The Kite Runner | Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini

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The Kite Runner | Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 19 opens with Amir being carsick. He is on his way out of Pakistan and passes a bullet-riddled sign.

Rahim had introduced him to the driver Farid, whose job is to smuggle Amir back into his much-changed birthplace. To avoid suspicion, Amir is dressed as a Taliban-approved, traditional Afghan man with an artificial, chest-length beard.

When Amir says, "I feel like a tourist in my own country," Farid snickers. He does not believe that Amir has a right to call Afghanistan his country. Not only has Amir lived in America for the past 20 years, but also, even when he was living in Afghanistan, he was in a big house with servants and foreign luxuries. Farid points to an old man dressed in ragged clothes with a sack of grass tied to his back, and says, "That's the real Afghanistan."

That night they stay with Farid's brother, Wahid. Amir meets Wahid's wife, three sons, and an older woman wearing a hijab who does not make eye contact. When Farid insults Amir by implying that he is a rich, pleasure-seeking coward, Wahid roars, "Have you forgotten your manners? This is my house! Amir agha is my guest tonight and I will not allow you to dishonor me like this!"

Amir is served a bowl of vegetable shorwa and a loaf of bread. Wahid apologizes for not being able to afford meat, and he declines to eat with him because he says the entire family has already eaten. After dinner Amir lies down on a straw mat laid out for him. He drifts off to sleep, but a nightmare wakes him up. Stepping outside he is calmed by the feel of the cool, ancestral soil under his bare feet. He is about to go back inside when he overhears Wahid and his wife fighting about the fact that the children are hungry because Amir had eaten their food. Before leaving the next day Amir hides money under one of their mattresses.

Analysis

This chapter includes moments that both parallel and contrast earlier ones. The author uses this tightly woven style to emphasize the changes in Amir's situation and nature:

(1) Carsickness—Amir is scared about where he is and what he has determined to do; earlier he was carsick during a vacation because he felt guilty about what he had done. While the carsickness is a physical reaction (which Baba saw as an embarrassing weakness), it could also be symbolic of Amir's relationship to control. In America, Amir enjoys driving for hours and exploring the vastness of the country. But when others are driving Amir often gets carsick. One notable exception is the time he was in a taxicab on his way to Rahim. Despite the reckless, swerving movements of the driver Amir does not mention getting sick. This is because he chose to be there, because there weren't any dangers around, and because his mind was occupied with mostly pleasant observations and memories.

(2) Checkpoint—Amir is trying to get into Afghanistan to rescue someone else; earlier, he and Baba were trying to get out of Afghanistan to save themselves. Despite feeling scared here Amir folds his arms across his chest; this could be a defensive gesture, but it also gives off the image that he is calm and unconcerned. While the earlier checkpoint was filled with potential rape and death, this checkpoint is passed without any trouble.

(3) Nightmare—Amir dreams that a man is kneeling on the street and that another man shoots him in the back of the head. This image is burned into Amir's mind from what he had heard about Hassan's death. He doesn't know the details of the actual shooting, but the reader can assume that was done more quickly and angrily. Here the man is blindfolded, his hands are tied, and his knees are bloody from rocking back and forth in prayer—this shows that the execution was planned and that the executioner is deliberately drawing out the moment to inflict more suffering. The executioner looks at the man with empty, unfeeling eyes, and when Amir looks at the executioner he sees himself. This nightmare is similar to Amir's earlier thought that he was a monster that dragged Hassan to the bottom of the lake. But it is more intense because Hassan is actually dead now, and Amir understands how his actions could've led to that.

(4) Money under the mattress—Amir does this in order to help Wahid's family buy food; it also serves as a thank-you for their hospitality. He cannot give the money directly because that would insult Wahid's honor and pride. Thus to help Wahid's family without hurting Wahid, Amir must hide the money and hope that they find it. In contrast with the earlier hiding of money, this act shows Amir's generosity and consideration. Because the earlier act is a source of guilt this could also be seen as a way to indirectly atone.

The author also uses the encounter with Wahid to insert a quotation that reveals one of his and Amir's purposes for writing this novel/memoir: "Tell the rest of the world what the Taliban are doing to our country."

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