Presentation on theme: "The Shared Study of Paired Texts"— Presentation transcript:
1The Shared Study of Paired Texts Atonement and The Kite Runner: reading the Other to recover the self – Part 1
2What does the pairing of these texts reveal? The pairing of Atonement with The Kite Runner enables us to focus on the themes of guilt and redemption, conflict, coming of age, prejudice, loyalty, forgiveness, love and the resilience of the human spirit.
3What does the pairing of these texts reveal? But while both texts address issues of ’difference’ and otherness in their narrative construction, especially through a self conscious story telling, conventions of characterisation and genre lead The Kite Runner to fail in this respect, while meta-fiction and a more complex use of point-of-view enable Atonement to succeed.
4The key assessment criterion for the paired texts study is How effectively does the student compare and contrast texts to evaluate the role of sociocultural and situational contexts?The sociocultural context of Atonement would account for the influence of the British class system and English literary history on Ian McEwan’s writing of the novel.
5The key assessment criterion for the paired texts study is How effectively does the student compare and contrast texts to evaluate the role of sociocultural and situational contexts?The situational context of The Kite Runner would account for its incredible success as a post-9/11 bestseller in the U.S.A., when its sociocultural context seemed to offer a “bridge of understanding“ between American and Afghan cultures.
6common themes, ideas, or topics The options for establishing links between these paired texts could be:common themes, ideas, or topicsguilt,redemption,war,love, etc.historical or literary periodsboth early 21st C. post-modern texts – one avant-garde, the other ’multicultural’ in literary approachusing different cultural settings of a nostalgic 20th C. Britain and a traumatic Middle Eastern diaspora
7the same genre or different genres The options for establishing a link between these paired texts could be:the same genre or different genresfamily sagabildungsromanhistorical romancesocial realist novel vs. hero talesimilar or contrasting cultural perspectivesEnglish vs. American authorsEuropean vs. Middle Eastern contexts
8At some moments chilling, at others desperately sad, the play told a tale of the heart whose message, conveyed in a rhyming prologue, was that love which did not build a foundation on good sense was doomed.Ian McEwan, Atonement
10’Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? …what ideas have you been admitting?’Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
11Atonement: a tragicomedy of failed remarriage ’…the genre of remarriage is an inheritor of the preoccupations and discoveries of Shakespearian romantic comedy.’ Stanley CavellSettingsPart One: Hottest day of 1935Part Two: World War 2 – Dunkirk, 1940Part Three: World War 2 – London, 1940Epilogue: London, 1999Literary modelsNorthanger Abbey (Jane Austen, 1817); Clarissa (Samuel Richardson, 1748); What Maisie Knew (Henry James, 1897); The Go-Between (L. P. Hartley, 1953); The French Lieutenant’s Woman (John Fowles, 1969)Literary allusionsTwelfth Night (William Shakespeare, 1601); Lady Chatterly’s Lover (D. H. Lawrence, 1928); “In Memory of W. B. Yeats“ (W. H. Auden, 1940)
12anachrony [an-ak-rôni] A term used in modern narratology to denote a discrepancy between the order in which events of the story occur and the order in which they are presented to us in the plot. Anachronies take two basic forms: ’flashback’ or analepsis and ’flashforward’ or prolepsis.
13Adjective: anachronic The Kite Runner only uses an anachronic narrative in the more conventional sense of a ’framing device – the ’December 2001’ moment when its protagonist receives a phone call that throws him into his past. After this prolepsis or ’flash-forward’,we are quickly taken back to 1975 and the novel then follows a conventional narrative arc back to June 2001 in chapter 14.
14focalizationThe term used in modern narratology for ’point of view’; that is, for the kind of perspective from which the events of a story are witnessed. Events observed by a traditional omniscient narrator are said to be non-focalized, whereas events witnessed within the story’s world from the constrained perspective of a single character are ’internally focalized’.
15focalizationThe nature of a given narrative’s focalization is to be distinguished from its narrative ’voice’, as seeing is from speaking.The events of Atonement are ’internally focalized’ in incredibly subtle ways through the many narrative voices of its characters, particularly Briony, Robbie and Cecilia.
16Paired narrative techniques McEwan’s use of focalization complicates the authorial partiality of a Jane Austen novel, when the ’omniscient narrator’ of the older Briony-as-author, compromised by her need for atonement, can no longer be seen as non-focalized.While the focalization in Atonement has a surface equivalent to The Kite Runner in Rahim Kahn’s account of the missing years of Hassan’s life, Hosseini’s novel is resolutely told from Amir’s point of view.
17Paired narrative techniques McEwan employs this particular ’modal determination’ for two reasons:to distinguish his narrative from the classic realist novel’s association with an omniscient narrator (Briony’s lie came from positioning herself as such a narrator in her fictionalized scenario of events)to demonstrate Briony’s, the adult narrator’s, attempt to project herself into the thoughts and feelings of her characters, an act crucial to her search for forgiveness.
18Metafiction: self-reflexive texts Fiction about fiction; or more especially a kind of fiction that openly comments on its own fictional status.Atonement draws attention to its own construction as a fictional narrative because such an awareness is crucial to its ’truths’ about the human condition.
19Paired narrative scenes Atonement Part Three (p.312):’We found Two Figures…’ to ’Development is required.’The Kite Runner (pp.28-30):’I enjoyed your story very much.’ to ’How dare he criticize you?’The ’leonine yellow’ that Connolly quotes approvingly first appears on p.38
20Paired narrative scenes Atonement Part Three (p.312):Cyril Connolly’s letter is an odd interpolation in the narrative – the first time the novel turns on itself, creating a sense of dislocation that makes us pause to reflect on the process of writing and the whole artificial construct: a product of drafting and redrafting, criticism and adaptation. His recommendation for an ‘underlying pull of simple narrative’ is already there in the vase episode, because Briony’s observation of it does now lead somewhere.The ’leonine yellow’ that Connolly quotes approvingly first appears on p.38
21Paired narrative scenes The Kite Runner (pp.28-30):Rahim Kahn’s letter is not an odd interpolation in the narrative, but gives the emerging child writer Amir the praise he craves from his father. Kahn identifies Amir’s gift of ‘irony’ just as the actual author uses the episode to establish the seed of his protagonist’s adult guilt by having Hassan deliver an unintentionally harsher critique, inspiring Amir’s resentment. While certainly layering his irony, Hosseini avoids metafiction in favour of traditional plot and character.
22Worksheet for Comparative Analysis of Paired Texts “Grounds“ for comparison…What you notice in the Atonement passageWhat you notice in the Kite Runner passageWhat does the comparison reveal?Narrative POVRevelationsToneStylistic featuresNarrative contextwhere does it appear in the plot &/or narrative structure?References to other works, ideas or imagesliterary; political; artisticEarlier draft/deleted scenes The script opens 50 years into the future, with Mary as an old lady trying to publish her book about Lacuna.Film Opens with the events following erasure
23Against OblivionNo late twentieth century text can subscribe to the simplified wish fulfilments of classic realist fiction. ’The development of nuclear weapons,’ McEwan has said, ’shows the dissociation of science from feelings,’ of outer and inner worlds we inhabit.Interview with John Haffenden (1985), quoted in Brian Finney’s essay “Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement“ (2002)
24Against Oblivion – Atonement World War Two, that introduced the world to mass ethnic cleansing, the Cold War and the permanent threat of nuclear deterrence, appears to have brought forth mainly aesthetic structures that reflect the complexity and horror of life in the second half of that century. It is a time in history when the Marshalls, who, equally guilty, lack Briony’s conscience, use the War to make their fortune and are then treated as public benefactors. Compared to Briony, they “have no remorse, no need for atonement“ (McEwan, 2002 interview).Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
25Against Oblivion – Atonement Atonement ends not just with the revelation of the deaths of Robbie and Cecilia, but with the diagnosis of Briony’s vascular dementia and her refusal to have the lovers forgive her even in her fictional account of their survival - proof that in her literary act of atonement Briony has finally learned how to imagine herself into the feelings of others. Responding to the criticism that his endings are too pessimistic, McEwan has said, “I never did trust those novels where, for all their dark insights, or that they ended in a funeral, there was always someone walking away and bending to pick up a flower“ (2001 interview).Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
26Yet, as McEwan admits, Part Three “has about it both an act of cowardice [. . .] but also it’s her stand against oblivion she’s seventy seven years old, her tide is running out very fast [. . .] She does not have the courage of her pessimism. [. . .] She knows that when this novel is finally published [. . .] she herself will only become a character“ (McEwan, Silverblatt).Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
27Is Briony’s work of fiction an evasion or an act of atonement or both Is Briony’s work of fiction an evasion or an act of atonement or both? What exactly does she mean when she says that atonement “was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point” (351)? Is she implicitly recognizing the contradiction at the heart of her narrative – the impossibility of avoiding constructing false fictions around others at the same time as one is required to enter imaginatively into their lives?Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
28Or is McEwan suggesting that the attempt is all we can ask for, an attempt that is bound to fail, but that can come closer to or stray further from the reality of others? Robbie’s and Cecilia’s happiness cannot be restored to them by an act of corrective fiction.Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
29Nevertheless the attempt to imagine the feelings of others is perhaps the one corrective that we can make in the face of continuing human suffering. The novel ends on a note of ambiguity. Yet an appreciation of ambiguity is just what would have prevented Briony from indicting Robbie in her first fictionalized narration of these events.Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
30What is really wrong with the classic realist novel? In classic realist fiction the events seem to narrate themselves, thus removing any sense of the literary work as a product of a controlling voice.Discourse – language that draws attention to its production – assumes a speaker and a hearer, thus opening itself to resistance, dispute, critical questioning.
