TIt was Rahim Khan who first referred to him as what eventually became Baba’s famous nickname, Toophan agha, or “Mr. Hurricane.” My father was a force of nature, a towering Pashtun specimen . . . 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.
This is a metaphor. Like a hurricane, which is unstoppable, Baba looms large and fearful over those around him, his hands seemingly strong enough to rip trees from the ground, and his glare as menacing as dark storm clouds.
Baba was impossible to ignore, even in his sleep. I used to bury cotton wisps in my ears, pull the blankets over my head, and still the sounds of Baba’s snoring—so much like a growling truck engine—penetrated the walls.
This simile comparing Baba’s snoring to an automobile engine builds the image of Baba as a strong, oversized, domineering personality who always commands attention, even in his sleep.
. . . but I had abandoned the text altogether, taken over the story, and made up my own. Hassan, of course, was oblivious to this. To him, words on the page were a scramble of codes, indecipherable, mysterious. Words were secret doorways and I held all the keys.
Since Hassan is illiterate, text and books are likened to codes he cannot crack and doors he cannot open in this metaphor. But when Amir deviates from the print and creates his own story, Hassan’s enjoyment makes Amir realize he may have talent as a writer.
At least two dozen kites already hung in the sky, like paper sharks roaming for prey.
Amir’s simile comparing the kites to sharks shows how seriously the boys take the kite flying contest; they think of the other kites as things to be conquered, devoured, or destroyed.
“Where were you? I looked for you,” I said. Speaking those words was like chewing on a rock.
In this simile, Amir finds it extremely difficult to speak to Hassan, like trying to chew a stone might be, because he knows he is lying after witnessing Assef assault Hassan.
Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba.
Sohrab’s eyes flicked to me. They were slaughter sheep’s eyes. They even had the mascara—I remember how, on the day of Eid of Qorban, the mullah in our backyard used to apply mascara to the eyes of the sheep and feed it a cube of sugar before slicing its throat.
Amir uses a similar metaphor to describe Hassan as Assef is about to rape him, and Sohrab, whom Assef has captured and is abusing; the difference is that Amir let Hassan be the sacrifice, while he is trying to save Sohrab from a similar fate.
I was tired and in pain. My jaws throbbed. And those damn wounds on my chest and stomach felt like barbed wire under my skin.
Amir is now in Islamabad, recuperating from his fight with Assef, and he is still in intense pain, comparing the feeling to sharp metal stabbing him again and again in this simile.
I open my eyes again and I know what I have to do. I look around, my heart a jackhammer in my chest, blood thudding in my ears.
In this metaphor, just as a jackhammer can break through the hardest concrete, Amir’s heart beats so hard he can feel its strength inside of him, allowing him to break through his fear and complete his search to find the western end of the corridor so he can pray.
Like dull wallpaper, Sohrab had blended into the background.
In this simile, the people in Amir and Soraya’s social circle eventually stop noticing or commenting on Sohrab, who is still not talking or interacting, much as one would ignore uninteresting wallpaper.
Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight.
But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.
In this extended metaphor, Amir uses images from nature to describe Sohrab’s nod, which Amir takes as the first small step toward Sohrab’s healing and reemergence into the world.