Summary and Analysis
Chapter 3 opens with examples of the type of man Amir's father is. One of the many things that Baba becomes known for is building an orphanage. Amir remembers and is somewhat jealous of the physical contact that his father had with Hassan, and Amir recounts examples of Baba not listening to him. Amir states that the complex nature of his relationship with his father is a combination of love and fear, mixed with a little bit of hate. Amir also shares with the reader what little information he has about his mother.
After learning a lesson in school about the sinful nature of drinking alcohol, Amir uses this as a springboard for a discussion with his father. Baba makes a point that all sins are a variation of the one and only sin — theft.
Amir introduces his love of language and talent for words, but when he shares his success in the Battle of the Poems, Baba is disinterested. Amir escaped his father's inattention through his mother's books, particularly her novels.
Both Amir and Baba recognize that Amir's interests, talents, and abilities do not match those of Baba, particularly when Baba was a boy growing up. The incident with the sporting matches illustrates the difference. When Rahim Khan takes Amir's side, Baba more fully articulates his primary concern about Amir, which is the inability and/or unwillingness for Amir to stand up for himself. Baba states, "A boy who won't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up to anything." Amir knows this because he is listening behind closed doors. The morning after eavesdropping on his father's conversation, Amir snaps at Hassan.
This chapter primarily develops the complex characters of Baba and Amir. As a child, Amir desires to be alone with his father and resorts to lying in order to get what he wants. This is a characteristic of a desperate child. Lying — both lies of commission and lies of omission — is an important motif in The Kite Runner. In addition, the quest for truth permeates the text. The effect that lying has on the liar as well as on the victim of the lie, the domino effect that a single lie has on the rest of a person's life, and the atoning for telling a lie are three of the most important thematic topics explored throughout the novel.
The jealous tone of Amir's memories foreshadows a later revelation and is indicative of Amir's developing character. He was jealous at the time, and his grown-up self telling this story also realizes his jealousy. Amir's mother is gone physically, and his father is gone emotionally; thus, Amir is essentially an orphan living in a privileged "orphanage." Part of an explanation — not an excuse — for Amir's later actions is realizing that Amir's life was essentially one enormous call for attention. Amir is, in essence, a morally ambiguous character, a trait he shares with his father.
Baba seems to care more about others than he does his own son, and he seems to have a distinct vision of what Amir should be and how Amir should live, but Baba sees very little of himself in his offspring. One part of Baba's character is revealed in his prophetic line, "God help us all if Afghanistan ever falls into their hands." The "their" Baba is referring to are the Islamic fundamentalists. This not only demonstrates Baba's break from other Muslims but also illustrates the insightful nature of his character, for the Taliban has a disastrous effect on Afghanistan.
Baba also introduces one of the most important thematic topics of The Kite Runner: theft. When Baba explains that all sin is some sort of variation of theft, he is explaining to Amir and the reader his own personal moral code. The important question is, "what happens to a man who is unwilling or unable or refuses to follow his own moral code?" Readers do not realize this yet, but this is a connection between father and son. When talking about Baba, Amir says, in a seemingly throwaway line, "I was always learning things about Baba from other people." This line also foreshadows a major revelation later in the novel.
Baba, when talking about Amir, states an important thematic concept about men standing up for themselves and for others. In this particular incident, it specifically refers to Amir and Hassan, but the larger thematic significance of Baba's ideas is developed throughout the remainder of the novel.
The juxtaposition of Baba's reference to Amir being his son with the next paragraph/scene (having Amir interact with Hassan) demonstrates the way siblings sometimes treat one another when they feel they are in competition for a parent's affection, and yet again foreshadows the major revelation.