Chapter 17 is potentially the most important chapter in the novel for structuring the shape of the narrative and may be seen as the turning point in the novel. During this chapter, Amir is handed a letter by Hassan writing about his son Sohrab and how life in Kabul has changed dramatically since he and Baba fled to America. Rahim Khan explains how Hassan and Farzana were killed by the Taliban and as his dying wish, Amir must go and rescue Sohrab. It is revealed that Baba is Hassan’s father, making him and Amir half brothers. Hosseini uses 3 different narrative voices in chapter 17 opposed to other chapters with just Amir narrating. This gives us a much more personal perspective into Hassan’s life, adds realism to the narrative and how corrupt Kabul has now become. ‘…suddenly a young Talib ran over and hit her on the thighs with his wooden stick’, contrasting hugely with Amir and Hassan’s childhood.
Amir’s usual retrospective first person narrative is present however Hosseini also uses the present tense to make Hassan’s death more emotive as we can imagine it more vividly as a reader. ‘Hassan slumps to the asphalt, his life of unrequited loyalty drifting from him like the windblown kites he used to chase.’ Not only is this quote used so we can see Hassan dying but it links the whole novel together by using the recurring motif of kites, linking back to chapter 7 when he ‘chased’ the blue kite, and his ‘unrequited loyalty’ is evident throughout the majority of the novel, ‘Hassan never denied me anything’. Although Hassan’s death is foreshadowed however in chapter 16, ‘God help the Hazaras now’, Hosseini creates suspense and dramatic tension towards Hassan’s death by giving Amir the letter first before revealing his death, giving Amir hope and making the reader assume his journey to redemption would soon be over.
‘I dream that someday you will return to Kabul and re-visit the land of our childhood. If you do, you will find an old faithful friend waiting for you.’ This quote again creates a more dramatic and emotive response to Hassan’s death both from the reader and Amir after Hassan’s optimistic and promising letter. Hassan’s death is instrumental in shaping the narrative of the novel and is arguably the turning point as it forces Amir to seek his redemption and debt to Hassan to Sohrab. The reason Amir came to visit Pakistan in the first place was to apologise to Hassan and being the only person alive and able, ‘Now everyone in that photo was either dead or dying.
Except for me’, Amir was the only one left to save Sohrab from the Taliban and Assef. Another key event in the chapter is the unveiling of Hassan’s true father, Baba. Amir reacts badly to the news and Hosseini portrays this using Westernised language to contrast with Rahim Khan’s traditional language. His anger is emphasised through the repetition of ‘you goddamn bastards’. This contrasts with the earlier chapters in the novel where Amir always speaks to Rahim Khan politely and with respect and could represent the influence America has had on him.
Finding out that Hassan and he were half-brothers also makes his decision to save Sohrab even more crucial and makes the reader more anxious to see whether or not he will betray Hassan again or redeem himself. His decision to save Sohrab is foreshadowed in chapter 14 when General Tahiri says ‘blood is a powerful thing, bachem, never forget that’ suggesting that the bond of blood and brotherhood is so strong, Amir must save Sohrab, his own blood relative in order to fully complete his journey to redemption and atone for his sins.