31What is really wrong with the classic realist novel? From his earliest collections of short stories Ian McEwan has consistently drawn attention to the status of his fiction as discourse by alluding to or parodying traditional literary genres, thereby forcing the reader to take note of the presence of a self conscious narrator.Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
32Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel McEwan consciously modelled Atonement on the work of “Elizabeth Bowen of The Heat of the Day, with a dash of Rosamund Lehmann of Dusty Answer, and, in [Briony’s] first attempts, a sprinkling of Virginia Woolf” (McEwan, Begley 56). At least one reviewer has seen a parallel between Atonement and Bowen’s The Last September (1929) “with its restive teenage girl in the big house” (Lee 16).Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
33Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel Elizabeth Bowen also directly influences the form the final novel takes. After reading Briony’s first neo-modernist attempt to give fictional shape to the events of 1935 submitted to Cyril Connolly at Horizon, Bowen reacts by first thinking the prose “ ‘too full, too cloying,’” but with “‘redeeming shades of Dusty Answer’” (Rosamund Lehmann’s first novel of 1927 about a young girl’s growing up). Cyril Connolly voices Bowen’s final criticism of the modernist obsession with consciousness at the expense of plot by reminding Briony that even her most sophisticated readers “retain a childlike desire to be told a story” (296). Briony’s rewritten Part One owes its mounting tension to Bowen’s criticism passed on to Cyril Connolly and the example offered by Bowen’s earlier novel.Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
34Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel The numerous allusions to other texts warn the reader not to treat Atonement as a classic realist text. … Atonement offers particularly clear instances of … the different ways in which a text, in relating to other texts, becomes productive of further meanings, ways such as rereading and displacement. McEwan’s novel is most obviously a rereading of the classic realist novel of the nineteenth century, just as it is a displacement of the modernist novel, particularly as instanced in the fiction of Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence.Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
35Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel: Clarissa Atonement makes an ironic literary allusion to the early English epistolary novel Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson. Arabella, the melodramatic heroine of the thirteen-year-old Briony’s playlet, shares Clarissa’s sister’s name and thereby places “The Trials of Arabella“ within a literary tradition of sentimentality and sensationalism, while inevitably lacking the psychological complexity of the original. Cecilia is spending the vacation after graduating at Cambridge by reading Clarissa, which Robbie considers psychologically subtle and she boring. Their disagreement over this text helps determine the reader’s response to the rape which takes place later the same day and which is sprung on the reader with none of the lengthy preparation that Richardson provides.Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
36Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel: Clarissa This example appears to incorporate the two kinds of intertextual productivity – rereading and displacement. Seen in the perspective of the novel as a whole, Lola’s rape, unlike that of Clarissa, which leads to her death and Lovelace’s damnation, is the prelude to a long and socially successful marriage cemented by Lola’s and Marshall’s determination to keep the identity of the rapist a secret while either of them is alive. Lola’s worldly manipulation of the advantage the rape has given her over her rapist acts as a form of social intertextuality, anticipating the laxer sexual morality of the later twentieth century. An additional effect that such ironic references to other literary texts have in McEwan’s novel is to act as a continuous reminder that the entire book is the final literary artifact of Briony, a professional author.Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
37Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Wonder and Hero TalesThe classic Persian legend Rostam and Sohrab, which plays a prominent role in the novel, is immortalized in the Persian poet Abu’l-Qasem Ferdowsi’s Shahnamah (“Book of Kings“).While Ferdowsi was a 10th C. member of the landed gentry who transcribed this mythic history of Iran, centred around the reigns of its kings, its roots are in the ancient Indo-Iranian oral tradition.The following ideas are abridged from Amanda Bird’s thesis “Heroism and Tale Telling in Contemporary Afghan Literature” for Dr. Dianne Dugaw’s English 507 (University of Oregon, 2004).
38Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Rostam and SohrabThe renowned warrior Rostam loses his horse to thieves when out hunting and is lured into a Turkish city in pursuit of him. The king offers him hospitality, and in the night the king’s daughter, Tahmineh, is drawn irresistibly to his room. Rostam and Tahmineh appeal to the king for permission to wed, and the ceremony, it seems, is performed on the spot. The next day, however, Rostam’s horse is found, and Rostam is on his way. Nine months later, Tahmineh bears a son, Sohrab, whose stature and strength rival Rostam’s, even in childhood. His reputation spreads although his ancestry remains a secret.
39Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Rostam and SohrabKnowing himself to be the son of Rostam, Sohrab sets off for Iran with an army in search of his father. When they meet the army of Iran, Sohrab challenges the shah to one-on-one combat. The shah sends Rostam, and before commencing Sohrab demands to know Rostam’s identity. However, Rostam refuses to disclose his name, reasoning that if this enemy does not know he is Rostam, the challenger will be cowed by the thought that another yet stronger and mightier than he exists in the Iranian camp.
40Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Rostam and SohrabOn the third day, having elicited divine help, Rostam deals the death blow to Sohrab, who declares as he expires: “My father [will] draw thee forth from thy hiding-place, and avenge my death upon thee when he shall learn that the earth is become my bed. For my father is Rustem the Pahliva [champion], and it shall be told unto him how that Sohrab his son perished in the quest after his face.“[*] Rostam, of course, is devastated and bitterly mourns his loss, burning his tent, armor, saddle and all his royal trappings before giving Sohrab a royal burial. Rostam’s pride leads to his demise in the end, perishing at the hands of his treacherous brother, who tells him: “Thou hast caused many to perish by the sword; it is meet that thou shouldst perish by it thyself.“[*] Ferdowsi, Rostam and Sohrab.
41Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Rostam and Sohrab in The Kite RunnerHosseini draws our attention to the Shahnamah by referring to it repeatedly throughout the novel. It is Hassan’s favorite book, and the story of Rostam and Sohrab his favorite story. Baba is the very image of the Persian hero: vigorous, competitive, valiant, generous and charismatic. A champion soccer player in his youth, he loves hunting, cars and throws a big party nearly every weekend. Rumored that he once wrestled a bear with his bare hands, he gives loans and refuses repayment; and builds an orphanage from his own funds, insisting on designing it himself, even though he has no experience as an architect.
42Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Rostam and Sohrab in The Kite RunnerHowever, Baba also sacrifices his son to his glory, denying Amir his affection, at least in part because Amir is nothing like him. He prefers books to soccer and doesn’t stand up for himself when the neighbors bully him. Baba laments to Rahim Khan, “There is something missing in that boy.“[p.20]Hosseini underlines this during their flight from the country when the truck carrying Baba and Amir is stopped by a Russian soldier, who demands a half hour with a young wife as his price for letting the vehicle pass. Baba stands and defies the soldier, but Amir internally protests, “Do you always have to be the hero?“ What he says is, “Baba, sit down, please. … I think he really means to shoot you.“ Baba turns on him. “Haven’t I taught you anything?“
43Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Rostam and Sohrab in The Kite RunnerOn the other hand, Baba expresses unusual affection for Hassan, inspiring jealousy in Amir, who does not know that Hassan is his half brother, born to Ali’s wife who ran off with a troupe of dancers soon after Hassan’s birth. In some ways, Hassan is more like Baba than Amir. In spite of his slight build, he stands up for Amir in street fights, where Amir merely hangs his head. He runs faster, is more coordinated, can shoot a slingshot with deadly accuracy. When he and Amir fly their kite in the yearly kite flying contest, Hassan is always first among the “kite runners“ who chase after the kites that have been cut down, identifying the kite’s point of descent with almost supernatural foreknowledge.
44Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Rostam and Sohrab in The Kite RunnerAs it turns out, Hassan is the real hero of the story (its “kite runner“). The rape occurs while Hassan is protecting the kite he has “run“ for Amir. It is both Amir’s champion kite and his prize, the last kite to fall in the yearly contest, representing the triumph by which he hopes to win Baba’s favor. Amir’s failure to intervene on Hassan’s behalf is in part due to cowardice, but more because he is afraid of losing the prize that will win the coveted affection Baba has always denied him.
45Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Rostam and Sohrab in The Kite RunnerHassan plays the heroic warrior in Amir’s service, whose name means “king“ (we are even told that Amir’s mother came from royal lineage; Baba called her his princess). When Amir charges Hassan to “Come back with it!“ as he chases after the fallen kite, Hassan stops to deliver the unforgettable line: “For you, a thousand times over!“ He sacrifices himself for Amir’s sake, proving he possesses the requisite quality of loyalty.However, Amir fails not only to show equal loyalty, but also to avenge his fallen comrade until his final battle with Assef twenty-six years later. A Persian hero was bound by honor to avenge his kin or comrade, illustrated by Sohrab’s declaration to Rostam that Sohrab’s father will avenge his death.
46Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Rostam and Sohrab in The Kite RunnerAside from thematic parallels, Hosseini makes many overt references to the Shahnamah in the novel:Amir imagines himself making “a grand entrance“ to deliver the prize kite to his father, as “a hero, prized trophy in [his] bloodied hands. Heads would turn and eyes would lock. Rostam and Sohrab sizing each other up.“Hassan and Ali give Amir a new illustrated copy of the Shahnamah for his 13th birthday, after the kite-flying incident and just before the accusation of theft.When Amir first meets Soraya, his future wife, he compares her to Tahmineh, the Turkish princess who becomes Sohrab’s mother.We learn that Hassan read to Sohrab from the Shahnamah and that Sohrab’s favorite part was of course the story of his namesake. Later, Amir too reads to Sohrab from the Shahnamah in the hospital when he is recovering from his suicide attempt.
47Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Heroic IdealJust as McEwan uses Briony’s self-reflexive narrative to critique the classic realist novel, Hosseini twists The Kite Runner’s traditional sources with an ironic purpose.Like Amir’s first short story, Hosseini achieves irony in his first novel by exploiting the traditional Persian hero’s flaws and reapportioning the villainy in the wonder tale formula.
48Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Heroic IdealOne of the primary sources of tragedy in the Shahnamah is the increasing penetration of evil into the hearts and minds of the Iranian kings and heroes. Rostam’s demise results from his own pride and determination to win at all costs; one price he must pay is his son, the other is his own life.However, given the primary aim of the Persian hero is a good name, to have a protagonist who commits serious breeches of conduct and openly confess them, as Amir does, is essentially un-Afghan. Hassan’s dream about a monster in the lake before the kite flying contest has Amir swim out to prove to everyone that there is no monster. But on the night Amir grasps the dismal truth that he is going to get away with his deception, Amir tells himself Hassan was wrong. “There was a monster in the lake. It had grabbed Hassan by the ankles, dragged him to the murky bottom. I was that monster.“
49Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Heroic IdealWhile Hassan displays the virtues of a true hero (loyalty, truthfulness, valor), he does not appear concerned about obtaining a good name, even confessing to thievery in order to protect Amir. Amir tells us that everyone knows Hassan never lies, and if Hassan had denied the charge, Baba would have believed Hassan over Amir. Hassan never tries to assert himself, and Amir even suspects him of intentionally losing at cards. He seems to possess a selfless devotion that desires nothing for himself but Amir’s friendship, and he is heartbroken, not so much by Amir’s failure to defend him, as by Amir’s subsequent alienation of him. Years later, shortly before his death, in a letter delivered to Amir by Rahim, Hassan writes: “I dream that someday you will return to Kabul to revisit the land of our childhood. If you do, you will find an old faithful friend waiting for you.“
50Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Heroic IdealFurthermore, Hosseini makes a hero in Hassan of a Hazara of illegitimate birth who seems to possess an untouchable manliness that transcends race, class, circumstances and the regard of others. In “Sex Role Reversals, Sex Changes, and Transvestite Disguise in the Oral Tradition of a Conservative Muslim Community in Afghanistan,“ Margaret Mills tells us that in the folk stories she encountered, homosexual rape seemed to equate with emasculation.
51Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Heroic IdealWhen Amir and Baba are fleeing Afghanistan, a fellow traveler turns out to be one of the accomplices in the attack, who has himself fallen victim to homosexual rape. Shocked at his appearance, Amir notes “He had withered—there was simply no other word for it. His eyes gave me a hollow look and no recognition at all registered in them. His shoulders hunched and his cheeks sagged like they were too tired to cling to the bone beneath.“ In the course of the journey, the young man falls victim to fumes in the gas tanker in which the refugees are smuggled across the border. His circumstantial characterisation thus becomes another foil to Hassan’s heroism.
52Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Heroic IdealHassan seems to possess a purity that overcomes all physical contamination and oppression. In a picture of the grown-up Hassan that Rahim shows Amir years later in Pakistan, he is dressed in the Islamic white and green of purity, exuding self-assuredness and ease in his stance, posture and smile. “One might have concluded that this was a man who thought the world had been good to him.“ While Rostam’s honour could not live down being bound, Hassan rises above debasement of every kind.
53Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Heroic IdealThe death of Hassan ironically confirms his reversal of the heroic tradition. Left in charge by Rahim who went to Pakistan seeking treatment for terminal cancer, Hassan is shot in the street by the Taliban, who accuse him of wrongfully inhabiting the home he and Amir grew up in. Unlike Rostam, this low-born Hazara dies because of his unswerving loyalty to his “king.“
54Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Folk TaleIn his Morphology of the Folktale, Vladimir Propp contends that all folk tales involved the same dramatis personae performing the same functions in the same order. According to true Proppian formula, The Kite Runner opens with an initial situation involving a single family, a scene of prosperity and the foreshadowing of villainy (Assef’s rape of Hassan, causing harm in Proppian terms to a member of the “family“).
55Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Folk TaleAmir travelling reluctantly to Pakistan and learning not only that Hassan is actually Baba’s son, but that Hassan and his wife have been killed by the Taliban, leaving their son, Sohrab, in an orphanage in Afghanistan, conforms to the folk tale’s family misfortune that the hero is asked to redress. The hero agrees (again reluctantly) to counteraction; and the seeker hero leaves home.
56Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Folk TaleIn the classic folk tale, the hero and villain engage in direct combat and the villain is defeated, as is Assef. In the process, Amir is severely wounded (branded), and Farid transports him and Sohrab to a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan. The initial misfortune is liquidated, in that Sohrab is safely in Amir’s and Farid’s care, but at this point a difficult task is proposed to the hero. Amir, who has decided with his wife to try to adopt Sohrab, must find a way to get him a visa for the U.S. The novel closes not with a folk tale marriage, but with the formation – or the beginning of the formation – of a family.
57Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Folk TaleHosseini’s ironic twist to the folk tale lies in his layering of responsibility for the villainy that provides the narrative complication. Just as Briony’s role in events that shattered her seemingly idyllic family harmony become crucial to Atonement’s narrative, so Amir is implicated in ways that are far from traditionally heroic.While Assef is thoroughly and undeniably the villain, the fault for the harm to Hassan also lies with Baba and Amir.
58Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Ironic twists in the Folk Tale – a multitude of villainies:Amir places desire to please his father above the demands of loyalty.Baba drives Amir to desperation by denying him affection based on a narrow definition of manliness.Baba’s own sins set the scene for the crime: while Amir knows his parentage affords some protection from the bullies, this is not so for Hassan even though he has the same status, because Baba will not jeopardize his good name.When Amir learns the truth from Rahim Khan in Pakistan, he is irate. “Please think, Amir jan. It was a shameful situation. People would talk. All that a man had back then, all that he was, was his honor, his name, and if people talked … We couldn’t tell anyone, surely you can see that.“
59Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The storytelling motif and the Hero TaleAmir is a writer, and his storytelling begins one day when, while reading to Hassan, he departs from the written page and makes up his own story. After the attack on Hassan, Amir finds solace in books and writing. For his 13th birthday, Rahim gives him a blank leather-bound book in which to write his stories. When Amir finishes high school in America and plans to go to college, he studies creative writing despite Baba’s disapproval, determining to no longer sacrifice for him. His first novel is a father-son story, and by the time Rahim summons Amir to Pakistan, he is already a successful author.
60Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The storytelling motif and the Hero TaleOral storytelling, most notably as gossip, is another key motif. Growing up, Amir constantly hears stories from friends, relatives, acquaintances, about Baba’s prowess, his strength, his courage, his generosity. When Baba throws a thirteenth birthday bash for Amir, Amir reports that “I had to greet each of the guests personally—Baba made sure of that; no one was going to gossip the next day about how he’d raised a son with no manners.“Years later, when Amir begins to strike up an acquaintance with Soraya at the weekly San Jose swap meet, where both families have established booths in the Afghan corner of the flea market, Soraya’s father warns Amir to adhere to Afghan propriety. “It’s my duty to remind you that you are among peers in this flea market. … You see, everyone here is a storyteller.“
61Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The storytelling motif and the Hero TaleTelling the truth, knowing and being known, are also important aspects of storytelling in the novel. The night that Amir lies awake and realizes he is the monster in the lake, he is in a room full of sleeping relatives, including Baba. He says to the darkness, “I watched Hassan get raped.“ No one responds. “A part of me was hoping someone would wake up and hear, so I wouldn’t have to live with this lie anymore.“ Later, when Ali tells Baba that he and Hassan are leaving, Amir realized Ali knows everything. “Strangely, I was glad that someone knew me for who I really was; I was tired of pretending.“
62Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The storytelling motif and the Hero TaleBefore Soraya and Amir get engaged, she confesses to him that she once ran off with a man to whom she wasn’t married, shaming her parents and bringing a stroke on her mother. She feels that she owes Amir the truth before they marry and is afraid he will change his mind. But Amir knows that he has no grounds to hold Soraya’s past against her. He envies Soraya’s deliverance from her secret and almost reveals his own, but cannot bring himself to do it.Fifteen years later, after Amir has retrieved Sohrab from the clutches of the Taliban and has decided to take him back to America with him, he tells Soraya everything on the telephone: about Hassan parentage, the incident in the alley, the years of deception. “As I spoke, I felt something lifting off my chest.“ From that point on, Amir shuns deception.
63Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The storytelling motif and the Hero TaleBack in America, Soraya’s father demands to know what he will tell people when they ask why “a Hazara boy“ is living with his daughter. Amir responds matter-of-factly:“You see, General Sahib, my father slept with his servant’s wife. She bore him a son named Hassan. Hassan is dead now. That boy sleeping on the couch is Hassan’s son. He’s my nephew. That’s what you tell people when they ask.“They were all staring at me.“And one more thing, General Sahib,“ I said. “You will never again refer to him as ’Hazara boy’ in my presence. He has a name and it’s Sohrab.“He has a name – a good name – the name of a champion. In this novel, Amir is giving Hassan a name. A Persian hero is no hero unless someone tells his story.
64Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The storytelling motif and the Hero TaleBriony tells Robbie’s story to rehabilitate his name, making him the hero of Dunkirk, but she also tells the story for her own atonement. Ironically, Amir cannot tell Hassan’s story without revealing his own shame, and in so doing, he also frees himself of his past.Ostensibly, the redemptive narrative moment occurs when Amir atones for his former cowardice by sacrificing himself in battle with Assef for Hassan’s son. But just as with Briony, the more significant act of redemption is the writing of a story that awards to Hassan his true status as a timeless hero.
65Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The Hero Tale and the tale of a nationJust as Atonement encompasses England’s traumatic 20th Century, The Kite Runner also attempts to speak for a nation. Baba represents the flawed Persian hero, and Hassan and Amir can be viewed as his bifurcated self – Hassan the ideal and Amir the flawed. At the beginning of the novel, Amir tells us that “to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy with thin-boned frame, a shaved head, and low-set ears, a boy with a Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile.“ This sentence may be in part a jab at those who would say that Afghanistan belongs to the Pashtuns and / or the Tajiks – but not the Hazaras. It is certainly an expression of affection and nostalgia for the past. But it can also be interpreted on the symbolic level as a claim to tell the nation’s story.
66Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The Hero Tale and the tale of a nationSexuality plays a prominent role in The Kite Runner: adultery, rape, homosexual rape, pedophilia, transvestitism. At first glance this might be interpreted as merely a concession to Western audience appeal. However, the research of Margaret Mills reveals that sexuality plays a prominent and metaphorical role in Afghan folktales. Her book Rhetorics and Politics in Afghan Traditional Storytelling details themes of oppression, just and unjust rulers, loyalty, honour and social responsibility. A similar contention could be made for the sexual aggression and delinquency in The Kite Runner. In this novel we receive a picture of a nation both victimized from without by aggressors and torn from within by profound and tragic defects.
67Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The Hero Tale and the tale of a nationSexuality also plays a prominent role in Atonement: not only the explicit adultery and rape of Part 1, but even an undertone of pedophilia and perversion that alludes to a long history of British social repression. While far from being a nation as victimized and scarred as Afghanistan, the tensions of Britain’s class ridden society were profoundly focused by WW2. Like Hosseini, McEwan sublimates much of this through his own cultural traditions, though clearly literary allusions to D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf are far more recognisable to Western readers than an Afghani oral tradition.
68Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The Hero Tale and the tale of a nationReturning to Kabul in search of Sohrab, Amir is shocked by the changes. Seeing nothing but rubble and beggars everywhere, he comments when he visits the home he grew up in: “Like so much else in Kabul, my father’s house was the picture of fallen splendor.“ Written in the wake of Arab and Turkic conquests, the Shahnamah similarly laments Iran’s former splendor. In his essay “Ferdowsi and the Art of the Tragic Epic“ Amin Banini writes that the “overriding tragic fact of the poet’s life is that the glory of which he sings is no more.“[*][*] In Persian Literature. New York: The Persian Heritage Foundation, 1988, p.115.
69Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The Hero Tale and the tale of a nationIn hospital recovering from his suicide attempt, Sohrab tells Amir he wants his old life back.Your old life, I thought. My old life too. I played in the same yard, Sohrab. I lived in the same house. But the grass is dead and a stranger’s jeep is parked in the driveway of our house, pissing oil all over the asphalt. Our old life is gone, Sohrab, and everyone in it is either dead or dying.A similar lament can be heard in Atonement: in both the waste of the war years and also Briony’s return to the Tallis estate in the epilogue. The epic historical sweep of both novels carries with it a conventional sense of loss and time’s passing, though unlike The Kite Runner there is perhaps a greater sense of the necessity of social change.
70Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner The Hero Tale and the tale of a nationKite Runner is a lament for what used to be and can never be regained. That is not to say that Afghanistan is without hope. On the contrary, Hosseini’s use of the wonder tale genre, perhaps more than any overt statement in the narrative, gives us hope, because we know that in such a tale, the hero lives happily ever after. Amir tells us, “If someone were to ask me today whether the story of Hassan, Sohrab, and me ends with happiness, I wouldn’t know what to say. … Does anybody’s? … I wouldn’t know how to answer that question. Despite the matter of last Sunday’s tiny miracle.“
71Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Nevertheless, despite the haunting question hanging in our minds, Hosseini chooses to end on the note of the miracle. Recounting how he and Soraya took Sohrab to the park for the Persian New Year festival on the first day of spring, Amir tells Sohrab how Hassan had been the best kite runner in the city. When he looks down at Sohrab, he sees the faintest hint of a smile, asking him, “Do you want me to run that kite for you?“ When Sohrab gives an almost imperceptible nod, Amir answers with, “For you, a thousand times over.“
72Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner Is this the declaration of a devoted patriot far from his country – a country wounded and traumatized like Sohrab? It is, nevertheless, a country with the blood of warriors running in its veins. In Sohrab, the son of heroes flawed and ideal, we receive a hint – just the faintest hint – of hope for recovery.Or is this an example of a novel “where, for all [its] dark insights, …there [is] someone walking away and bending to pick up a flower“?
73Intertextuality as assimilation of the ‘multicultural epic’: The Kite Runner How do characterisation and the bildungsroman genre fail The Kite Runner in its attempt to deal justly with Afghani culture within Western (American) modes of narrative?The following ideas are abridged from Sarah Hunt’s English and Comparative Literary Studies Senior Comprehensive Project “Can the West Read? Western Readers, Orientalist Stereotypes, and the Sensational Response to The Kite Runner“, Occidental College, 20 March student/18
74OrientalismThe Egyptian born postcolonial theorist Edward Said unveiled the centuries-long essentializing project of the West in its dealings with the East, particularly the Muslim world in the Middle East. He calls this identity project “Orientalism,“ one which divided the world into the superior West (cultured, wealthy, masculine) and the inferior East (philistine, indigent, feminine).
