"The Kite Runner," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-6

May 14, 2013
Presenting the history of Afghanistan through the eyes of a boy and his friend, Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner" takes the reader through one upheaval after another, including the Soviet occupation and the rise of the Taliban. Learn this word list that focuses on kids and kin in Kabul.

Here are links to our word lists for the novel: Chapters 1-6, Chapters 7-10, Chapters 11-14, Chapters 15-20, Chapters 21-25
Here, Amir and Hassan are using a shard of a mirror simply to be annoying boys. But the definition hints at the more significant meaning of the image. The novel is written as a first-person memoir, which is essentially looking into a mirror, reflecting on oneself, and shining light onto specific memories to make sense of one's life. The shard represents the nature of memories, especially those that are difficult to remember or face.
When we were children, Hassan and I used to climb the poplar trees in the driveway of my father’s house and annoy our neighbors by reflecting sunlight into their homes with a shard of mirror.
Here, Amir and Hassan are pelting each other in a teasing way, but this scene contrasts with two later scenes where the more violent and militaristic meaning of "pelt" (as seen in the definition) is shown.
We took turns with the mirror as we ate mulberries, pelted each other with them, giggling, laughing.
Everyone agreed that my father, my Baba, had built the most beautiful house in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, a new and affluent neighborhood in the northern part of Kabul.
The curved wall led into the dining room, at the center of which was a mahogany table that could easily sit thirty guests— and, given my father’s taste for extravagant parties, it did just that almost every week.
People had raised their eyebrows when Ali, a man who had memorized the Koran, married Sanaubar, a woman nineteen years younger, a beautiful but notoriously unscrupulous woman who lived up to her dishonorable reputation.
But despite sharing ethnic heritage and family blood, Sanaubar joined the neighborhood kids in taunting Ali. I have heard that she made no secret of her disdain for his appearance.
They said Ali had married his cousin to help restore some honor to his uncle’s blemished name, even though Ali, who had been orphaned at the age of five, had no worldly possessions or inheritance to speak of.
Another definition of "kinship" is "a close connection marked by community of interests"--this also fits the example sentence, since Amir and Hassan shared the same wet nurse and grew up with each other, but as far as they knew, they did not have any blood, marriage or adoption connections. But in using the word "brotherhood" Ali is emphasizing the first definition.
Then he would remind us that there was a brotherhood between people who had fed from the same breast, a kinship that not even time could break.
My father was a force of nature, a towering Pashtun specimen with a thick beard, a wayward crop of curly brown hair as unruly as the man himself, hands that looked capable of uprooting a willow tree, and a black glare that would “drop the devil to his knees begging for mercy,” as Rahim Khan used to say.
When people scoffed that Baba would never marry well—after all, he was not of royal blood—he wedded my mother, Sofia Akrami, a highly educated woman universally regarded as one of Kabul’s most respected, beautiful, and virtuous ladies.
We’d had a fleeting good moment—it wasn’t often Baba talked to me, let alone on his lap—and I'd been a fool to waste it.
This is the feeling of a twelve-year-old Amir. An eighteen-year-old Amir did not have any "exhilarating" feelings when he actually watched his father nearly choke another man to death.
I found the idea of Baba clobbering a thief both exhilarating and terribly frightening.
That was how I escaped my father’s aloofness, in my dead mother’s books.
But Baba sensed my lack of genuine interest and resigned himself to the bleak fact that his son was never going to either play or watch soccer.
The police brought the somewhat contrite young men and the dead couple’s five-year-old orphan boy before my grandfather, who was a highly regarded judge and a man of impeccable reputation.
Never mind that to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy with a thin-boned frame, a shaved head, and low-set ears, a boy with a Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile.
Sometimes, my entire childhood seems like one long lazy summer day with Hassan, chasing each other between tangles of trees in my father’s yard, playing hide-and-seek, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, insect torture—with our crowning achievement undeniably the time we plucked the stinger off a bee and tied a string around the poor thing to yank it back every time it took flight.
So I’d try to make up for it by giving him one of my old shirts or a broken toy. I would tell myself that was amends enough for a harmless prank.
Two other definitions of "nemesis" are "an unbeatable rival" and "one that inflicts retribution or vengeance": while the tenth-century Persian warrior Sohrab might've been Rostam's unbeatable rival at one point, when Rostam finally beats him, that causes him misery. All three definitions could apply to the twentieth-century Afghani bully Assef, who is Amir and Hassan's nemesis.
Rostam mortally wounds his valiant nemesis, Sohrab, in battle, only to discover that Sohrab is his long-lost son.
For I sought to turn thee unto love, and I implored of thee thy name, for I thought to behold in thee the tokens recounted of my mother.
After all, didn’t all fathers in their secret hearts harbor a desire to kill their sons?
I pretended I was reading from the book, flipping pages regularly, but I had abandoned the text altogether, taken over the story, and made up my own. Hassan, of course, was oblivious to this.
Baba nodded and gave a thin smile that conveyed little more than feigned interest.
Of all the neighborhood boys who tortured Ali, Assef was by far the most relentless.
It also occurred to me how lucky I was to have Baba as my father, the sole reason, I believe, Assef had mostly refrained from harassing me too much.
He’d referred to Assef as “Agha,” and I wondered briefly what it must be like to live with such an ingrained sense of one’s place in a hierarchy.
But Hassan’s face was my earliest memory and I knew all of its subtle nuances, knew each and every twitch and flicker that ever rippled across it.
Neither one of us said much of anything as we walked home in trepidation, certain that Assef and his friends would ambush us every time we turned a corner.
It was downright eerie the way he always got to the spot the kite would land before the kite did, as if he had some sort of inner compass.
Although the twelve-year-old Amir felt that winning the kite tournament was a matter of life and death (or at least not being a ghost to his father), the older Amir as the narrator invests the word "viable" with more significant meaning, because he knows that his choices after winning the tournament led to unviable situations for Hassan.
I was going to win. There was no other viable option.

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Comments from our users:

Tuesday June 4th 2013, 6:15 AM
Comment by: Kena K. (Kenya)
Great book and Great list to learn:)
Thursday August 28th 2014, 10:05 AM
Comment by: himanshu (India)
Great list.
Thursday October 2nd 2014, 12:10 PM
Comment by: natalie M. (NY)
Thursday October 2nd 2014, 12:14 PM
Comment by: natalie M. (NY)
4,625 points #turnup
Thursday October 2nd 2014, 8:56 PM
Comment by: Vocab Guru Stefano (NY)
'ey dord, can i still tend 'em wabbits

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