Summary and Analysis
Amir is smitten with Soraya but unable to approach her. Baba counsels Amir, reminding him that the General has nang and namoos — honor and pride, respectively. One day, Amir is too bold, and after inquiring about the General and sending his regards, he asks Soraya a question. Inquiring about the book she is reading leads to a conversation. Conversing with her is shocking, outrageous, and the source of gossip.
Jamila, Soraya's mother, returns while Amir and Soraya are still talking; however, she smiles instead of acting scandalized. Amir impresses Jamila by declining her invitation of sitting down and having a peach, and as she packs some fruit for him and his father, she invites him to visit again.
Amir begins to watch the stalls, and when the General leaves for a walk, Amir walks by his stand. When Khanum Taheri, the General's wife, is present, she invites Amir to sit, chat, and share some tea.
One day, Soraya tells Amir that she wants to be a teacher and shares with him a story about the time she helped a servant learn to read, reminding Amir how he ridiculed Hassan. Amir shares with Soraya a story that he had written, but just as she is receiving it, the General returns, takes the story, and throws it in the trash.
Amir has no time to mourn his loss, however, for Baba becomes sick, which leads to weeks of impatience, waiting, and frustration. Baba refuses to be seen by a doctor with Russian ancestry, and also refuses chemotherapy. Amir starts to protest, but Baba reprimands him and later forbids him from mentioning his cancer to anyone. After months of gradual weight loss and declining activity, Baba has convulsions and is hospitalized. Baba then refuses radiation treatment. After Baba is released from the hospital, Amir asks his father to visit the General and ask for his daughter's hand in marriage, and Baba agrees to do this. After the General accepts, Soraya shares with Amir that when she was younger and living in Virginia, she ran away with an Afghan man who was into drugs, and she lived with him for about a month.
Amir is tempted to admit his past but is unable to do so. He recognizes that he is in no position to "chastise someone for their past" and realizes that he is jealous of Soraya because her secret is no longer secret but out in the open.
Although not immediately apparent, Amir's relationship with Soraya parallels his relationship with Hassan and illustrates the differences between American and Afghanistan cultures. Amir is not able to be friends with the Hazara because of the differences in social class; likewise, he should not be addressing Soraya because of their different genders.
The choice of novel that Soraya is reading is significant for a number of reasons: Wuthering Heights is the story of Heathcliff and Catherine on the moors — two characters from different social classes living in an isolated existence. Both novels develop the thematic topics of alienation, childhood, class issues, enduring loss, forgiveness, friendship, jealousy, love, manipulation, nature, the role of religion, and revenge. Similar motifs developed throughout both texts include death, desires, doubling, dreams, education, resentment, revenge, and violence. And both novels provide important historical information that is revealing about a particular time and place. Soraya also says, "sad stories make good books," which is a statement that applies not only to Wuthering Heights but also to The Kite Runner.
The timing of Amir's indiscretion and his father's sickness provides an opportunity for Amir to demonstrate concern for someone other than himself, to put another's needs before his own. In addition, Soraya serves somewhat as a foil for Amir, so both Amir himself and readers can learn from past mistakes. Baba's sickness also reintroduces the idea of God. Although Amir admits that he is not even sure that God exists, he turns to Him in his moment of need.
Soraya's situation again mirrors Amir's own. But unlike Amir, she chooses to admit what she did in the past. Although Amir is maturing, he is not yet able to face his past. It is significant that he ends the chapter discussing the courage that Soraya has because he will eventually need courage to do the right thing.