The Kite


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The Kite

  1. 1. THE KITE William Somerset Maugham
  2. 2. William Somerset Maugham • William Somerset Maugham (25 January 1874 – 16 December 1965) born at UK Embassy in Paris – France. He was a British playwright, novelist and short story writer of human bondage. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author during the 1930s. He spoke French even before he spoke a word of English, a fact to which some critics attribute the purity of his style.
  3. 3. His parents died early and, after an unhappy boyhood, which he recorded mournfully in 'Of Human Bondage’. Maugham had been writing steadily since the age of 15 and fervently wished to become an author, but as he was not of age, he refrained from telling his guardian. For the next five years, he studied medicine at St Thomas' Hospital in Lambeth, London. Maugham became a qualified physician. But writing was his true vocation.
  4. 4. Some critics have assumed that the years Maugham spent studying medicine were a creative dead end, but Maugham felt the contrary. In maturity, he recalled the value of his experience as a medical student: “I saw how men died. I saw how they bore pain. I saw what hope looked like, fear and relief ...“. For ten years before his first success, he almost literally starved while pouring out novels and plays. During World War I, Maugham worked for the British Secret Service . He travelled all over the world, and made many visits to America. After World War II, Maugham made his home in south of France and continued to move between England and Nice till his death in 1965.
  5. 5. Introduction “The Kite” is a short story written in 1947 by William Somerset Maugham. Mr. Maugham is well known for his very popular short stories. “The Kite” has an open first-person narrator in the beginning and in the end, probably Mr. Maugham, who is being told the story by his good friend Ned Preston. Most of the story on the other hand has a hidden first-person narrator. This might sound a bit complicated but it isn’t as you get on with the reading.
  6. 6. Characters • Herbert Sunbury • Betty Bevan • Samuel Sunbury • Beatrice Sunbury
  7. 7. In “The Kite” we have four main characters, and they are Herbert, Bettie, Samuel and Beatrice. In addition to those there are two more characters, Ned Preston and an omniscient first-person narrator. Herbert is the only child of Samuel and Beatrice (Mr. and Mrs. Sunbury.) He is described as a well-behaved boy, later as an attractive young man. He is a smart, but also very stubborn boy who won’t retreat from his opinions. I would say that his relationship with his parents – especially his mother – is a lot different, to what you would call a normal relationship between mother and son. Beatrice is described as a little, strong, active and wiry woman.
  8. 8. I find Beatrice more than enough conservative; she won’t let Herbert play with other children, she won’t have him going out on Saturday evenings even though he is by far old enough to do so etc. Beatrice makes up a lot of funny rules for her son so he won’t get any other inputs for life than the ones given by her. In addition to that I find Beatrice very snobbish because of the way she sees and talks to strangers. Samuel is, as far as I see it, extremely oppressed by his wife. Samuel has been working hard and faithful all of his life, as a clerk in a lawyer’s office. He started as an office boy and from there he worked his way up to a respectable position. I would categorize the Sunbury’s as a better middle-class family. Ned Preston is a prison visitor at Wormwood Scrubs, and that’s how he’s got to know Herbert. Ned Preston is the one who told our narrator the story.
  9. 9. Creature of Circumstances The Kite (1947) is included in Creature of Circumstances i.e. the last short story collection that Maugham published. In the preface Maugham defends himself against the accusation of critics on magazine stories and reiterates his preference for stories constructed with a beginning, a middle and an end. One of Maugham's merits is his choice of title. This collection includes a series of stories of how the characters react to circumstances that are thrust upon them and how their lives are then shaped by the choices that they have made.
  10. 10. Benjamin Disraeli said: Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter. But in this short story The Kite you will see how man becomes the Creature of Circumstances.
  11. 11. Summary • First of all I would like to make it plain that this short story is not Maugham’s own story and that he knew none of the persons with whom it is concerned. It was told to him one evening by his friend Ned Preston, and he told it to Maugham because he didn't know how to deal with the circumstances and he thought, quite wrongly as it happened, that Maugham might be able to give him some advice that would help him
  12. 12. This story focuses upon a young man’s transition from son to husband and back to son following his wife’s destruction of his kite, the principal object of his passion and affection. Ned Preston, the prison visitor at Wormwood Scrubs, relates, through the narrator, the story of Herbert Sunbury, an accountant who has left his wife, Betty Bevan Sunbury, after she smashed his kite. Herbert has been sent to prison because he refuses to pay weekly alimony to Betty. Described as an intelligent and decent fellow, Herbert is the only child of Beatrice and Samuel Sunbury, the former a strong and active person, a true daughter of Victoria, while her husband, a principal clerk in a lawyer’s office, represents even a truer creature of habit.
