Summary and Analysis
This chapter opens with the heading "Fremont, California. 1980s." Baba and Amir are living in California, but Baba, who is working at a gas station, is having a difficult time adjusting to life in this country. Amir claims to use America to "bury my memories," whereas, for Baba, it is a place "to mourn his." Amir embraces America and all it has to offer as a means to escape the ghost of Hassan that was haunting his life in Afghanistan.
While Baba is working, Amir is attending high school, and then graduates. As a graduation present, Amir receives a car. Baba mentions Hassan, wishing he were with them, and the name momentarily chokes Amir. Amir is entering junior college and decides to major in creative writing, a choice that Baba disapproves of.
Baba buys an old Volkswagen bus that he and Amir use to travel around to garage sales and purchase items that they resell at the San Jose flea market. The Afghanistan section of the flea market includes people who used to be doctors, professors, and ambassadors. One of Baba's acquaintances at the flea market is General Sahib, Mr. Iqbal Taheri. Baba introduces Amir as his son who is "going to be a great writer." In addition to meeting General Sahib, Amir meets his daughter, Soraya. The gossip of the flea market passed stories about the general's daughter. When Amir asks Baba about it, Baba makes an analysis that parallels Amir's own situation with Hassan.
The preface to the chapter indicates the time and place of the current section of the narrative. An early commentary about Reaganomics indicates the author's political leanings and his concern for working blue collar people — no matter whether they were Americans or foreigners. At first glance this may seem like an unnecessary detail; however, it actually makes a connection between the United States and Afghanistan, and that connection is the disregard the ruling parties seem to have for the general populace of their nations. On one hand, Baba's new life clearly demonstrates the juxtaposition between life in Afghanistan and life in the United States, yet the government may not always have the best interests of all of its people in mind as it makes ruling decisions.
When Amir suggests returning to Peshwar, Baba insightfully responds that Peshwar was good for him but not for Amir. This is another indication that Baba is a good father, or at least is trying to be: He is looking out for his son's best interests instead of his own. Although Baba is having a tough time living in the United States, he is, ironically, having an easier time being a father.
The motifs of gifts and giving are revisited in this chapter. We see this twice explicitly, when Amir describes America as Baba's gift to him and when Amir receives a car as a graduation present. And we see it once implicitly, in the pride that Baba says he has during Amir's graduation, and this intangible gift means more to Amir than any car or money could.
An interesting line in this chapter is when Amir decides he will not "sacrifice for Baba," claiming the last time he did, "I had damned myself." That is an interesting statement because it reveals how Amir views some of the decisions that he has made in his life, and some see this as an abdication of responsibility. Suggesting that his own sacrifice for Baba ended up damning himself insinuates that Amir did something for Baba, when it can be argued that what Amir did in an attempt to earn Baba's respect was actually for Amir's own self — his own desire to be loved and noticed and appreciated by Baba. Some question whether Amir actually sacrificed anything at all, but rather took the path of least resistance. Although a young Amir may have felt he was indeed sacrificing, the older Amir, looking back, realizes that "I have damned myself." In hindsight, the older Amir is taking responsibility for both his actions and his inactions, which is something the younger Amir was unable to do.
Although Baba's statement, "What happens in . . . a single day can change the course of a whole lifetime" refers specifically to Soraya's situation, both Amir and readers recognize how apropos the sentiments are with two specific events in Amir's life: his inaction during the rape of Hassan and the framing of Hassan for stealing the watch and money. The author uses similar situations to demonstrate a connection between the two characters.