The Kite Runner | Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini

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Course Hero. "The Kite Runner Study Guide." Course Hero. 2 Sep. 2016. Web. 21 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Kite-Runner/>.

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Course Hero, "The Kite Runner Study Guide," September 2, 2016, accessed July 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Kite-Runner/.

The Kite Runner | Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 12 starts with Amir consumed by thoughts of Soraya. Most of the week he can't sleep because he's thinking about her and wishing the nights would pass faster. He thinks of yelda, the term in Afghanistan to mean the longest night of the year, which is the first night of winter. It is the night when he and Hassan would try to stay up all night to see the sunrise. He is falling in love with Soraya, whom he calls "My Swap Meet Princess. The morning sun to my yelda." At the flea market he always finds an excuse to stroll past the Taheris' stand. Seeing General Taheri he waves and makes small talk. But seeing Soraya alone, he cannot summon the courage to talk to her.

A year passes. One hot summer day at the flea market Amir asks if Baba wants a Coke, and Baba responds, "Be careful." Then he explains that Pashtun men live by a code of honor and pride, especially when it comes to the chastity of their wives and daughters.

Amir walks by the Taheris' stand and sees Soraya alone. He is about to walk away again, but then he finds himself asking her where the general is. He pretends that he'd stopped by to pay his respects to her father, but he also uses the opportunity to finally introduce himself and ask her what she is reading. While they are talking Soraya's mother appears, and she is excited that her daughter, who is considered dishonorable among most Afghan men, seems to have a suitor. To encourage their connection, she reveals that their families are distantly related.

Amir continues visiting with Soraya when the general is gone. But he prefers talking to Soraya when her mother is around because the presence of a chaperone relaxes Soraya by making their meetings less gossip worthy. When General Taheri catches Amir and Soraya chatting alone, he greets Amir with pleasant words but a thin smile. In his small talk the general includes the reminder that everyone in the flea market is, like Amir, a storyteller.

Two weeks later Amir catches Baba coughing up blood. Amir takes him to several doctors, and a diagnosis of advanced inoperable cancer is delivered. Baba turns down chemotherapy that would prolong his life. Amir is deeply upset, and he can't imagine life without Baba. He admits this aloud, and Baba reminds Amir that he has raised him to be independent and stand up for himself. Baba grows sicker as time goes by but swears Amir to secrecy about his illness. One day at the flea market he collapses and is rushed to the hospital.

Word gets out about Baba's illness, and many friends show up at the hospital, including Soraya and her family. Through tears Amir tells her, "I'm happy you came. It means ... the world to me." When Baba is released from the hospital two days later, Amir asks if he will ask the general for his daughter's hand. Baba is pleased, and he hobbles to carry out his "last fatherly duty."

General Taheri accepts. Amir is so happy. But Soraya wants to talk to Amir first. Over the phone she says, "I don't want us to start with secrets." Soraya tells him that when she was younger, she ran away with an Afghan man, and she lived with him for about a month until her father found her and took her home. When she returned she discovered her mother had had a stroke, and she felt guilty that she might have caused it. She asks Amir if knowing this will make him change his mind about marrying her. He reassures her that it does not.

Analysis

This chapter further emphasizes that Amir's feelings for Soraya are connected to his love for Afghanistan. In explaining yelda he starts by first telling how Ali taught him and Hassan its traditions and lore, before showing how, after meeting Soraya, every night of the week became a yelda for him (yelda is simply the name of the longest night of the year, but poets see it as "the starless night tormented lovers kept vigil, enduring the endless dark, waiting for the sun to rise and bring with it their loved one").

Similar to Hassan, Soraya's character serves as a foil to Amir's. In literary terms a foil is a character who contrasts with the main character to heighten an understanding of particular attributes of the main character. While Soraya and Amir have similarities (they both love literature and they both have a shameful past), Amir admits that she, like Hassan, is a better person than he is. While Soraya wants to share her love of literature by teaching others to read and write, Amir remembers that he often used his literacy to ridicule Hassan. And while Soraya has the courage to face her past, Amir does not.

The author also uses their relationship to highlight some of the Afghan double standards for men and women. Amir would not be judged as harshly as Soraya for their meetings: she would be accused of being too dishonorably bold, while he would be a poor victim. Amir realizes this is unfair and that he was luckily born into the favored gender. Yet he still uses that to his advantage (this is similar to his relationship with Hassan and their respective social classes).

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