The next night Amir and Baba go to the Taheris’ house for the lafz, the ceremony of “giving word.” Baba looks tired, but he says it is the happiest day of his life. The house is full of people, and Jamila is already crying with happiness when Amir enters. General Taheri is also pleased, and he says they are doing things the proper Afghan way now.
Hosseini gives more examples of the characters preserving Afghan society and tradition in America. Baba is so pleased because with the marriage, Amir is truly becoming an adult and ready to strike out on his own.
Usually there would be an engagement party, then an engagement of a few months, and then the wedding, but they decide to have the wedding quickly because of Baba’s illness. Baba spends almost all of his life savings on the wedding, renting an Afghan banquet hall and buying Amir’s tuxedo and rings.
Baba is as generous as ever, and gives up everything he has worked for Amir’s sake. He is especially generous because of his pride in Amir’s marriage and because he is among peers, and so can act as he once did in Afghanistan.
The wedding is a happy blur for Amir – he and Soraya repeat their oaths and then walk through the hall as the Afghan wedding song plays. Then they sit together on a sofa, are covered with a veil, and look at each other’s reflections in a mirror. Amir whispers to Soraya for the first time that he loves her. After the ceremony there is joyful partying in the banquet hall, and then back at Baba’s apartment. Amir cannot help wondering if Hassan had also been married. Late that night Amir and Soraya make love for the first time.
The wedding follows traditional Afghan customs, and is American only in its location. Even at his happiest moment, Amir cannot help but think of Hassan, although now it is not so much with guilt as with curiosity. Amir is becoming a man, and he wonders in what manner his “brother” has matured apart from him.
Soraya wants to move in with Baba immediately because he is so sick. One day Amir comes home and sees Soraya slipping Amir’s old leather-bound notebook – the one Rahim Khan gave him – under Baba’s blanket. They admit they have both been reading his stories, and Amir has to leave the room to cry with joy. A month after the wedding the Taheris and some other friends come over for a big dinner. Amir can tell that Baba is happy watching him and Soraya together. Baba dies in his sleep that night.
Baba finally starts to give Amir the approval and support he craved so much as a boy. The irony is that Baba is proud of Amir for taking his own path, getting married and pursuing his career as a writer, rather than always trying to please Baba only. This is a crucial event for Amir, as he must truly find his own inner strength now that his principle support is gone.
The mosque is filled with Afghans for Baba’s funeral, and many of them tell stories about how Baba helped them when no one else would. Amir thinks of the old story of Baba wrestling the black bear, and he thinks of the many bears Baba had to wrestle in his lifetime – the last one was cancer, but even then Baba lost on his own terms.
Amir understands the symbolism of Baba and the bear, and how his father spent all his life overcoming challenges and fighting for honor and decency. Baba was never afraid of conflict, unlike Amir.
Listening to everyone’s stories of Baba, Amir realizes how his father has defined who he is all his life. Now Baba is not around anymore, and Amir must find his own way. This thought frightens him. He finds Soraya and they walk together through the cemetery, and Amir cries for the first time since Baba’s death.
Amir begins to realize the crucial turning point he is experiencing in his life. He does not have Baba’s example to follow, but he does have the principles Baba tried to instill in him.
Because they had such a brief engagement, Amir is still learning about Soraya’s family after the wedding. General Taheri gets bad, week-long migraines once a month. He does not work, as laboring is beneath someone of his position, and he accepts welfare. Every day he dresses up in his suit and waits for Afghanistan to be freed, and for his services to be called upon again.
Amir begins transitioning from one family to another now, and the Taheris take more prominence in the story. General Taheri is seen as a much more “proper” Afghan than Baba was, but his pride and unwillingness to work contrast negatively with Baba’s self-sacrificing labors.
Jamila was once a great singer, but the General has not allowed her to sing in public since they were married. Jamila comes to adore Amir, as he listens to her complain about her health, and he has cured her of her greatest fear – that her daughter would never marry.
This is another tragedy of Afghan sexism, that Jamila’s voice is silenced by her marriage. But even Jamila thinks in the same way as her husband – her greatest fear for Soraya was that she would not marry, implying that she could only be happy with a man.
After Soraya overhears some other Afghans gossiping about her “lack of virtue” at a wedding, she becomes frustrated and enraged at the Afghan double standard for men and women’s promiscuity. She tells Amir more about what happened to her in Virginia – when General Taheri came to fetch her, he had a gun with him, and when she got home he made her cut off all of her hair.
Hosseini gets more specific in his critique of the gender double standard here. Soraya, unlike her mother, is unwilling to accept the traditional, unfair treatment of women, though there is little she can do about it.
Soraya is still relieved that Amir didn’t reject her when he learned about her past, and she says that he is very different from any other Afghan guy she has met. Amir thinks that maybe this is because Baba was such a liberal father, or because Amir was only around men his whole life, or because he knows all too well about having a guilty past.
All the other Afghan men have put tradition over forgiveness, and subscribe to the gender double standard that would call Soraya “damaged.” Amir would feel hypocritical judging someone for their past mistakes.
After Baba’s death, Amir and Soraya get their own apartment in Fremont, close to the Taheris’ home. General Taheri gives Amir a typewriter as a housewarming gift. Amir sells Baba’s van and never returns to the flea market. Amir is accepted to San Jose State college and becomes an English major, and he takes on a security job on the side, using the long, quiet hours to start his first novel.
Amir makes more outward moves towards maturity and manhood. He transitions from living with Baba to living alone with Soraya, and begins his career as a writer while pursuing his studies. Even the conservative General Taheri comes to support Amir’s writing, as Baba finally did.
Soraya enrolls at the same school and starts studying to be a teacher. General Taheri thinks she is wasting her talents, which makes Soraya angry – she thinks her father is a coward for running from the Russians and then collecting welfare instead of working.
Soraya often speaks with Hosseini’s voice, critiquing Afghans more plainspokenly than other characters. The General does indeed seem unsympathetic for his pride and lack of action.
In the summer of 1988 Amir finishes his first novel, and eventually gets it published. All the Taheris celebrate his success, and Amir knows that Baba would have been proud of him.
Amir reaches another milestone of maturity. He is becoming a man without Baba, and apart from his past guilt.
The next year Amir’s novel is released and he becomes somewhat famous in the Afghan community. It is also the same year the Russians complete their exit from Afghanistan. Instead of being a time of victory in the country, the violence continues between rival Mujahedin groups and the Soviet puppet government. This is also the same year that Amir and Soraya start trying to have a baby.
As Amir tries to reach the next goal of maturity – fatherhood – Hosseini reintroduces the politics of Afghanistan to the narrative. While Amir has been quietly building a life in America, violence and upheaval have swept through Afghanistan. Hosseini implies that Amir will not able to escape his homeland forever.
After a long time without being able to conceive, Amir and Soraya start going to see different specialists, but none of them can explain why they cannot have a child. Amir and Soraya tentatively start discussing adoption, but General Taheri says he does not think it is right for Afghans, and Soraya feels slightly uncomfortable with the idea too.
The first hitch in Amir’s happy American life appears with his inability to have a child, but this seems like a small loss compared to the suffering of Hassan and the Afghans that remained to fight in the wars.
Amir wonders if his inability to have a child is his punishment for the things he has done. Meanwhile, his writing career is going well, and they use the advance for his second novel to buy a house in San Francisco. Amir and Soraya lie next to each other and are happy, but the emptiness of their infertility lingers between them.
It is notable that the most important relationships of the novel involve fathers and sons, and Amir is unable to become a father until he has dealt with his guilty past and redeemed himself.