monarchy through marriage, with the grandfather a fair judge, who ironically, was killed by a thief who breaks into his house, perhaps an omen of the political chaos to follow. There is a parallel history in the way Baba and Ali have grown up, and the way Amir and Hassan grow up. Though there is great love and loyalty, no one questions the caste and religious differences. It seems to be a given that all accept. Hassan never acts jealous of Amir, though Amir, less noble, is always jealous of Hassan.
Even at a young age, though feeling guilty for it, Amir begins to act out his social superiority over Hassan by making him feel stupid because he can’t read. Hassan is always loyal to Amir, even when he sees him doing these things, making Amir feel even more guilty. Hassan is the strong one, the moral one, the good, kind, and generous one. Amir knows instinctively that Hassan is somehow morally above him, and Baba seems to recognize this too because he favors Hassan. This favoritism of Baba’s helps to foster the racial divide in Amir’s mind, just beginning to take root. He begins to throw his power around. Hassan, however, is the catalyst for Amir’s insight that he should be a writer. Hassan is sensitive to language and likes Amir’s additions to the stories. This makes Amir feel powerful. When Rahim Khan, a grown up, adds his approval, Amir has found his own domain of language. Sadly, however, Baba does not recognize his son’s potential.
Besides Hassan’s loyalty to Amir, he also has the ability to see through Amir. Hassan is his conscience. When he reads his stories to Hassan, Hassan is his best audience, but also his best critic, pointing out any flaws. Amir is surprised that the illiterate Hassan can find the weaknesses in his plots.
Summary of Chapter Five
The narrator describes how Afghanistan changed forever in 1973 with a coup destroying the monarchy. The king’s cousin, Daoud Khan, had taken over. Ali, Hassan, and Amir had crouched together in the dining room that night as they heard gunshots and bombs. Baba reaches the house in his car in the early morning to hold the frightened boys in his arms. They listen to the radio announcing the new republic.
When the boys are on the way to their favorite tree to play, they are stopped by the bully Assef, and his two friends, Wali and Kamal. Assef is the half German son of a friend of Baba’s. Assef frightens the neigborhood into submission with his set of brass knuckles. He throws a rock at Hassan and calls the boys “fags.” Even in childhood, Amir gets the idea “Assef might not be entirely sane” (34). Assef boasts that his father knows the new president, Daoud Khan. Assef praises Hitler, and Amir replies that Hitler killed innocent people. Assef says Afghanistan is the land of Pashtuns and people like Hassan dirty the blood of the people. When Assef takes out his brass knuckles and goes for Amir, accusing him of having a Hazara friend, Hassan takes out his slingshot at which he is expert and aims it at Assef’s eye. Assef backs down, but humiliated in front of his friends, he vows revenge on Hassan.
In the next few years there is talk of economic reform, as the constitutional monarchy is replaced by a republic. There is talk of modernization, but life goes on as usual. In 1974, on Hassan’s birthday, Baba offers him an unusual present: surgery to correct his harelip. It is successful with only a slight scar remaining on Hassan’s face.
Commentary on Chapter Five
When confronted by Assef’s accusation that he has a Hazara friend, Amir is tempted to deny Hassan, claiming he is only the servant. He himself is confused about the racial issue, because he knows in his heart he treats Hassan like a brother, but when Baba’s friends visit with their children, he never includes Hassan in the games. He only plays with Hassan when they are alone. He does not understand these matters; it is just automatic social behavior.
The differing responses of the two boys under pressure is telling. Amir backs away, begging Assef to leave them alone. He wants to deny his friendship with Hassan to avoid being beaten. Hassan, on the other hand, does not run off when Assef goes after Amir. He stands his ground and protects Amir with his slingshot, thus sowing the seeds of Assef’s hatred for Hassan, and his eventual revenge. Amir calls Assef a mad “sociopath” from his adult perspective as the narrator of the story. Assef comes to stand for the extremist Sunni Muslim, not, Hosseini seems to say, the normal peace-loving Afghan. Assef’s admiration for Hitler is a foreshadowing of his adult career as a Taliban leader.
The operation that Baba offers Hassan to correct his harelip seems a bit unusual. He takes special care of Hassan, a fact only understood later in the narrative. He wants to improve Hassan’s fortune, perhaps the ability to get a wife, though Baba is constrained by caste differences to offer more. He cannot send Hassan to school, for instance.
Summary of Chapter Six
Winter is the favorite season of children in Kabul, because school is shut down for three months. There is time for card-playing, movies, and especially kite flying. Kite flying was one activity that united Amir with his father. There is a tournament each year for kite-fighting in which boys use their kites to cut the strings of other kites with glass-coated strings. Once a kite is cut down, the kite runners chase the fallen kites to bring them back as trophies. Baba likes the competition and buys the best kites for Hassan and Amir.
Amir is always jealous that Baba buys the same things for Hassan, but the boys are a team. Amir flies the kite, with Hassan paying out the string. When Amir cuts someone’s kite, Hassan is a kite runner who retrieves the kites. The contest is over when one kite remains in the sky. Amir wants more than anything to win to get his father’s love and admiration, to prove he is competent. Hassan, however, is already famous as a kite runner. Hordes of boys take after the most coveted prize, the last kite. Some have been greatly injured, but Hassan is uncanny in the way he knows which way the kite will drift, and he is a fast runner.
