Summary of Chapter Thirteen
The engagement ceremony takes place. The lovers forgo the customary engagement period because of Baba’s health. Baba spends his life savings on the wedding, which is described in detail, with three hundred guests, and the bride and groom in green, the color of Islam. The men dance the spinning attan in a circle, and Amir suddenly remembers Hassan, wondering if he married.
Soraya moves in with Baba and Amir so she can care for her father-in-law. She cooks for him, reads to him, and he is content in his last days. Soraya finds Amir’s notebook and reads his stories, praising his talent and encouraging him to write. Baba dies quietly in his sleep one night.
The funeral ceremony is large at the mosque, while the mullah chants from the Koran. The mourners recount Baba’s many good deeds. Now Amir feels alone and on his own. Both Soraya and Amir finish college. She becomes a teacher, and he becomes a published writer. His first novel is a father-son story set in Kabul. He is happy and wonders if he deserves it.
The Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan but now there is civil war with the Mujahedin and the Soviet puppet government. Soraya and Amir discover their own sorrow when they cannot have a child. Amir wonders if this is his punishment for the things he has done. Emptiness enters their marriage.
Commentary on Chapter Thirteen
These events concerning marriage, death, and childbearing, evoke the Afghan ways of dealing with the common human passages. The reader can see the specific cultural differences but also the universal feelings that transcend cultural boundaries. Through all his life changes, Amir has not forgotten his sins of the past, and now his guilt weighs on him because of their empty life without a family of their own.
The General tells them not to adopt, for that may be an American way but not an Afghan way. For the Afghan, blood and heritage are important. Again, there is the old prejudice about race. Amir disagrees with his view but does not correct him. This will be an important point later as Amir and Soraya will adopt a boy of a different race.
The generations are contrasted in the marriage of Soraya’s parents, in which her mother had to give up a singing career to marry, and the marriage of the daughter, in which husband and wife both go to college and both have careers.
Summary of Chapter Fourteen
This chapter is dated “June 2001,” some months before Chapter One’s date of “December 2001.” This is the summer Rahim Khan calls Amir from Pakistan where he is dying and requests to see Amir. Rahim Khan had said there was a way to be good again, so Amir realizes Rahim Khan knows his secrets. He thinks of Hassan running after the kite in the snow saying, “For you, a thousand times over!” (169). He assures Soraya he will be safe going to Pakistan to see Rahim Khan.
Commentary on Chapter Fourteen
Amir’s life had been stuck, and now suddenly with the phone call, he is mysteriously offered a chance to redeem himself. His assurance to his wife that he will be safe will turn out to be ironic, though he would not willingly put himself in danger.
Summary of Chapter Fifteen
The last time Amir had seen Rahim Khan was in 1981 when he came to say good-bye the night they had fled Kabul. They kept in touch by phone. In Peshawar the taxi driver takes him to Afghan town, a poor refugee area.
Amir and Rahim Khan speak in his bare room over a cup of tea, chatting about their acquaintances. Amir tells him he has four published books, and then talk turns to politics. Rahim Khan tells him about the Taliban and how “They don’t let you be human” (173). He points to a scar where he was beaten at a soccer game for cheering. Baba had sold him their house in Kabul to watch over until their return. Rahim Khan relates how it was in Kabul in the days of the Northern Alliance when one almost needed a visa to go from one section of town to another. The Alliance did more damage to Kabul than the Russians. They destroyed Baba’s orphanage. When the Taliban first came to Kabul the people thought it would be better.
Rahim Khan begins coughing and admits he is dying. Amir offers to take him back to the States to find a good doctor, but he refuses. He wants to tell Amir something important before he dies. When he lived in their house in Kabul, he did not live alone. He lived with Hassan, and now he wants to tell Amir Hassan’s story.
Commentary on Chapter Fifteen
A brief overview of Afghan politics sets the stage for Hassan’s story. The war has not let up since Amir left the country. Each group coming in to take over is worse than the last. Amir is not sure he wants to hear about Hassan, but he cannot refuse a dying friend.
Summary of Chapter Sixteen
Rahim Khan went to Hazarajat in 1986 to find Hassan and bring him back to Kabul because he was tired of living in the big house by himself. Everyone he knew in Kabul had fled or been killed. After he heard of Baba’s death, he felt terribly lonely. He found the village outside Bamiyan. Amir was living in a mud hut with his pregnant Hazara wife Farzana. Hassan was overjoyed to see him. He said his father Ali had been killed by a land mine.
Rahim Khan was sad to learn of Ali’s death, for Baba, Rahim, and Ali had grown up together. Rahim Khan offers Hassan a job, but Hassan says they have made their life there.
Hassan had asked about Amir—had he married? Did he have children? Hassan finally learned to read and write and asked Rahim Khan to give Amir a letter from him. He was very sad to learn about Baba’s death, and after weeping all night about it, he decided to go with Rahim Khan.
In Kabul, Rahim Khan tries to make Hassan and Farzana move into the house, but they refuse, living instead in the old the servant’s hut. They do all the cooking and cleaning. The Wall of Ailing Corn had been destroyed by a rocket, so Hassan rebuilt it with his own hands.