  13. 13. Herbert had been enamored with kite flying since age seven, and maturity had not dulled his passion. The unity and harmony among the three Sunburys, made even stronger by the presence of kites, come suddenly asunder when Herbert decides to marry Betty Bevan. Not surprisingly, Ned comments that Betty looked very much the same as Beatrice must have looked at the same age. However, the two women assumed an immediate dislike for each other. After the wedding (which Beatrice and thus Samuel refuse to attend), the parents continue kite flying, but Betty refuses to allow Herbert to participate, referring to the exercise as a sign of immaturity.
  14. 14. Eventually, Herbert achieves a reunion with his parents, and the three resume their kite flying on the common, at which point Betty throws Herbert out of their room, forcing him to return to the Sunbury home. After weeks of absence, Betty tries to persuade Herbert to return to her; when he refuses, she smashes his new, expensive kite. The Magistrate sends Herbert to prison when he refuses to pay the weekly alimony. In Herbert Sunbury, Maugham has drawn the portrait of a man caught between two women who want to dominate his life. Betty, insanely jealous of Herbert’s kite flying, smashes his only means of escape from the monotony of life. Thus, there exists little difference for Herbert between life in prison and life without kite.
  15. 15. Analysis The story line is based on the primal relationship between Mrs. Beatrice Sunbury and her son Herbert. Here is replete with psychological truths, revealing attitudes, situations, and emotional states.
  16. 16. The over-possessive mother exercises an unhealthy influence on the emotional development of the growing boy. From the very early days Mrs. Sunbury wishes to nurture her son self-centric and possessive, her advice to her son is quite understandable. She says, “Now, Herbert, do what I do, keep yourself to yourself and don’t have anything to do with them than you can help”. Even she does not allow a single independent assertion on Herbert. Hence, when Herbert is twenty years of age, holding a steady job, Herbert’s father Samuel Sunbury asks if Herbert be get married Mrs. Sunbury’s reply is sharp and vicious. She answers: “I don’t hold with a man marrying till he knows his own mind’ ….. “And a man does not know his own mind till he is thirty or thirtyfive”. Such a typical negative response is obviously of a jealous mother unwilling to share her son with a wife and who is trapping the soul of her son and ruins his personal.
  17. 17. Herbert loves her mother almost like a mother-lover. The mother is the very axis and pole of his life. The bond between this mother and her son deepens when they fly the kites as fancy and hobby almost like a ritualistic manner every Saturday. Flying kites is like an imaginary escapism from the monotony of life. The soul of Herbert is so possessed by the mother figure that this kite flying is like nearing to the mother denying the rest of attraction.
  18. 18. Herbert’s love for Betty and his choice of getting married to her is a desperate attempt to free himself from the excessive attachment to his mother. But he cannot give to Betty what he has already given to his mother; and thus results the terrible and torturing conflict within him. Like Mrs. Mrs. Sunbury is Jealous of her daughter-in-law. Mrs. Sunbury dislikes Betty who will suck all her Son’s Soul and leave nothing for her. Therefore, she does her best to break up their relationship.
  19. 19. In the kite the whole story is given a symbolic significance through flying a kite. It is an act of affectionate attachment. Even it is not a plaything, rather an extension of Beatrice’s control over her son. After the marriage what Betty objects and rebels against is Herbert’s flying of the kite on Saturdays with his parents. She dislikes this childish act and warns Herbert from doing this silly favor. But Herbert’s fatal attraction for the kite is a string of mother fixation. Mrs. Sunbury pulls the thread of the kite (emotional attachment) to control over her son. When all the possible pleadings result in vain, Betty hacks down the kite which ultimately aggravates the situation. Herbert chooses the prison instead of providing the alimony to his wife. The smashing of the kite is a kind of matricide for him which he can not forbear.
