Come, There is a way to be good again, Rahim Khan had said on the phone just before hanging up. Said it in passing, almost as an afterthought.
Amir reflects on Rahim Khan’s words spoken over the phone. Amir hasn’t talked to Rahim in years. Rahim wants Amir to come home. Amir is reluctant, but he knows there is something deeper in Rahim’s invitation. Amir has carried a sense of shame and guilt for what he did to Hassan as a boy, and now he senses that returning to Kabul will be a way to undo the wrongs he did to Hassan.
‘You know,’ Rahim Khan said, ‘one time, when you weren’t around, your father and I were talking. And you know how he always worried about you in those days. I remember he said to me, ‘Rahim, a boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.’ I wonder, is that what you’ve become?’ I dropped my eyes.
Rahim Khan asks Amir to rescue Sohrab, Hassan’s son, from Kabul. Amir is hesitant, weighing the risks. It takes three times for Rahim to convince Amir to go through with the rescue. Rahim reminds Amir that Baba always said that one is not a man if he doesn’t stand up to anything. This comment especially stings Amir, because he knows that it was his father’s life effort to make Amir into a man who acts.
Please think, Amir jan. It was a shameful situation. People would talk. All that a man had back then, all that he was, was his honor, his name, and if people talked … We couldn’t tell anyone, surely you can see that.
These words are from Rahim Khan’s final letter to Amir. Rahim Khan wants to convince Amir to forgive his father, to release the anger he has felt after learning how Baba betrayed a friend. In the culture of Afghanistan, a man’s betrayal of his friend is an extremely shameful situation. Honor is one of the most important things a man can have. Without honor, a man was an outcast in Afghanistan culture.
What you did was wrong, Amir jan, but do not forget that you were a boy when it happened.
Rahim Khan includes these words in his final letter to Amir. Rahim knows Amir has felt guilty for what he did to Hassan all his life. Rahim also knows that when it happened, Amir was young and being driven by forces he wasn’t mature enough to fully understand. Rahim wants Amir to ultimately own his actions, but he also wants Amir to show himself compassion and let the guilt go.
And that is what I want you to understand, that good, real good, was born out of your father’s remorse.
These words, written by Rahim Khan in his final letter to Amir, reflect one of the central themes of the book: the power of grace. Rahim knows what Baba did was wrong, just as he knows what Amir did was wrong. He also knows, however, that “real good” came out of the guilt both felt over their actions. True grace results when someone who has committed a wrong tries to make amends for it.