"The Kite Runner," Vocabulary from Chapters 7-10

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 dreams and nightmares.

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

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. sultan
    the ruler of a Muslim country
    They change the name of the lake after that, and call it the ‘Lake of Amir and Hassan, Sultans of Kabul,’ and we get to charge people money for swimming in it.”
    Hassan is telling Amir about a dream he had, which includes a phrase that Amir had actually carved into a tree. Born a servant and humbly devoted to his earthly and divine masters, Hassan is unlikely to really wish he were a sultan, but he would indulge in the dream to please Amir and give encouragement for the upcoming tournament.
  2. dwindle
    become smaller or lose substance
    Within another hour, the number of surviving kites dwindled from maybe fifty to a dozen.
  3. salvation
    rescuing or protecting someone or something from harm
    All I smelled was victory. Salvation. Redemption. If Baba was wrong and there was a God like they said in school, then He’d let me win.
    Another definition of "salvation" is "the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil"--this goes with the idea of redemption. But at this point, Amir is more concerned with stopping his own pain of being ignored by his father. Amir's real need for salvation and redemption come later, not because of who he is but because of what he has done.
  4. rouse
    cause to become awake or conscious
    In a moment, I’d blink and rouse from this beautiful dream, get out of bed, march down to the kitchen to eat breakfast with no one to talk to but Hassan.
  5. unabashed
    not embarrassed
    The next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph.
  6. vindication
    the act of defending against criticism or censure
    Then the old warrior would walk to the young one, embrace him, acknowledge his worthiness. Vindication. Salvation. Redemption. And then? Well...happily ever after, of course. What else?
    Another definition of "vindication" is "the justification for some act or belief"--this could also fit the example sentence, because in addition to wanting to defend himself against his father's disappointment in his lack of athletic ability, Amir seeks justification just for being alive, since his mother had died giving birth to him.
  7. defiant
    boldly resisting authority or an opposing force
    Hassan was standing at the blind end of the alley in a defiant stance: fists curled, legs slightly apart.
  8. tremor
    an involuntary vibration, as if from illness or fear
    He was trying to sound like Assef, except there was a tremor in his voice.
  9. shimmer
    give off a weakly shining reflection, as of silk
    I look up and see the clear sky is filled with kites, green, yellow, red, orange. They shimmer in the afternoon light.
  10. eroded
    worn away as by water or ice or wind
    But there were two things amid the garbage that I couldn’t stop looking at: One was the blue kite resting against the wall, close to the cast-iron stove; the other was Hassan’s brown corduroy pants thrown on a heap of eroded bricks.
  11. persist
    refuse to stop
    I don’t know why I watch this yearly ritual in our backyard; my nightmares persist long after the bloodstains on the grass have faded.
  12. imminent
    close in time; about to occur
    I imagine the animal sees that its imminent demise is for a higher purpose.
  13. guileless
    free of deceit
    Did he know I knew? And if he knew, then what would I see if I did look in his eyes? Blame? Indignation? Or, God forbid, what I feared most: guileless devotion?
  14. unkempt
    not properly maintained or cared for
    That should have been fun, spending a day like that with Baba, hearing his stories. I finally had what I’d wanted all those years. Except now that I had it, I felt as empty as this unkempt pool I was dangling my legs into.
  15. murky
    dark or gloomy
    There was a monster in the lake. It had grabbed Hassan by the ankles, dragged him to the murky bottom. I was that monster.
  16. immerse
    thrust or throw into
    For at least a few months after the kite tournament, Baba and I immersed ourselves in a sweet illusion, saw each other in a way that we never had before.
  17. chasm
    a deep opening in the earth's surface
    We’d actually deceived ourselves into thinking that a toy made of tissue paper, glue, and bamboo could somehow close the chasm between us.
  18. unwavering
    marked by firm determination or resolution
    Everywhere I turned, I saw signs of his loyalty, his goddamn unwavering loyalty.
    Usually, "unwavering loyalty" would be a quality to be appreciated and not cursed at. But Hassan's unwavering loyalty reminds Amir of his own cowardly betrayal and unworthiness.
  19. crave
    plead or ask for earnestly
    I wished he’d give me the punishment I craved, so maybe I'd finally sleep at night.
    Amir doesn't exactly ask for the punishment so much as demand and curse at Hassan to hit him back. When Hassan instead crushes a pomegranate against his own forehead and asks "Are you satisfied?" the definition of "crave" as "have an appetite or great desire for" is emphasized.
  20. interlude
    an intervening period or episode
    I regretted saying it—I really did—but I think even if I hadn’t, our happy little interlude would have come to an end.
  21. feeble
    pathetically lacking in force or effectiveness
    I tried to fake a smile, but all I could manage was a feeble upturning of the corners of my mouth—my stomach was turning at the sight of my father bonding with Assef.
  22. falter
    move hesitatingly, as if about to give way
    When I looked into them, the facade faltered, revealed a glimpse of the madness hiding behind them.
  23. roil
    be agitated
    My innards had been roiling since we’d left Kabul just after two in the morning.
  24. calculated
    carefully thought out in advance
    Even at the dinner table, in the privacy of their home, people had to speak in a calculated manner—the rafiqs were in the classrooms too; they’d taught children to spy on their parents, what to listen for, whom to tell.
  25. grim
    harshly uninviting or formidable in manner or appearance
    Tomorrow morning, I’d wake up, peek out the window: No grim-faced Russian soldiers patrolling the sidewalks, no tanks rolling up and down the streets of my city, their turrets swiveling like accusing fingers, no rubble, no curfews, no Russian Army Personnel Carriers weaving through the bazaars.
  26. curt
    marked by rude or peremptory shortness
    Karim gave a curt reply in Russian, which the soldier returned with an even curter retort.
  27. exasperated
    greatly annoyed; out of patience
    He gave the younger officer the rueful look of a father exasperated with his misbehaving son.
  28. encapsulate
    enclose in or as if in a small container
    I only knew the memory lived in me, a perfectly encapsulated morsel of a good past, a brushstroke of color on the gray, barren canvas that our lives had become.
  29. stench
    a distinctive odor that is offensively unpleasant
    The rest of that ride is scattered bits and pieces of memory that come and go, most of it sounds and smells: MiGs roaring past overhead; staccatos of gunfire; a donkey braying nearby; the jingling of bells and mewling of sheep; gravel crushed under the truck’s tires; a baby wailing in the dark; the stench of gasoline, vomit, and shit.
  30. summation
    the final aggregate
    After everything he’d built, planned, fought for, fretted over, dreamed of, this was the summation of his life: one disappointing son and two suitcases.

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