The Kite Runner
How we cite our quotes:
Hassan's favorite book by far was the Shahnamah, the tenth-century epic of ancient Persian heroes. He liked all of the chapters, the shahs of old, Feridoun, Zal, and Rudabeh. But his favorite story, and mine, was "Rostam and Sohrab," the tale of the great warrior Rostam and his fleet-footed horse, Rakhsh. Rostam mortally wounds his valiant nemesis, Sohrab, in battle, only to discover that Sohrab is his long-lost son. Stricken with grief, Rostam hears his son's dying words:
If thou art indeed my father, then hast thou stained thy sword in the life-blood of thy son. And thou didst it of thine obstinacy. For I sought to turn thee unto love, and I implored of thee thy name, for I thought to behold in thee the tokens recounted of my mother. But I appealed unto thy heart in vain, and now is the time gone for meeting...
"Read it again please, Amir agha," Hassan would say. Sometimes tears pooled in Hassan's eyes as I read him this passage, and I always wondered whom he wept for, the grief-stricken Rostam who tears his clothes and covers his head with ashes, or the dying Sohrab who only longed for his father's love? Personally, I couldn't see the tragedy in Rostam's fate. After all, didn't all fathers in their secret hearts harbor a desire to kill their sons? (4.23-24)
Although you can read the story of "Rostam and Sohrab" as an allegory for Baba and Amir's relationship, we think the most obvious parallel is to Amir and Hassan. Amir doesn't kill Hassan directly, but he does bring about Hassan's exile from Baba's household. This exile eventually places Hassan in a situation where he is killed. Amir, to some extent, takes the blame for Hassan's death. Like Rostam, Amir figures out much too late who fathered Hassan. We think you could very easily substitute "brothers" for "sons" in the final sentence: "After all, don't we all in our secret hearts harbor a desire to kill our brothers?" ("Cain and Abel" seems just as appropriate as "Rostam and Sohrab.")
He turned to me. A few sweat beads rolled from his bald scalp. "Would I ever lie to you, Amir agha?"
Suddenly I decided to toy with him a little. "I don't know. Would you?"
"I'd sooner eat dirt," he said with a look of indignation.
"Really? You'd do that?"
He threw me a puzzled look. "Do what?"
"Eat dirt if I told you to," I said. I knew I was being cruel, like when I'd taunt him if he didn't know some big word. But there was something fascinating – albeit in a sick way – about teasing Hassan. Kind of like when we used to play insect torture. Except now, he was the ant and I was holding the magnifying glass. (6.29-34)
Jeez, Amir. Notice how Hosseini prepares us for Amir's major betrayal of Hassan. Hosseini has Amir betray Hassan – or at least be cruel to Hassan – in all sorts of small ways. He inserts his own stories into the tales he reads to Hassan. He flaunts his literacy. He doesn't defend Hassan from the neighborhood boys and almost blurts out that Hassan is only his servant and not a friend.
I stopped watching, turned away from the alley. Something warm was running down my wrist. I blinked, saw I was still biting down on my fist, hard enough to draw blood from the knuckles. I realized something else. I was weeping. From just around the corner, I could hear Assef's quick, rhythmic grunts.
I had one last chance to make a decision. One final opportunity to decide who I was going to be. I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan – the way he'd stood up for me all those times in the past – and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run.
In the end, I ran. (7.137-139)
Amir leaves Hassan in the alleyway. This passage, along with the passage in which Amir plants a wad of cash and his watch under Hassan's mattress, counts as Amir's two major betrayals of Hassan. Perhaps because of his guilt, Amir never tells Hassan he saw what happened in the alley. Which brings up an interesting side question: Do you think Amir's silence is a worse betrayal than Amir's cowardice?