On the morning of the tournament, Hassan tells Amir about the dream he had the night before. In the dream the two of them were at Ghargha Lake, along with their fathers and thousands of other people. Everyone was afraid to swim because they thought there was a monster in the lake, but then Amir jumped in and Hassan followed. They swim out to the middle and everyone sees that there was no monster after all. They rename the lake “Lake of Amir and Hassan, Sultans of Kabul.” Amir is nervous that morning and so he is curt with Hassan, calling it a “dumb dream.”
Hassan’s dream will become a symbol of both Amir’s betrayal and Hassan’s optimism in the face of a cruel world. For now Hassan is brave, and he tries to comfort Amir in his nervousness – as usual, Hassan can read Amir’s emotions perfectly. The name of the lake echoes the inscription on the pomegranate tree, as an emblem of Hassan and Amir’s friendship and their happy childhood days.
It is a clear, beautiful day as the boys gather in Amir’s neighborhood for the tournament. Baba and Rahim Khan sit on the roof to watch. Amir is so nervous that he almost wants to quit the tournament, but Hassan reminds him that “there’s no monster,” and Amir is again amazed at Hassan’s intuition. Amir wonders if Hassan made up his dream just to comfort him. He does feel a little better, and they start to fly their kite.
Amir is nervous as Baba watches, because he has placed all his hope for Baba’s approval in winning this tournament. Hassan tries to put things in perspective – it is just kite-flying on a beautiful day – but Amir is consumed as ever by his desire for Baba’s love.
The tournament lasts for hours, but Amir (and Hassan, who controls the spool of string) do well and keep flying. One blue kite in particular cuts many of its opponents, and Amir keeps his eye on it. By the afternoon it is just Amir and the blue kite left in the running.
Amir and Hassan flying kites together becomes an image of the happier times of their friendship. The blue kite takes on a symbolic significance, and almost a character of its own, as Amir must defeat it to redeem himself to Baba.
Amir prays that he might win and so redeem himself to Baba. Amir tricks the blue kite into a bad position and then cuts it, winning the tournament. Amir and Hassan cheer and embrace, and then Amir sees Baba on the roof yelling and clapping, and he feels that it is the greatest moment of his life so far. Hassan promises to bring back the kite for Amir, and as he runs off he says “for you a thousand times over!”
Amir reels in his kite and accepts everyone’s praise, but he wants to wait until he has the blue kite before he meets Baba. He imagines the two of them like Rostam and Sohrab, father and son locking eyes dramatically. Amir runs off to look for Hassan, and he asks some neighbors if they have seen him.
Amir wants everything to go just as he imagined it, and he dreams of a “happily-ever-after” relationship with Baba, where this one kite can fix everything. Rostam and Sohrab return as the archetypal father and son.
One old merchant seems suspicious that Amir is looking for a Hazara, but he finally tells Amir that he saw Hassan going south, chased by three boys. Amir searches everywhere and finally finds Hassan in an alleyway, holding the blue kite – which Amir thinks of as the “key to Baba’s heart” – and facing off against Assef, Kamal, and Wali. Amir watches from around the corner and doesn’t interrupt.
Amir realizes that he has condensed all his dreams and aspirations into this one blue kite. The dramatic center of the novel begins with this scene, and the alley recalls Amir’s first words of the book. This begins the memory that will haunt Amir’s future. Assef returns for his revenge.
Assef tells Hassan that they will let him go if he hands over the blue kite. Hassan refuses, as he ran the kite fairly and must deliver it to Amir. Assef mocks him and says that Amir would not be so loyal to Hassan if their positions were reversed. He says that Amir thinks of Hassan as a servant, not a friend. Hassan states that he and Amir are friends, and he picks up a rock. He throws the rock at Assef and the three boys jump onto Hassan. Amir still doesn’t cry out, and the older Amir, who is remembering this, thinks of how differently his life might have been if he had.
