The Kite Runner By Khaled Hosseini Summary and Analysis Chapter 22

Summary

When Amir and Farid arrive at the big house and compound in Wazir Akbar Khan, Farid decides that he himself needs to wait in the car. Amir knocks on the door, is greeted and frisked by two guards, and is then escorted in. While waiting for the Talib, Amir attempts to gather his thoughts and draw on a sense of courage that he has never before exhibited in his life.

The meeting with the Talib in the John Lennon glasses commences in silence, and then the man tells Amir he can do away with the fake beard. Two guards pull off the beard, and their leader asks Amir if he enjoyed today's show. He then brags about a door-to-door display of violence from 1998, calling it God's work.

The Talib refers to America as a whore and threatens Amir. He asks Amir if he is scared, and Amir admits he is. Yet Amir finds strength, comfort, and calm in thoughts of Soraya. Amir tells the man he is only here for the boy, and eventually the boy is called for. When Amir first sees Sohrab, there is no mistaking him as Hassan's son, even though his head is shaved, he has make up on, and he has bells attached to his ankles. After making the boy dance, the Talib sends his guards away and calls for the boy. As he holds the boy between his legs and rubs his belly, the Talib asks Amir about Babalu. The shock hits Amir — the Talib is Assef.

Assef tells Amir how he came to be a member of the Taliban. While Assef was serving time in jail, he was suffering from an attack of a kidney stone. When one of the guards selected Assef to be made an example of, he kicked Assef many times. One time was in the kidney, Assef passed the stone, and he began to laugh. Assef viewed this as a sign that God wanted him to live.

Amir speaks out against Assef's actions, and Assef calls him a traitor to Afghanistan. Assef claims that Amir is allowed to take the boy but not for free — Amir needs to earn him. Assef reminds Amir of their unfinished business from their childhood, and then calls the guards back into the room. Assef commands them to not enter the room no matter what they hear and tells them that if Amir manages to walk out of the room, he has earned his freedom. After the guards leave, Assef brings out his brass knuckles.

A brief section is a flash-forward of Amir after the fight, when he is slipping in and out of consciousness. Although most of the fight is a blur with patches of vivid images — Amir's body being hurled against the wall, his jaw shattering, his ribs breaking — the end is perfectly clear. At one point, Amir begins to laugh. Amir is unable to explain to Assef that for the first time since 1975 he feels at peace: Although his body is broken, he feels healed.

As Assef straddles Amir's chest and is getting ready to beat him again, Sohrab says, "Bas." Both Assef and Amir look at Sohrab and notice that he has a slingshot aimed at Assef's face. Assef threatens Sohrab as the boy continues to ask him to stop hurting Amir. When Assef loosens his grip on Amir's throat and lunges for Sohrab, Sohrab sends one of the brass balls from the table base into Assef's left eye.

Assef is screaming in pain as Amir and Sohrab exit, moving toward the waiting Farid. Amir passes out while Sohrab sobs, and Farid speeds away.

Analysis

Amir entering alone is extremely important for his character's development, having both literal and metaphorical meaning. For the first time in his life, Amir is facing a difficult situation head on, boldly, like a man, standing on his own two feet, making his own decision based on his own convictions. Of course, it is extremely difficult, and that is why these steps can be considered steps into manhood.

Amir's waiting alone in the room builds suspense. Two bits of foreshadowing — one indirect and one direct — take place during this waiting period. The mention of the coffee table seems to merely be description, but the specific detail about the brass balls is important. Not only do the brass balls serve as a reminder of the table Amir saw in Pakistan, but they also indirectly foreshadow the ammunition Sohrab will use in his slingshot. The mentioning of eating a grape, which would be "the last bit of solid food I would eat for a long time," explicitly prepares the reader for the beating that Amir is going to sustain.

Astute readers will realize that no matter what Amir encounters in this house, he will survive because the opening chapter of The Kite Runner takes place in December 2001, and the narrative has not reached that point yet. And those who may not make this connection should realize he survives because of the passage that has him thinking, "I gave him a good fight."

The reference to the Mazar-i-Sharif massacre is another important historical aspect of The Kite Runner. Assef voices the view of the Taliban, which is that their personal religious beliefs are correct and the dissenting beliefs of others are wrong. And there is nothing wrong with using force to exercise the will of the authority at the expense of the minority. Assef loves the term "ethnic cleansing," which unmistakably relates the actions of the Taliban within the context of other global monstrosities. Before reading The Kite Runner, many readers were probably unaware of the massacre.

Speaking without thinking was another sign of Amir's growth as a character. His speaking out against Assef and the Taliban is reminiscent of Hassan referring to Assef as "One-Eyed Assef." That line, spoken by Hassan in Chapter 5, also prepares the readers for Sohrab's actions with his own slingshot. Some consider the symmetry of the actions between father and son — physically, Sohrab looks like Hassan; skillwise, he mirrors Hassan; and Sohrab also is saving Amir — to symbolize divine justice. Some critics have suggested that the scene between Sohrab and Assef is an allusion to the Biblical story of David and Goliath — in which a boy defeats the champion with a slingshot — and these same critics contend that this is an attempt to demonstrate the similarities rather than the differences between Islam and Christianity. Others recognize the similarities but are dismissive of claims that the similarities make the event a Biblical allusion.

Many critics object to both father and son — Hassan and Sohrab — suffering sexual abuse at the hands of the same perpetrator. Although they recognize the symmetry between plotlines and generations, it is another example of the improbability and is another example of an unnecessary plot point that pushes the grounds of believability. Others disagree and see Assef, whose half-German lineage and admiration for Hitler is emphasized, as a symbol for the European occupation of Afghanistan and how Europe has raped and destroyed a once vital country.

The speed of the scene not only indicates the quickness of the battle but also emphasizes that this event is not the focal point of the narrative. Rather, it is just another step on Amir's journey toward maturity. Not only does Amir finally receive a punishment that he longs for, one that he feels fits the crime, but he is also doing something positive and worthwhile to atone for his sins.

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