The Kite Runner

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The Kite Runner Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrative returns to Amir’s perspective, as he sits with Rahim Khan thinking of the huge repercussions of his actions so long ago. Amir asks if Hassan is still at Baba’s house. Rahim Khan does not answer, but hands Amir an envelope. Inside is a letter and a picture of Hassan as a grown man, standing with his son Sohrab. They are both smiling as if the world were a kinder place than it is.
Amir has not thought about Hassan so specifically – the Hassan that continued to live and mature along with Amir – in a long time. This photograph is the first time Amir has seen Hassan smiling his old smile since before the rape.
Themes
Betrayal Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Amir reads the letter, which is addressed to him from Hassan. Hassan says that the Afghanistan of their childhood is gone, and that fear and violence are everywhere now. A man at the market struck Farzana just because she raised her voice to make a hard-of-hearing man understand her.
Hassan begins his story similarly to Rahim Khan, by describing the most recent random act of Taliban violence. Hassan shares Amir’s nostalgia for the peaceful Afghanistan of their childhood.
Themes
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
Hassan describes his son Sohrab, and how much he loves him. They still walk up to the cemetery on the hill and read “Rostam and Sohrab,” though the pomegranate tree has not given fruit in years. Hassan laments Rahim Khan’s illness, and he says that he has been having nightmares lately, but he dreams of Sohrab growing up in an Afghanistan that is safe and beautiful again. Hassan says that if Amir ever returns, he will be waiting for him as his faithful friend.
Hassan gives more examples of how Amir is always present in his thoughts. It is clear that Hassan is a good father, though his son is growing up in a much more dangerous time than Amir and Hassan did. Hassan’s goodbye is heartbreaking in light of his ultimate fate – if only Amir had apologized, Hassan would probably have forgiven him.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
Rahim Khan then answers Amir’s question – about a month after Rahim Khan came to Pakistan, he got a call from a neighbor in Kabul explaining what had happened. The Taliban had gone to Baba’s house and found Hassan living there. Hassan said he was taking care of the house, but the Taliban accused him of being a lying Hazara even after the neighbors supported Hassan’s story. They made Hassan kneel in the road and shot him in the back of the head. Farzana came out of the house, screaming, and they shot her too, claiming “self-defense.”
Hassan’s murder is another tragic turning point in the novel. It shows how Hazaras have no rights at all in Afghanistan now, as there is no punishment for those who murdered Hassan and Farzana. This also destroys any hope Amir might have had of apologizing to Hassan in person and making amends with him. Hassan again acts as a sacrificial lamb, the innocent victim of violence.
Themes
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
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Amir cannot help imagining Hassan’s execution, and he is wracked with grief. Rahim Khan continues – the Taliban moved into Baba’s house, and they sent Sohrab to an orphanage. Rahim Khan then says that this was the other reason he wanted Amir to visit him – he wants Amir to go to Kabul and find Sohrab, and then bring him back to Pakistan. Rahim Khan knows an American couple named Thomas and Betty Caldwell that have a good orphanage in Peshawar.
Amir grieves for his own unending guilt as much as he does for Hassan, but then Rahim Khan explains his plan, the way Amir can “be good again.” Sohrab was the most important thing to Hassan, and the part of him that still lives on, and if Amir is to make things better (even after Hassan’s death) he must save him.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
Amir protests that he cannot go to Kabul, but he is willing to pay someone to go for him. Rahim Khan gets angry at this, and says that it is not about money – Amir knows why he must go. Rahim Khan says that Baba had told him he worried about Amir being unable to stand up for himself as a man, and Rahim Khan wonders if Amir has become such a man.
Rahim Khan brings up Baba’s old worries about Amir’s courage, as Amir always craved Baba’s approval more than anything. Amir finally starts to see that Baba would have loved him more for standing up for Hassan than for winning a kite tournament.
Themes
Betrayal Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Amir still considers refusing, but then Rahim Khan delivers one last piece of information – Ali was unable to have children. Amir asks who Hassan’s father was then, but then he understands that it was Baba. Hassan never knew either – they couldn’t tell anyone because of the dishonorable situation. Amir feels his whole world collapsing around him, and he storms out of the apartment, raging at Rahim Khan and Baba.
This new knowledge increases Amir’s obligation to go to Kabul, as Sohrab is his nephew by blood. The revelation also means that Baba had betrayed his closest friend and servant, and so he and Amir were more similar than they seemed at first. The decision to go to Kabul or not becomes Amir’s greatest test of maturity and courage as an adult.
Themes
Betrayal Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon