Summary and Analysis
During the bombing and gunfire of that night, July 17, 1973, Amir, Hassan, and Ali huddle together for support. Amir attempts to tell himself that he is not jealous of Ali's calming presence on his son during the long night. In hindsight, Amir realizes that this was the beginning of the end of his way of life. The official end occurs first five years later, "in April 1978 with the communist coup d'état, and then in December 1979, when Russian tanks would roll into the very same streets" on which Amir and Hassan grew up. The adult Amir, looking back, comments that the Afghanistan that he knew and loved is long gone, and the country and its people are still suffering today.
This specific time is just the end of the monarchy in a bloodless coup. The next morning, in an attempt at normalcy, Hassan suggests that he and Amir climb their favorite tree. On their way to the tree, Amir and Hassan meet Assef, a neighborhood thug who rules with his pair of brass knuckles. Assef often ridicules Ali, calling him Babula, and he hates all Hazaras. Amir is unsure of himself during the confrontation and is tempted to shout, "But he's not my friend!...He's my servant." This thought shocks Amir, who then realizes he plays with Hassan only when no one else is around, even though he usually treats Hassan more like a brother than a friend. At the end of this incident, Hassan threatens Assef with his slingshot. In response, Assef backs down but says, "Someday, I'll make you face me one on one."
The narrative then skips to the next winter. Every year, Baba presents Hassan with a special birthday present. Usually, Hassan and Amir are able to get Ali to divulge what it is, but this year even Ali doesn't know what the gift is. Baba's present to Hassan is plastic surgery. The doctor is going to fix Hassan's cleft lip, a gift designed to last forever. After the successful surgery, Hassan looks in the mirror and smiles. By the following winter, the winter of 1975, when there was nothing but a faint scar left, Hassan ceases to smile.
Amir's jealousy of the paternal concern that Ali demonstrates toward Hassan during the night of bombing and gunfire demonstrates the importance of a loving relationship compared to material possessions. Ali and Hassan may not have all the luxuries that Baba and Amir have, but they have each other. The emotional connection and sense of security they provide one another during the frightening night enables Amir not to be jealous when Baba arrives home the next morning and wraps both Amir and Hassan in his arms, another important example of foreshadowing.
The introduction of Assef during the chapter with the coup serves to equate this character with violence and destruction. Assef openly speaks of his admiration for Hitler, who is a character that he himself parallels. During the confrontation, Hassan states that if Assef makes one wrong move, his new nickname will be "One-Eyed Assef." This is an important incident and line, for Assef responds, "This doesn't end today." The violence in Afghanistan is only beginning, and the violence inflicted upon Hassan and Amir is only just beginning, too.
Again, Hosseini builds suspense as he leads to the winter incident — the winter when Hassan "stopped smiling," which is the next winter. The narrative has almost reached the point that has been referenced from the first sentence of the text.