Amir asks Rahim Khan whether Hassan is still at the house, and in response, Rahim Khan shows Amir the Polaroid picture first mentioned in Chapter 7. The picture is of Hassan and Sohrab. With the picture is a letter from Hassan addressed to Amir. Hassan tells Amir that the Kabul that they knew and loved is gone. He complains about the Taliban and provides a specific example of when they attacked his wife for speaking a little too loudly to a potentially deaf vendor.
Hassan tells Amir that he takes Sohrab to sit under the pomegranate tree. Hassan reads to his son. Hassan ends his letter stating his dreams for his son and calls himself an "old faithful friend" to Amir. After Amir reads the letter twice, Rahim Khan tells him that the letter was written six months ago: A month after leaving Kabul to seek medical attention, Rahim Khan received a phone call with news of Hassan. Taliban officials arrived at the house, accused Hassan being a lying Hazara, and eventually killed him in the street. They kill Farzana also. Although the neighbors knew this was an injustice, no one was willing "to risk anything for a pair of Hazara servants."
Amir asks about Sohrab and finds that he was put in an orphanage. Rahim Khan asks Amir to go to Kabul and bring Sohrab to Pakistan. Rahim Khan mentions a Christian couple he knows who run an organization in Peshawar for children who have lost their parents. Amir initially balks at the suggestion. But Rahim Khan insists. Rahim Khan tells Amir that this is not about money and tells Amir of a conversation that he had had with Baba about Amir's not being willing or able to stand up for himself. Rahim Khan also tells Amir that Baba was Hassan's biological father.
Unable to process or endure this information, Amir storms out of Rahim Khan's apartment.
Hassan demonstrates remarkable control when he observes Farzana getting beaten by the young Taliban official. Although he is outraged, he knows if he interferes he will be shot on sight, thus leaving his son fatherless. Hassan's actions again contrast with those of Amir, who has lived a life of privilege, yet has not always used his position in society to advocate for change.
The fruitless pomegranate tree symbolizes Afghanistan under Taliban rule. What was once beautiful and bountiful has become desolate and barren. And yet the tree is still there — a physical reminder of the past that Hassan and Amir have shared.
Although the murder of Hassan is shocking, many critics consider this an essential part of the novel. The realistic portrayal of senseless violence captures the atrocity of life under Taliban rule. There is no fairytale ending in this book; there is no direct resolution between Amir and Hassan. The news about Hassan's parentage also comes as a shock to many readers; yet, a careful reader has probably already picked up on the clues that this is the case. These two pieces of shocking and surprising information presented right after each other enable readers to somewhat experience that which Amir is experiencing, although the surprise and indignation that we feel is clearly nothing compared to that which real people would have had.