Assef seems to understand the darker parts of Amir’s nature – he is basically telling the truth when he says that Amir is not as loyal to Hassan as Hassan is to him, and that Amir thinks of Hassan more as a servant than as a friend. The older Amir recognizes that this decision – to do nothing as Hassan is attacked – shaped the rest of his life.
The older, narrator Amir suddenly remembers Ali talking about a Hazara woman called Sakina, who was the nursemaid of both Amir and Hassan. Ali says that there “is a brotherhood between people who’ve fed from the same breast.” Then Amir remembers going to a fortune teller with Hassan. When the fortune teller looks at Hassan’s face and hands, he suddenly seems distressed and he gives Hassan his money back. Then Amir remembers a dream where he is lost in a snowstorm until a familiar hand reaches for him. In the dream he takes the hand and the snow disappears, and the sky is clear and filled with beautiful kites.
At this traumatic memory the narrative becomes disjointed and connects with other memories. Amir’s guilt at betraying his “brother” is emphasized by Ali’s talk about Sakina. The fortune teller seems to foretell a dark future for Hassan, which was unclear to Amir until this moment. These sudden changes of scene show Amir’s (and Hosseini’s) writerly abilities, and emphasize the shocking nature of this memory.
The narrative returns to the alley. Assef and the others have pinned Hassan to the ground and removed his pants. Wali and Kamal say what Assef wants to do is sinful, but Assef says Hassan is only a Hazara, so it won’t matter. The two other boys still refuse, but they agree to hold Hassan down. Assef raises Hassan’s hips in the air and takes off his own pants. Amir catches a glimpse of Hassan’s face, and it looks resigned to its fate, like a sacrificial lamb.
The theme of rape is introduced here as the ultimate violation and violence. This image of the rich Pashtun boy raping the poor Hazara is symbolic of Amir’s cowardice and unwillingness to stand up for what is right, but also represents the violence coming to Afghanistan, when the weak will be raped by the violent and powerful.
Amir then describes the first day of Eid-e-Qorban, a Muslim celebration to honor Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of his son Isaac. On that day the mullah sacrifices a lamb, and Ali gives it a sugar cube to make death sweeter. Amir always can’t help watching the acceptance and understanding in the lamb’s eyes.
Amir again shifts the narrative. Hassan is symbolic of a sacrificial lamb, like Jesus (for Christians) or Isaac for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Hassan seems resigned to his fate as the betrayed friend and the victim of abused power.
Amir again returns to the memory of the alley. He realizes that he has been biting down on his fist so hard it is bleeding. He makes his decision then – the decision of “who to be” – and he runs away. Amir muses over why he did what he did – he was a coward who was afraid of Assef, but it was also something worse. He had thought that the blue kite was his key to winning Baba’s love, and Amir was willing to sacrifice Hassan for that love.
Amir’s decision that molds the rest of his life. There is a cruel irony in his motives for abandoning Hassan, as he “sacrifices” his friend for the blue kite and Baba’s approval, but it is clear in hindsight that Baba would have been pleased more if Amir had “stood up for himself” and done what was right, even in the face of danger.
Fifteen minutes later Amir sees Hassan walking slowly past, and Amir pretends he has been looking for him. He can’t help checking the blue kite for rips. Hassan is crying and blood falls from between his legs, staining the snow, but he doesn’t say anything. He gives Amir the kite, and Amir wonders if Hassan knows what he saw. Both boys walk back and pretend nothing has happened.
This is the end of the era of childhood innocence, as Hassan bleeds like the sacrificial lamb. Amir is concerned only with the blue kite, his hope for Baba’s approval – though helping Hassan would have been more of a “Baba” action than winning a kite tournament.
When they arrive home, Amir’s reunion with Baba happens just as he imagined it would. Baba embraces him, and for a moment Amir weeps with joy and forgets what he has just done.
At this point Amir feels almost justified in sacrificing Hassan for Baba, but his betrayal will soon poison any pleasure he might get from his father’s approval.