In 1975 Amir sees Hassan run a kite for the last time. The night before the tournament it snows heavily and they hear Daoud Khan making a speech on the radio about how Kabul will have television, and Amir promises to buy one for Hassan some day. He feels sad for Hassan’s position as a Hazara who has so little to look forward to but his mud shack. Hassan reads his mind and tells Amir he likes his home. Amir feels abashed, that Hassan “was so goddamn pure, you always felt like a phony around him” (51).
Commentary on Chapter Six
Once again the personalities of the two boys are contrasted, always to Amir’s disadvantage. Hassan seems to have Ali’s religious bent, with some mystic or occult tendencies. He can read Amir’s mind, and he knows exactly where the kites will come down. He is a pure soul who always tells the truth and would risk his life for Amir. Amir remembers a time when they chased kites together, and Hassan beat him. Amir began teasing Hassan in an unkind way, and Hassan looked at Amir directly, challenging him with a face he rarely saw, “lurking just beneath the surface” (47). Amir is afraid of this powerful and truthful side of Hassan, for he rarely has looked at “people who mean every word they say” (48), as the honest Hassan does. Amir thinks of how cruel he is to tease Hassan and remembers how they used to torture insects. Now he is treating Hassan as that insect. Hassan stands up for himself by simply looking at Amir as though he can see his soul.
This incident is important for the action to come. Amir indicts himself as being capable of racial cruelty, on the side of the tormentors, invoking the oppression of the Hazaras by Pashtuns. He does not really mean to hurt Hassan, but his jealousy and moral weakness sometimes overtake him. In this way, Hosseini makes the point that racial prejudice and injustice can happen in the heart of anyone, even basically good people. Amir wants to pity Hassan because he is poor, but he also understands that Hassan rejects that pity because he is sure of himself and without jealousy. He accepts his life and knows who he is, while Amir is insecure and defensive.
The kite tournament is the turning point of both their lives, and this chapter begins to build the suspense. Hassan is actually more talented in the sport than Amir, but he is always trying to put Amir’s interests before his own. Amir suspects him, for instance, of allowing him to win at cards. Amir has made this tournament carry a lot of weight, for he has vowed to win it for Baba. It is made clear he will do anything to win in order to get his father’s praise. Hassan comes second and will be a martyr to Amir’s ambition to have his father to himself.
Summary of Chapter Seven
People line the rooftops as spectators to the kite tournament. Baba and Rahim Khan are on the roof of the house in sweaters, sipping tea. Suddenly, Amir wants to withdraw but Hassan says there is nothing to worry about: “Let’s fly,” he says (55). Hassan holds the spool while Amir controls the string. Amir’s is in the last dozen kites, then the last six kites, and four, then, two. Amir begins to think there is a God, and he is going to let him win. This is his one chance to be noticed by his father. He cuts the last kite and wins. Baba is shouting on the roof. It is the greatest moment of Amir’s life. He is a hero. He is congratulated by everyone, while Hassan runs off to get the kite as a trophy so their triumph will be complete.
Amir goes looking for Hassan because he is late and will miss his prayers. Someone tells him that some boys were chasing Hassan. He hears voices in an alley and peeks around the corner. He sees Hassan with the kite, “the key to Baba’s heart” (62). Hassan holds on to it though he is threatened by Assef, Wali, and Kamal who have him cornered. There is no way out of the alley. Assef has his brass knuckles out. Amir is paralyzed with fear. The narrator warns the reader that the rest of his life would have turned out differently if he had interfered, but he only watched. The two boys hold Hassan while Assef rapes him. Amir watches and bites his fist until the blood comes then turns away. He walks away weeping. He runs: “I ran because I was a coward. I was afraid of Assef and what he would do to me. I was afraid of getting hurt” (68). He hides and waits for Hassan to come out of the alley. When he sees Hassan, he has the fallen kite, but he is crying and almost falls. Amir pretends there is nothing wrong. He is glad for the twilight. When they reach home, the victory is as he imagined. His father opens his arms and holds Amir, and he forgets what he has done.
Commentary on Chapter Seven
Amir’s victory is spoiled by tragedy. He tells us from an adult perspective that it was the decisive moment of his life, but he is only twelve years old. At this point the narrative changes from the happy childhood memories to the nightmare that has begun to take over Afghanistan. This is the first tragedy of many to come, but this is the one that marks Amir’s life, for he could have done something, and he was a coward. He won the kite fighting but lost his soul in the same stroke.
At the end of this chapter we feel pity for both boys. Both are dragged into the ancient racial violence that neither can control. In some ways it is far more devastating to Amir than to Hassan. Hassan still has his religious faith and inner integrity. Amir, on the other hand, becomes an unwilling accessory to the crime. He is full of guilt that he will carry the rest of his life. He can never respect himself.
During the scene in the alley, Amir flashes back to the time the two boys paid a fortuneteller to read their palms. When the fortuneteller read Hassan’s palm, a shadow crossed his face, and he gave Hassan back his coin, saying nothing. Amir wouldn’t let the man read his palm. This foreshadows Hassan’s hard life, but it also shows that Amir’s fate is tied up with Hassan’s.