75OrientalismLeft: 1980 cover of Said’s book with The Snake Charmer by Jean-Léon Gérôme, oil on canvas, 1870, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown.Right: Odalisque with a Slave, Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, oil on canvas, , Harvard University Art Museum.
76Orientalism post 9/11In addition to government practices that defined Americans and Arabs/Muslims as binary opposites, government and media discourses relied on old Orientalist tropes that positioned American national identity as democratic, modern, and free and the Middle East as primitive, barbaric, and oppressiveEvelyn Alsultany, “Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity through Nonprofit Advertising Post-9/11.“ American Quarterly 59.3 (2007)
77OrientalismThe term “orientalism“ as Said defines it in his 1978 introduction, is “a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western experience“. It is important to note that the concept of Orientalism is an ideological creation that, in Said’s words again, is “based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ’the Orient’ and (most of the time) ’the Occident’“. This ideological creation essentially allows the West to approach and deal with the “otherness“ of the Orient and their culture, customs, and beliefs.
78OrientalismIn his book Orientalism, Said uses a metaphor provided by Evelyn Baring, Lord Cromer (England’s representative in Egypt from 1882 to 1907), to show how viewing the Orient as a backdrop for the needs of the West is both a Western stereotype of the Orient, and representative of the West using the East for a Western benefit:
79The Orientalist’s vision of Western Imperial Power Cromer envisions a seat of power in the West, and radiating out from it towards the East a great embracing machine, sustaining the central authority yet commanded by it. What the machine’s branches feed into it in the East — human material, material wealth, knowledge, what have you — is processed by the machine, then converted into more power.Edward Said
80The Orientalist’s vision of Western Imperial Power The specialist does the immediate translation of mere Oriental matter into useful substance: the Oriental becomes, for example, a subject race, an example of an ’Oriental’ mentality, all for the enhancement of the ’authority’ at home. ’Local interests’ are Orientalist special interests, the ’central authority’ is the general interest of the imperial society as a wholeEdward Said
81The Orientalist’s vision of Western Imperial Power … the Orient was always in the position both of outsider and of incorporated weak partner for the West. To the extent that Western scholars were aware of contemporary Orientals …, these were perceived either as silent shadows to be animated by the Orientalist, … or as a kind of cultural and intellectual proletariat useful for the Orientalist’s grander interpretative activity … as superior judge, learned man, powerful cultural will.Edward Said
82Orientalism in The Kite Runner The ways in which Western readers seek to deal with this supposed “otherness“ of the characters within The Kite Runner, particularly the protagonist Amir, actually serve to reinforce Orientalist stereotyping. As Amir’s cultural identity evolves over the course of the novel, the functions of the modern American West and a traditional Muslim world are simplified and juxtaposed, the Orient often serving as a cultural backdrop against which to create and celebrate Western identity: a representation that clearly echoes the broad Orientalist stereotypes defined by Edward Said a generation ago.
83Orientalism in The Kite Runner Whereas the novel encourages Western readers to believe they are creating a “bridge of understanding“ between themselves and Afghan culture, they are actually identifying with a stereotypical, or perhaps “orientalist,“ way of understanding the relationship between the East and the West. The historic problem of Orientalist stereotyping is thus sustained by means of the literary process of characterization, because Western readers encounter such stereotypes of developmental and hierarchal difference through the novel’s narrative logic, as both normative and commendable.
84Orientalism in The Kite Runner Additionally, by recognizing and identifying the Western self within this “othered“ character, it becomes clear that despite a foreign background, Amir isn’t actually foreign or othered at all; he has been constructed of the same cultural and political materials as Western readers themselves. Thus Hosseini’s foreigner-as-protagonist Amir actually becomes less and less “foreign“ to the Western reader over the course of the novel, beginning to function as a sort of extension of the imperial self by using the East, in all its forms, for his own Westernized benefit.
85Orientalism in The Kite Runner While Western readers attempt to deal with the “otherness“ of Amir through self-recognition, they experience a converse type of identification with Assef. Instead of finding a reflection of themselves within Assef, they come to find a character that is, to use Alsultany’s words, “primitive, barbaric, and oppressive“: an antithesis to liberal Western ideologies. Therefore, by identifying Assef as a foreign character who also happens to represent the opposite of everything they know themselves to be, Western readers are likely to rely on reassuring Orientalist stereotypes to cast Assef into a position of Oriental inferiority.
86Orientalism in The Kite Runner Orientalist stereotypes, associating Oriental characters with inferiority to their Western counterparts, allows the Orient to be used as a “subject“ for an overall Western benefit. In this case, the characterisation of Assef is used as a backdrop for Amir’s westernisation, serving as a point of reference for the progress and development of Amir’s Western identity throughout the course of the novel.
87Orientalism in The Kite Runner Additionally, whereas Amir becomes a more modern, liberal, Western character within the structure of the bildungsroman, Assef only develops by becoming an increasingly cartoonish and villainous “Oriental“ character. The pitting of Amir and Assef against one another ultimately creates a system of binary opposition, which inflames the differences between the two opposites and ultimately sustains the dominance of Western power structures over the East.
88Is Hosseini an Orientalist? If the Orient can only exist in relation to the West’s “powerful cultural will“ as an “incorporated weak partner“ (Said), then relationships between characters such as Amir and Assef, as well as Hassan, surely mirror an “Orientalised“ Afghan culture. Amir in fact becomes an internal Orientalist, reflecting specifically American political and psychological needs back to Hosseini’s American readers.