  20. 20. The entire complication of the story can thus be read through the Freudian complexes. Maugham is an explorer of human relationships and in this story he has studied sex relationship from different angles. Mrs. Sunbury and Betty are both wrong in being too possessive. Both of them want to possess the soul or the personae of Herbert. But satisfactory relationship result only when we recognize the otherness of the other individuals. Successful adjustment would have resulted had these two women recognized that Herbert has a separate identity with separate personae of his own, which can reach fulfillment in its own way. The mother fails to recognize this truth and so ruins the life of Herbert.
  21. 21. Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who became known as the founding father of psychoanalysis. Psychology's most famous figure is also one of the most influential and controversial thinkers of the twentieth century. Sigmund Freud's work and theories helped shape our views of childhood, personality, memory, sexuality and therapy. Other major thinkers have contributed work that grew out of Freud's legacy, while others developed new theories out of opposition to his ideas.
  22. 22. Freudian Complex The Freudian Complex is an inferiority complex to the same sex arising in infancy in every human’s unconscious mind ,which governs almost every attitude, action and thought from birth to death. It is the root cause of most misery in the human mind. It was a psychoanalytical hypothesis put forth by Sigmund Freud, the great neuro-psychiatrist of the last century who coined the theory of unconscious mind dictating behavior.
  23. 23. Significance Of The Title Kites are a strong symbol in some nations, in dreams and in literature traditions. In all these uses, the positive symbolic meaning of kites represents variations of personal pride, independence, highest hope, accomplishment, freedom and expansion. The negative meaning is feeling out of control or at the mercy of surrounding conditions. In Somerset Maugham's short story "The Kite," Herbert begins flying kites when he lives happily with his parents and feels free and as though he can accomplish things in life. One of his accomplishments is to marry. Herbert continues to have the same positive feelings symbolized by his kite although his new wife has a different opinion and sees his kite as a childish diversion that needs to be released.
  24. 24. When they disagree about purchasing a new kite and she sends Herbert back to his parents, his wife breaks his kite, symbolizing the destruction of his freedom, independence and individual accomplishment. He refuses to pay alimony and therefore goes to prison because now the kite has reversed its symbolism and come to represent the negative meanings attached to it. The kite now means being out of control of his own life (his wife controls him now) and being at the mercy of surrounding circumstances. Herbert goes to jail to protest this and to reestablish--one way or another--control of his own life (One will worry about that choice turning out not so well, but...). Maugham chose a kite to symbolize human relationships because a kite embodies some of the most important concerns in human relationships: freedom, independence, accomplishment, control and manipulation.
  25. 25. Theme The main theme in this short story is – as I see it – family matters. Our most important main character, Herbert, is brought up in a very different way compared to the average child. He is, all through the story extremely close bound to his mother; only at the time where he lives with Betty, he is separated from her. But even when he is physically separated from her, he is still mentally dependent on her, in the way that he can’t help to go and see her and his father at the common every Saturday. He either hates her or loves her more than any other girl. It doesn’t, take Herbert many seconds to decide to come and help his parents with their new kite, when he hears that they have found, an other boy who can help them with their new kite.
  26. 26. In a figurative sense Herbert hasn’t got his umbilical cord cut. A symbol for that might be the kite flying. If you are flying a kite, you must have contact with it all the time trough a line ore a string. So does Beatrice have contact with Herbert the entire time, Herbert can go and get married but in the end, he’ll always come back to his mum. Another symbol might be the fact that as Herbert gets older his mother gradually starts buying bigger and more expensive kites. The reason for this is, of course, that she wants to keep him close by herself. This might sound quite normal, but the way she does it is not normal. Her only reason for doing it is to please herself, and keep Herbert from coming out and see what life really is.
  27. 27. Conclusion To conclude we can say that flying a kite gave him a sense of power as he watched it soaring towards the clouds and of mastery over, the elements as he seemed to bend the winds of heaven to his will. It may be that in some queer way he identified himself with the kite flying so free and so high above him, and it’s as it were an escape from the monotony of life. It may be that in some dim, confused way it represents an ideal of freedom and adventure.
  28. 28. • We can also say that it is good to love a child but if we love him too much, he is likely to be spoilt. He is apt to go wrong and form bad habits. As it is said that excess of everything is bad, and thus after reading this short story we can remark that it’s true. Too much love of Herbert’s mother had a very bad affect on his mental growth.. She kept him away from reality and life just to please herself. The mother failed to recognize this and so ruined the life of Herbert