Farzana gives birth to a stillborn girl, but in 1990 she becomes pregnant again. A woman had collapsed on the doorstep of the house that year, and when they took her in, they discovered it was Hassan’s lost mother, Sanaubar, now a toothless woman with gray hair. Someone had taken a knife to her face. Hassan and Farzana nurse her back to health, and it is she who delivers Hassan’s son that winter. They named him Sohrab after the hero in the Shahnamah. Sanaubar dotes on Sohrab. She dies when he is four years old and is buried in the cemetery by the pomegranate tree.
By that time there was civil war with the Mujahedin. It was so dangerous no one knew if they would live from day to day. It was hell on earth, Rahim Khan says. Hassan teaches Sohrab how to use the slingshot and how to read and write. He also teaches him kite running. Everyone was happy when the Taliban took over, except for Hassan who said, “God help the Hazaras now” (186). The Taliban banned kite fighting, and in 1998 they massacred the Hazaras.
Commentary on Chapter Sixteen
Rahim Khan manages to make a family again out of the remnants of Baba’s family and gather them in Baba’s house in Kabul. Rahim Khan points out, “we made our own little haven” from the war raging outside (183). Hassan is reconciled to his mother and has his wife and son, with Rahim Khan as their kind benefactor. Rahim Khan does not want them to act like servants, but they all resume their former roles willingly and with a good will. We remember Rahim Khan had once been in love with a Hazara woman and seems to have no racial hatred himself.
Hassan’s old mother has been attacked with a knife, supposedly a racial attack, and it is hardly safe to go out. Hassan instantly realizes the threat of the Taliban, for they are right-wing Sunni Pashtuns. Rahim Khan thus prepares Amir to hear the worst.
Summary of Chapter Seventeen
As Rahim Khan tells the story, Amir is struck once more by how much damage he had done in that one year when he scattered the family. He asks if Hassan is still in that house.
Rahim Khan hands Amir a letter from Hassan. It has a photograph of Hassan with his little boy, Sohrab. Amir is amazed, for even in the photo, Hassan “exuded a sense of self-assuredness, of ease” (189). His smile is that of “a man who thought the world had been good to him” (189).
The letter is written in Farsi and Hassan says he hopes Amir will write to him and send him a photo of his life in America. He has told Farzana and Sohrab so much about Amir and how they grew up together.
He goes on to say, “the Afghanistan of our youth is long dead. Kindness is gone from the land and you cannot escape the killings” (189). He has seen his wife beaten by the Taliban in the street. He does not fear death but wants to stay alive for his family. He speaks of his son Sohrab, such a good boy, who also loves the Shahnamah. He worries about the health of Rahim Khan who is so close to Sohrab.
He ends with an account of his premonitory dreams. Many are nightmares of hanged corpses, but most are good dreams: “I dream that my son will grow up to be a good person, a free person, and an important person” (191). He dreams flowers will bloom in the streets of Kabul again and that kites will fly. He hopes Amir will visit Kabul some day so they can meet again.
Amir asks Rahim Khan again how Hassan is. Rahim Khan replies the letter was written six months ago as he left to see doctors in Pakistan. He received a phone call from a Kabul neighbor who said that as soon as he left, a rumor went around that a Hazara family was living alone in the large Pashtun house. The Taliban came to investigate and shot both Hassan and Farzana in the head. Amir is grief-stricken thinking of Hassan’s death. Their son Sohrab is in an orphanage in Kabul. Rahim Khan asks Amir to go to Kabul and bring Sohrab to Peshawar. He says he knows an American couple who will take care of him.
At first Amir says he cannot do it. Why doesn’t Rahim Khan pay someone to go? Or, he himself will pay for it. Rahim Khan answers, “we both know why it has to be you” (194).
Finally, Rahim Khan gives him another reason from the past to go to Kabul to get Sohrab. Sohrab is his own relative. Ali was sterile and could not have children. Baba fathered Hassan by having an affair with his wife, Sanaubar. Hassan is Amir’s half-brother, and Sohrab is his nephew. Hassan himself did not know this. Rahim Khan kept the secret until after Baba’s death. It was too shameful in Afghan society that prized honor above all. Amir is angry to find his whole life has been a lie and storms out.
Commentary on Chapter Seventeen
Finally Amir knows why Baba tried to treat Hassan and him the same, why he was heartbroken when Ali and Hassan went away, though he could say nothing about the shameful past. Rahim Khan had gone to fetch Hassan as the only son and heir left, and he knew Sohrab was Baba’s grandson. Hassan did not know this secret either, and Amir is angry realizing they were playing in the dark, hurting one another. Yet Hassan’s last letter is reconciliatory, hoping they will meet in the future.
Hassan and his wife are part of the Hazara massacre, so one might reflect that they should have stayed in Hazarajat, and yet in this way, the family history works itself out. Amir thinks Hassan’s life was wasted, but Rahim Khan tells him about Sohrab who must be saved. He is the legacy of all that the family endured. Hassan has said in his letter he dreams his son will be free. As the nearest male relative of the boy, it is Amir’s duty to find him and to redeem the past in the only way he can.