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The Kite Runner | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 9 opens with Amir opening his birthday presents. But he finds no joy in any of them because he knows that Baba would not have thrown him such a big party if he had not won the tournament: "I didn't want any of it—it was all blood money."

The only present that doesn't feel like blood money is a leather-bound notebook from Rahim. Holding it, he thinks about what Rahim had said about his almost-wife. This helps him conclude that getting rid of Hassan would not only alleviate his guilt but would also be for the best, since Hassan would never have to serve another drink to his rapist.

While riding his brand new bike, Amir sees Ali, who asks him to stop and wait. He comes back with a box. Inside is a brand new volume of the Persian epic that contains the story of Rostam and Sohrab (Hassan's suggestion, because the copy Amir used to read aloud is ragged and missing pages). Hardback with glossy, colored illustrations, it sells at a price that a servant could not easily afford, yet Ali calls it a modest gift that is unworthy of Amir. Amir ends up tossing this present with the others, but for a different reason: "I wanted to tell Ali it was not the book, but I who was unworthy."

The next morning Amir waits until Ali and Hassan leave to run errands. Taking some birthday money and the watch from Baba, he goes into their hut and hides the items under Hassan's mattress. Then he goes to Baba and tells what he hopes would "be the last in a long line of shameful lies." When Hassan and Ali return, Baba talks to Ali first, before calling Amir to his office so that they could settle the matter. Baba asks a puffy-eyed Hassan if he stole the money and watch. Hassan says, "Yes." This makes Amir flinch because he knows that if Hassan had said "No," Baba would've believed him. Amir realizes suddenly that Hassan knows everything he had done or failed to do, yet instead of ratting him out he remains loyal and protective. At that moment Amir "loved him more than I'd ever loved anyone, and I wanted to tell them all that I was the snake in the grass, the monster in the lake." But instead he remains quiet, hoping that this would all be over and his life could move on.

Baba surprises and confuses Amir by forgiving Hassan. Then Ali surprises Baba by announcing that they're leaving. In the cold, unforgiving look that Ali sends his way, Amir realizes that Hassan has told him everything. But instead of revealing Amir's betrayal, Ali says, "Life here is impossible for us now."

Baba begs them to stay. Seeing a grown man sob scares Amir. Amir imagines himself chasing the car, his tears mixing with the rain, telling Hassan how sorry he is and how he also wants him to stay. But he does not.

Analysis

Amir's description of his birthday presents as blood money is not entirely logical. He had won the tournament (with Hassan's help), so he did deserve Baba's approval. But he did not secure the trophy, and he sacrificed Hassan in order to bring the trophy home. Because Hassan was raped by Assef the day of the tournament, the two events are tied in Amir's mind. But Assef is a sociopathic bully who is out for vengeance against both Hassan and Amir for their earlier confrontation and because he thinks Hassan is less than human. He is always trying to hurt them, but he would hurt Hassan more because he can get away with it. Amir knows this. But he is too cowardly to protect Hassan if it means bringing harm to himself. Thus while the tournament led to an opportunity for Assef and his friends to corner Hassan in an alley, it is not the reason why Hassan was raped. Assef sees Hassan as a member of a minority group that must be exterminated so that Afghanistan will be pure. Young Amir does not understand this distinction, but the author makes this clear through his emphasis on both Amir's cowardice and Assef's obsession with Hitler.

Even though Amir has many opportunities to come clean with both Hassan and Baba, his choice to set Hassan up as a thief only further emphasizes his cowardly desire to escape painful consequences. His betrayal of Hassan is now doubled in size—the first betrayal was passive, but this betrayal is deliberate. His guilt also doubles when Hassan, known for being honest, lies to protect him. This contrast to Amir's betrayals and cowardice only serves to make him feel more awful about himself.

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