This quotation occurs during Amir’s meeting with Assef as he tries to find Sohrab in Chapter 22. Assef beats Amir with brass knuckles, snapping Amir’s ribs, splitting his lip and busting his jaw, and breaking the bone beneath his left eye, but because Amir feels he deserves this, he feels relief. He thinks he should have accepted the beating from Assef years ago, when he was given the choice of saving Hassan—and likely getting physically hurt—or letting Assef rape Hassan. Since that time, Amir has struggled with his guilt, which was only made worse by the fact that he was never punished for his actions. He had even gone looking for punishment in the past, as when he tried to get Hassan to hit him with the pomegranates, because he felt then there would at least be some justice for the way he treated Hassan. But Amir’s guilt lingered until his confrontation with Assef, which despite the physical pain, made him feel psychologically healed. Thus, while Assef beat him, he began to laugh.