The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Amir and Farid return to the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood and arrive at the big house where Amir is to meet the Taliban official. Farid waits in the car, and Amir thanks him for all his help. Amir goes up to the door, wishing Baba was there to help him, but he is all alone. Two armed guards come out, frisk Amir, and lead him to an upstairs room to wait. Amir grows more terrified as time passes, and he thinks maybe it was a mistake to try and redeem himself – maybe he is just a coward at heart, and should accept this.
Amir cannot help thinking of Baba and wishing he was there, but he is finally doing what Baba always wanted him to do – stand up for himself even in the face of danger. This is Amir’s first positive action to make things right and redeem himself, so his natural inclination is still to flee and try to forget. But he overcomes his fear.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
Finally the Taliban official enters, still wearing his sunglasses, with the two guards. He sits down and Amir notices that his shirt is still stained with blood from the execution at the soccer game. He and Amir greet each other, and then he motions for one of the guards to rip off Amir’s fake beard. He asks Amir if he enjoyed the show at halftime, and Amir is suddenly gripped with terror. The man says the best “show” was when he went door-to-door in Mazar-i-Sharif, shooting Hazara families. He says it is the best feeling in the world to kill and know that you are doing God’s work.
All the atrocities of the Taliban seem to coalesce in this one figure, who is remorseless and even pleased by the murders he has committed. The racial oppression of Hazaras returns as a theme, and the official references the massacre of Hazara citizens in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Amir is terrified once again, but this time he does not try to escape.
Themes
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
The official asks Amir about America, but Amir only says that he is looking for Sohrab. The official says that many think that abandoning Afghanistan for America is as good as treason, and he could have Amir shot. Amir tries to think about Soraya to calm his fear. The official sends a guard away, and he returns with Sohrab, who is dressed in blue silk, with bells on his ankles and mascara lining his eyes. To Amir, he looks exactly like Hassan did at that age.
Sohrab’s attire and demeanor make it clear that he has been sexually abused by the Taliban official and possibly others. Sohrab enters the narrative as the part of Hassan that lives on, the new “son” figure of the book, and for Amir he is a stand-in for Hassan himself and a chance for Amir to redeem himself.
Themes
Betrayal Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
The guards turn on music and make Sohrab dance, and then the official takes Sohrab in his arms and orders the guards to leave the room. The official rubs Sohrab’s stomach and asks Amir whatever happened to Babalu – the name Assef used to call Ali. Amir realizes with horror that the official is actually Assef, and that everything bad about his past has returned.
Assef’s return is another horrible, ironic coincidence. As Sohrab is an “extension” of Hassan, it as if Assef is raping Hassan all over again by sexually abusing his son. In Assef all the terrible parts of Amir’s past return in a single, antagonistic figure.
Themes
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
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Amir says he will pay Assef for the boy, but Assef replies that he does not need money – his parents live in a beach house in Australia. He tells Amir why he joined the Taliban. He was in prison once, and got a painful kidney stone. One night a guard starting kicking Assef, and the blows caused the kidney stone to pass. Assef started laughing with relief, though the man kept kicking him, and at that moment he knew God was on his side.
Amir joined the Taliban because they gave him free reign to indulge his sadistic tendencies. He even feels justified and guiltless because the Taliban uses religion to excuse their atrocities. Assef acts as a sort of foil to Amir, in that both were raised with wealth and privilege.
Themes
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
Assef continues that he is now on a mission to “take out the garbage” in Afghanistan – which is what he was doing by massacring Hazaras. Amir says that this is called ethnic cleansing, and Assef seems to enjoy the term. Amir again asks for Sohrab, but he won’t tell Assef what he plans to do with him. Finally Assef shoves Sohrab towards Amir, but says he cannot have him for free. Assef says he and Amir have unfinished business, and Amir remembers the day Hassan pointed the slingshot at Assef’s eye and Assef promised revenge.
Assef represents the violent, abusive part of Afghanistan, and Amir (as his young, cowardly self) the ones with power who stood by as the powerful raped the powerless. But now Amir is standing up for what is right for the first time, and trying to stop more violence being committed. Certain images begin to recur from Amir and Assef’s past, like the slingshot and laughing while being beaten.
Themes
Betrayal Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
Assef calls the guards and tells them not to come in, no matter they might hear, and that if Amir leaves the room alive they are to let him pass. He wants Sohrab to stay and watch, however. Then Assef puts on his old brass knuckles. After that the narrative becomes disjointed, as Amir remembers little that follows – first the scene jumps forward to a doctor leaning over Amir’s body.
Amir’s fight with Assef becomes the climax of the novel. The brass knuckles return as another image from Amir’s childhood. As when he says Hassan being raped, Amir’s memory starts to jump around and the narrative breaks up, emphasizing the trauma of the event.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Amir then describes the fight in flashes of swallowing teeth and blood, Assef throwing him against a wall and striking him, and Sohrab screaming. Then Amir starts laughing, as he suddenly feels at peace for the first time since his betrayal of Hassan back in 1975. He is finally getting the punishment he deserves, and he feels healed, not broken. Assef is enraged by Amir’s laughter, but just before he beats Amir to death Sohrab stops him, his slingshot loaded with a part of the table and pointed at Assef’s eye.
Amir as a foil to Assef becomes more clear as he acts out the story Assef just told, about laughing while being beaten. This beating is replacing the one Amir should have gotten decades earlier, had he stepped into the alley and defended Hassan. Amir is not trying to win the fight, but only to not run away, and to redeem himself by getting the punishment he feels he deserves.
Themes
Betrayal Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Sohrab cries and asks Assef to stop hurting Amir, and Assef warns him to put down the slingshot or terrible things will happen to him. Then Assef lunges at Sohrab, and Sohrab fires the slingshot into Assef’s left eye. Assef screams and rolls around on the floor, his eye bleeding, and Sohrab and Amir run past the guards and out of the house. Farid is shocked at Amir’s state, but he helps carry him to the car, and they drive off with a sobbing Sohrab.
More motifs return from the past as Sohrab reenacts Hassan’s threat with the slingshot, and this time actually puts out Assef’s eye, as Hassan had threatened to do years earlier. This recalls the saying “an eye for an eye,” and implies that Assef, like Amir, is getting the punishment he deserves.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon