Summary and Analysis
Chapter 8 addresses some of the immediate aftereffects of Hassan's attack. Although Hassan is still completing his daily chores, Amir barely sees him. When Ali questions Amir, Amir lies to him, asking, "how should I know what's wrong with him?" Amir asks his father to go to Jalalabad, and when Baba mentions inviting Hassan along, Amir lies to Baba about Hassan's health. Instead of traveling with just his father, as Amir envisioned, Baba invites another two dozen people. During the van ride to Jalalabad, while everyone is talking about the kite tournament, Amir notices that Rahim Khan is strangely silent. Soon, Amir is getting carsick. When they arrive in Jalalabad, Amir realizes that although he has what he thought he always wanted, he feels empty. That night, unable to sleep, Amir states, "I watched Hassan get raped," yet no one hears him, and it is the beginning of his insomnia. Amir realizes that he himself was the monster of Hassan's dream.
Hassan and Amir finally speak to one another, but it is an uneasy conversation. In an attempt to recapture what has been lost, Hassan asks to hike up the hill. After walking up the hill in silence, Amir and Hassan sit under the pomegranate tree where Amir had carved their names in the trunk. Overcome with guilt, Amir needs to return home immediately.
Hassan keeps trying to mend the distance between Amir and himself, and Amir refuses. Soon their worlds only tangentially intersect. One time, Amir casually asks Baba about replacing Ali and Hassan, and Baba explodes, initially mentioning how long he has lived with Ali, but ending by emphasizing that Hassan is not going anywhere because "this is his home and we're his family."
Under the guise of reading a new story that he had written, Amir invites Hassan to the tree. What Amir does, though, is hurl a pomegranate at Hassan. Amir longs for Hassan to hit him back; Amir desires some sort of physical punishment. But Hassan is unwilling — perhaps unable — to strike back. In fact, after Amir pelts Hassan innumerable times, Hassan splits a fruit open and breaks it over his own head and then walks home.
Baba seems to have invited the world to Amir's thirteenth birthday party, and Assef is one of the guests. Assef emphasizes that Wali and Kamal are also present. Assef gives Amir a biography of Hitler as a gift. Needing to be alone, Amir leaves the party. Rahim Khan finds him and confides in Amir about the one girl who he loved and wanted to marry — a Hazara. Rahim Khan bonds with Amir though Amir is too ashamed to admit what had happened. Rahim Khan gives Amir a notebook in which to write stories, and the chapter ends with fireworks, illuminating the night sky, and a brief image of Hassan serving drinks to Assef and Wali.
A combination of car sickness and guilt — emphasized by the image of Hassan's pants — cause Amir to vomit during the van ride. Being the champion kite fighter does not automatically improve everything in his life. This is reminiscent of the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it." Amir always wanted Baba's approval, wanted to be more like his father. And now that he has something that he thought would connect the two of them, he realizes some things never change. In fact, in many aspects, his relationship is worse.
When Amir asks Baba about getting new servants, it is apparently as a means of dealing with his guilt. If Hassan could be out of sight, perhaps he could also be out of mind. Baba's outrage is curious and serves as another example of foreshadowing.
The character of Assef is further developed in this chapter. Not only is his gift to Amir — a biography of Hitler — a direct connection between Assef and the Fuhrer, but Assef also demonstrates that he knows how to play the polite, respectful, all-around good guy to parents and adults. Outwardly, he appears to be the type of son Baba always wanted — athletic, dynamic, and respectful. But inwardly he represents the ugly side of hate. Assef is a villain and is clearly associated with evil, but one of the functions of his character is to demonstrate the capacity of evil that is within all of us — especially Amir.
Amir's insomnia and the darkness that permeates this chapter symbolize the state and quality of Amir's life. At his birthday party, the fireworks are brief moments of illumination: They are not real light — Amir thinks he knows how to solve his problem, but, like the light of the fireworks, it is brief, transient, and although it looks good, has no substance.