"The Kite Runner," Vocabulary from Chapters 11-14

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 affection and affliction in America.

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. brash
    offensively bold
    “There are only three real men in this world, Amir,” he’d say. He’d count them off on his fingers: America the brash savior, Britain, and Israel.
    If being a "brash savior" is the definition of being a real man, then Baba would be a real man while Amir would be wishing he could be. Baba stood up to a gun-toting soldier to save an unfamiliar young woman from rape, while Amir watched and then ran away from a bully who was raping his loyal servant, playmate, and friend.
  2. intertwine
    spin,wind, or twist together
    He missed people milling in and out of his house, missed walking down the bustling aisles of Shor Bazaar and greeting people who knew him and his father, knew his grandfather, people who shared ancestors with him, whose pasts intertwined with his.
  3. calloused
    having skin made tough and thick through wear
    My student hand, clean and soft, on his laborer’s hand, grubby and calloused. I thought of all the trucks, train sets, and bikes he’d bought me in Kabul. Now America. One last gift for Amir.
    Although the comparison here is between Amir and his father's hands, it could also be made between Amir and Hassan's hands. Amir and Hassan both got calluses from flying kites during the winter, but when school was in session, Amir had soft, clean hands, while Hassan continued to have the grubby calloused hands of a servant. Both Baba and Hassan calloused their hands to make life easier for Amir, but Baba was a rich businessman once, so his calluses came with more pain.
  4. alleviate
    provide physical relief, as from pain
    And that was how Baba ended those humiliating food stamp moments at the cash register and alleviated one of his greatest fears: that an Afghan would see him buying food with charity money.
  5. saunter
    walk leisurely and with no apparent aim
    I ran the stand sometimes as Baba sauntered down the aisle, hands respectfully pressed to his chest, greeting people he knew from Kabul: mechanics and tailors selling hand-me-down wool coats and scraped bicycle helmets, alongside former ambassadors, out-of-work surgeons, and university professors.
  6. luminous
    softly bright or radiant
    Lying awake in bed that night, I thought of Soraya Taheri’s sickle-shaped birthmark, her gently hooked nose, and the way her luminous eyes had fleetingly held mine.
  7. adversary
    someone who offers opposition
    I could never read the thoughts in the general’s eyes, but I knew this much about his wife: If I was going to have an adversary in this—whatever this was—it would not be her.
  8. interminable
    tiresomely long; seemingly without end
    I tossed in my sheets and stared at the ceiling, dismayed at the thought of six laborious, interminable nights of yelda until I saw her again.
  9. amiable
    diffusing warmth and friendliness
    I actually liked it when Khanum Taheri was there, and not just because of her amiable ways; Soraya was more relaxed, more talkative with her mother around.
  10. implication
    something that is inferred
    Then her face reddened with a blush at what she had blurted, at the implication of her answer, that “Amir Conversations” took place between them when I wasn’t there.
  11. ominous
    threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
    I thanked him as I helped Baba out of the office, thinking that now I had to live a whole week with this new word, "mass,” an even more ominous word than “suspicious.”
  12. reticence
    the trait of being uncommunicative
    But there was a new reticence to Khanum Taheri’s demeanor.
  13. recede
    pull back or move away or backward
    When his cheeks hollowed. And his temples melted. And his eyes receded in their sockets.
  14. palliative
    moderating pain or sorrow by making it easier to bear
    “As you can see, the cancer’s metastasized,” he said. “He’ll have to take steroids to reduce the swelling in his brain and antiseizure medications. And I’d recommend palliative radiation. Do you know what that means?”
  15. sallow
    unhealthy looking
    I pulled the blanket back up to his chest where ribs stretched his thin, sallow skin. “Can I do anything else for you, Baba?”
  16. frenzied
    excessively agitated
    For all the frenzied preparations that went into the wedding night—most of it, blessedly, by Khanum Taheri and her friends— I remember only a handful of moments from it.
  17. indignity
    an affront to one's self-esteem
    Baba had wrestled bears his whole life. Losing his young wife. Raising a son by himself. Leaving his beloved homeland, his watan. Poverty. Indignity. In the end, a bear had come that he couldn’t best.
  18. subside
    wear off or die down
    When the headaches struck, the general went to his room, undressed, turned off the light, locked the door, and didn’t come out until the pain subsided.
  19. degrade
    reduce in worth or character, usually verbally
    I learned that he had kept his family on welfare and had never held a job in the U.S., preferring to cash government-issued checks than degrading himself with work unsuitable for a man of his stature—he saw the flea market only as a hobby, a way to socialize with his fellow Afghans.
  20. rampage
    violently angry and destructive behavior
    I firmly believed that if I had picked up a rifle and gone on a murdering rampage, I would have still had the benefit of her unblinking love.
  21. malady
    any unwholesome or desperate condition
    Because I had rid her heart of its gravest malady. I had relieved her of the greatest fear of every Afghan mother: that no honorable khastegar would ask for her daughter’s hand.
  22. chagrin
    strong feelings of embarrassment
    Soraya joined me at San Jose State the following year and enrolled, to her father’s chagrin, in the teaching track.
  23. invigorating
    imparting strength and vitality
    The idea of fatherhood unleashed a swirl of emotions in me. I found it frightening, invigorating, daunting, and exhilarating all at the same time.
    The last time Amir used the words "exhilarating" and "frightening" in the same sentence was when he was a twelve-year-old thinking about the possibility of his father clobbering a thief. In the example sentence, Amir is twenty-six and married, and he adds the adjectives "invigorating" and "daunting" to describe his own possible fatherhood, which shows how much he has chronologically and emotionally grown.
  24. allude
    make an indirect reference to
    The general, ever the Pashtun, never made any queries—doing so meant alluding to a sexual act between his daughter and a man, even if the man in question had been married to her for over four years.
  25. conceivable
    capable of being imagined
    The next few months were a blur of tests on Soraya: Basal body temperatures, blood tests for every conceivable hormone, urine tests, something called a “Cervical Mucus Test,” ultrasounds, more blood tests, and more urine tests.
    "Conceivable" is being used as a pun that refers to all the possible hormones that might affect the chances of conceiving a child.
  26. meticulous
    marked by extreme care in treatment of details
    IVF proved lengthy, meticulous, frustrating, and ultimately unsuccessful.
  27. ambivalent
    uncertain or unable to decide about what course to follow
    We’d talked at home about adoption. Soraya was ambivalent at best.
  28. protracted
    relatively long in duration
    The general’s shattered hip—and all of the ensuing complications, the pneumonia, blood poisoning, the protracted stay at the nursing home—ended Khala Jamila’s long-running soliloquies about her own health.
  29. frailty
    the state of being weak in health or body
    The general’s frailty—and time—had softened things between him and Soraya too.
  30. futility
    uselessness as a consequence of having no practical result
    Our lovemaking was still good, at times better than good, but some nights all I’d feel was a relief to be done with it, to be free to drift away and forget, at least for a while, about the futility of what we’d just done.

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