Hassan didn’t struggle. Didn’t even whimper. He moved his head slightly and I caught a glimpse of his face. Saw the resignation in it. It was a look I had seen before. It was the look of the lamb.
Amir describes Hassan as he is about to be raped in the alley. Lambs are sacrificial animals historically; they symbolize innocence, and they are typically sacrificed to achieve a higher goal, such as to ensure a good harvest or show reverence to a higher being. Hassan’s innocence is, in essence, about to be sacrificed, and by not struggling or even whimpering, he seems to accept that fact.
But I always watch. I watch because of that look of acceptance in the animal’s eyes. Absurdly, I imagine the animal understands. I imagine that the animal sees that its imminent demise is for a higher purpose. This is the look . . .
Here, Amir describes what happens when the family sacrifices a lamb or sheep for the Muslim holiday Eid-e-Qorban. The look he sees in the sacrificial animal’s eyes is the same look he sees in Hassan’s eyes as he is about to be raped. Amir interprets the lamb’s expression as a look of acceptance, and he transfers this idea to Hassan: Hassan, like the sacrificial lamb, seems to accept his fate. The higher purpose the lamb seems to accept is to feed the poor. The higher purpose Hassan’s sacrifice serves is that Amir will get the blue kite.
Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba.
Amir realizes he is willing to sacrifice Hassan—that is, to allow him to be raped—in the same way that people are willing to sacrifice an innocent lamb to achieve a purpose. By paying this “price,” Amir will be able to get the blue kite and bring it to Baba. Amir believes that showing the kite to Baba, that proving that he is good enough, will cause Baba to feel proud of him and show Amir the approval and affection he so desperately wants.
Sohrab’s eyes flicked to me. They were slaughter sheep’s eyes. They even had the mascara—I remembered 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.
Here, Amir describes Hassan’s son Sohrab and compares him to a sacrificial sheep just as he did Hassan earlier in the novel. His eyes remind Amir of the eyes of the sheep slaughtered on the Muslim holiday, mascara and all. The sheep symbolizes both Hassan’s and Sohrab’s innocence, powerlessness, and vulnerability as well as the impending slaughter, which in this case is Assef’s brutal sexual assaults of both boys.