The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrative continues with a blur of Amir’s memories. Time seems out of order, and he sees a nurse named Aisha leaning over him, and a man with a moustache, and a familiar man in a pakol. Amir imagines Baba wrestling the black bear, but when Amir looks into his eyes he sees it isn’t Baba, but Amir himself that is wrestling the bear.
The image of Baba and the bear returns, but this time it is Amir who is wrestling the bear – this means that Amir has become the kind of man Baba always wanted him to be, and he can face obstacles head-on and fight to overcome them.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Amir wakes up and learns that he is in a hospital in Peshawar, and the man with the moustache is named Dr. Faruqi, though Amir thinks of him as “Armand.” Amir tries to speak, but discovers his mouth is wired shut. The doctor tells him he has a ruptured spleen, seven broken ribs, a fractured eye socket, and a split upper lip. He will have to eat only liquids for a few weeks. Amir thinks about the damage, but the thing that sticks with him is the lip injury – it is split down the middle like Hassan’s cleft lip.
The cleft lip was a sign of Hassan’s lower social status, but also his purity of heart, as he was Baba’s “other half” and inherited his courage and goodness. Now that Assef has split Amir’s lip, Amir has symbolically become more like Hassan in that he is willing to stand up for what is right. This also represents a kind of unity between Pashtun and Hazara, a unity that is necessary if Afghanistan is ever to heal.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Farid and Sohrab visit Amir the next day, and Amir thanks them and properly introduces himself to Sohrab, who barely speaks. Amir asks about Rahim Khan, and Farid says he disappeared the day after they did, but left Amir a note. When Farid leaves, Amir asks if Sohrab will stay. Sohrab sits with Amir, but he does not speak and only looks at his hands.
Sohrab is haunted by his past trauma like so many other characters (Hassan, Kamal, and Amir with his guilt), so he is slow to open up and trust Amir. Farid has become a loyal friend on Amir’s journey.
Themes
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
That night Amir reads Rahim Khan’s note. Rahim Khan says that he knew what happened with Amir and Hassan, and though what Amir did was wrong, he was too hard on himself afterward. He hopes Amir will find some peace on his trip to Afghanistan.
Amir’s suspicions were true, and Rahim Khan did know of his betrayal, and asked him to save Sohrab in part to give Amir a way to redeem himself.
Themes
Betrayal Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
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Rahim Khan then says that he knows Baba was hard on Amir, but part of the reason for this was Baba’s own guilt. He could not love Hassan openly as a son, and Amir represented his privileged half, so when Baba was being hard on Amir he was also being hard on himself. All of Baba’s good works, including the orphanage and his many works of charity, were a way of redeeming himself for his sin. Rahim Khan says he hopes Amir can forgive both Baba and himself.
Rahim Khan expands on the idea that Baba was metaphorically split in two, and that Amir was the half that inherited the privilege, while Hassan inherited the virtue. Rahim Khan also emphasizes that betrayal does not need to mean only guilt and evil – Baba’s good works came out of his betrayal, and so much good came from the initial sin.
Themes
Betrayal Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
With the letter, Rahim Khan leaves Amir a key to his safe-deposit box, where there is money to cover Amir’s expenses in Peshawar. He asks that Amir not come looking for him, as he has little time left to live. Amir weeps as he reads the letter, and thinks about his similarities with Baba – how they were both “tortured souls,” who had betrayed their truest friend. Amir compares himself with Baba’s many good works, and wonders if he has done anything to redeem himself.
Amir is now beginning to positively act for good, like Baba did, to try and amend his past wrongs. He does not know what to do yet, but he knows that it involves Sohrab. Amir has now lost another father-figure in Rahim Khan.
Themes
Betrayal Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
The next morning Amir looks at himself in the mirror, and sees all the damage to his face. Farid and Sohrab arrive, and Farid says they should leave Peshawar soon, as the Taliban have friends there. Amir gives Farid the names of the American couple that Rahim Khan told him ran the Peshawar orphanage, and he leaves to find them.
Amir is unrecognizable because of all his injuries, but he is on the path to redemption now. Amir is still in danger, as the Taliban are supported by many in Pakistan.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
Amir spends the rest of the day playing a card game, panjpar, with Sohrab, who still rarely speaks. Amir asks what Hassan had said about him, and Sohrab says that Hassan told him Amir was the best friend he ever had. When Amir tries to touch him, Sohrab flinches.
Sohrab is traumatized by his sexual abuse, and so cannot let himself be touched by an adult yet. Amir used to play panjpar with Sohrab. Hassan was clearly still loyal to and fond of Amir, as he spoke so positively of him to his son.
Themes
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
For the next two days, Sohrab and Amir play panjpar in silence. The next day Amir decides that he must leave, and he discharges himself from the hospital early. Then Farid arrives and says that there never was a Thomas and Betty Caldwell in Peshawar. Amir and Farid are worried about what they will do now, but they get Rahim Khan’s money from the bank and decide to take Sohrab to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. On the drive there Amir sleeps, and he dreams of Rahim Khan’s words: “a way to be good again.”
It is unclear whether Rahim Khan thought that the American couple was in Pakistan or not. He may have been trying to break the news to Amir slowly that “the way to be good again” is to adopt Sohrab himself. This would cure some of Amir’s guilt for betraying Hassan, and also help with the emptiness he feels for being unable to have a child. But things are never so convenient in the world of The Kite Runner.
Themes
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon