The Kite Runner
How we cite our quotes:
But we were kids who had learned to crawl together, and no history, ethnicity, society, or religion was going to change that either. I spent most of the first twelve years of my life playing with Hassan. Sometimes, my entire childhood seems like one long lazy summer day with Hassan, chasing each other between tangles of trees in my father's yard, playing hide-and-seek, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, insect torture – with our crowning achievement undeniably the time we plucked the stinger off a bee and tied a string around the poor thing to yank it back every time it took flight. (4.6)
Amir lays out the opposing argument just prior to this paragraph. In it, he says ethnicity will always define a relationship. We believe Hosseini really wants us to grapple with Amir's contradictory stances: Does Amir's friendship with Hassan ever get past history, ethnicity, society, and religion? Later, Amir will justify his cowardice in the alleyway by asking himself if he really has to defend Hassan (since Hassan is a Hazara). Does Amir ever get past his prejudices? We're really not sure about this one. Hosseini devotes the entire novel to this question.
"I know," he said, breaking our embrace. "Inshallah, we'll celebrate later. Right now, I'm going to run that blue kite for you," he said. He dropped the spool and took off running, the hem of his green chapan dragging in the snow behind him.
"Hassan!" I called. "Come back with it!"
He was already turning the street corner, his rubber boots kicking up snow. He stopped, turned. He cupped his hands around his mouth. "For you a thousand times over!" he said. Then he smiled his Hassan smile and disappeared around the corner. The next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph. (7.52-54)
Yet again, Hassan demonstrates his loyalty and devotion to Amir. If we were to judge Amir and Hassan's friendship by actions and not simply expressions of loyalty, the score would be pretty lopsided. (Of course, Amir saves Hassan's son at the end of the book from a pathological pedophile so that counts for something.) We also want to point out the irony in Hassan's reply: "For you a thousand times over!" Amir will develop a pretty nasty case of insomnia as the guilt piles up inside him. Really, Amir returns to the alleyway thousands of times in his memory before he comes to peace with his cowardice. And so the phrase "a thousand times over" is colored with some pretty devastating irony. Yes, Hosseini is using irony again.
[Assef:] "But before you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would he do the same for you? Have you ever wondered why he never includes you in games when he has guests? Why he only plays with you when no one else is around? I'll tell you why, Hazara. Because to him, you're nothing but an ugly pet. Something he can play with when he's bored, something he can kick when he's angry. Don't ever fool yourself and think you're something more."
"Amir agha and I are friends," Hassan said. He looked flushed.
"Friends?" Assef said, laughing. "You pathetic fool! Someday you'll wake up from your little fantasy and learn just how good of a friend he is. Now, bas! Enough of this. Give us that kite." (7.106-108)
This is a fairly complex scene. Assef, before he assaults and rapes Hassan, asks Hassan whether he really wants to sacrifice himself for Amir. We know Amir is listening in – and watching – this exchange between Assef and Hassan. In a way, Assef's speech is not prophetic but descriptive: Amir is abandoning Hassan right now. However, we wonder if Assef's description is inaccurate. Is Assef describing his own relationship with Hazaras or Amir's with Hassan? Sure, sometimes Amir does cruel things to Hassan, but he also reads to Hassan and spends almost all his free time with Hassan. Amir may hesitate to call Hassan his friend, but perhaps that's because neither "friend" nor "servant" really describes Hassan. "Brother" might do the trick, but Amir has no idea at this point.