89Oriental writer / Orientalist reader [An Orientalist is] anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient — and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or philologist — either in its specific or general aspectsEdward SaidBut as an Afghan-American occupying a hybrid position comprised of both East and West, Hosseini’s work resists being classified as Orientalist — he only assists the imperial machine; he is not the imperial machine itself.
90Oriental writer / Orientalist reader In other words, although The Kite Runner may not have been intended to so neatly satisfy the Western structure of the bildungsroman, with a surrogate Western protagonist-as-foreigner, the Western reader unconsciously interprets the novel this way, regardless of the intention of the author.
91bildungsromanThe coming-of-age story involves the maturation from child to adult by means of a journey, typically defined by an acquisition of education, which leads to a confrontation of one’s past, recognition of familial guilt and burdens, and finally, a fuller awareness of one’s self and eventual accommodation into society.
92bildungsromanSince it is widely known as a European narrative genre present in many English novels, the presence of the bildungsroman structure in The Kite Runner functions to connect these “foreign“ tales with the structure of a familiar one in order to assist a Western reader in understanding the Orient – yet another reason why the novel resonates so strongly with Western readers.
93bildungsromanIsabel Allende used the same genre in her second novel Eva Luna to negotiate a similar cultural cross-over between North (Europeans) and South (Latin-Americans), colonisers and colonised, etc. In her novel, she used a Northern European character displaced by war in parallel with its Latin-American protagonist, to enable multiple crossings over the ’colonial divide’.
94bildungsromanWhile McEwan’s use of the bildungsroman in Atonement seems to be quite straightforward, Briony’s particular maturation from child to adult perfectly fitting every element of the genre, the ambiguity of her relationship to narrative truth upsets our easy acceptance of its ideology of identity formation. Like Citizen Kane, there are more than one discrete Briony Tallis in the novel.
95Orientalist intertextuality: Kim and The Kite Runner (look at mooi!) Rudyard Kipling’s 1901 novel Kim uses a foreigner-as-protagonist in a similar way to The Kite Runner: both “foreign“ protagonists function as internal Orientalists, assisting the reader by providing a familiar lens through which the East can be seen. In Kipling’s novel, the protagonist Kim is living in India as the orphan son of an Irish soldier. Although he is marked by his dark skin and described as “burned black as any native,“ Kipling reinforces the fact that Kim is “white – a poor white of the very poorest“ (Kipling 49).
96Orientalist intertextuality: Kim and The Kite Runner (look at mooi!) His occupation of both Eastern and Western spheres grants him access to both cultures, and Kipling makes it a point to show how Kim can, with “chameleon-like“ dexterity, switch between the two. This hybrid aspect of Kim actually enables him to work as a powerful internal Orientalist. However, one important difference between Kim and The Kite Runner is that even though both characters show a movement along a spectrum from East towards West, Hosseini’s Amir retains part of his Afghan identity even at the very end of the novel. Meanwhile, Kipling insists on keeping Kim genetically and culturally “white“ even after he reaches a point of maturation at the end of Kim.
97Cultural Identity in The Kite Runner The major markers of cultural identity that are confronted throughout Amir’s and Assef’s journeys of cultural formation are:ethnic divisions and tensionsfriendship and loyaltyreligion and redemption
98Cultural Identity in The Kite Runner Each of these markers is individually important, yet they are at times intricately interwoven. The connection of ethnic divisions to friendship and loyalty in particular, not only affects the two characters profoundly, but it also reinforces a “West versus East“ binary by relying upon and sustaining Orientalist stereotypes
99Paired narrative scenes #2 Atonement Part One, Chapter 1 (pp.5-6):‘But hidden drawers…’ to ‘…when he was at home.’The Kite Runner (pp.17-18):‘In school…’ to ‘…either play or watch soccer.’
100Paired narrative scenes #2 Atonement Part One, Chapter 1 (pp.5-6):There are ironies in Briony’s worry about readers speculating on her self-representation – we later discover that this is indeed the older Briony writing about her younger self – and in her assertion that ’she did not have it in her to be cruel’ (p.5), with such an ordered life denying her the possibility of wrongdoing – she manages to create chaos & destruction through the very urge that seemingly prevents her from wrongdoing: the urge to make everything neat.
101Paired narrative scenes #2 The Kite Runner (pp.17-18):The ironies in Hosseini’s use of Amir as author, which never strains our belief in the story, are limited to the boy’s characterisation as a poet in an heroic tradition who, in seeking respect from a ‘traditional’ father, fails tragically because of flaws in that very tradition. Rather than becoming an ‘escape[ ] from his father’s aloofness’(p.17), this book will attempt not only to renovate Amir’s failed masculinity, but the lost honour of himself, his father and his nation.
102Paired narrative scenes #3 Atonement Part One, Chapter 13 (pp.168-9):‘As early as the week…’ to ‘…would be put at risk.’The Kite Runner, Chapter 9 (pp.91-2):‘They’d both been crying…’ to ‘…I was tired of pretending.’
103Paired narrative scenes #3 Atonement Part One, Chapter 13 (pp.168-9):The extended investigation of the rape is compressed into a short, vital passage of reflection. Briony’s doubts about what she saw are acknowledged and we see the process by which they were quashed at the time. The image of the ‘glazed surface’ of her conviction with ‘hairline cracks’(p.168) recalls the Meissen vase, mended so they’re barely visible. Both vase & Briony’s story will come apart again later. The final image of the ‘bride-to-be’ (p.169) who has doubts before a wedding, prefigures Lola’s wedding to Paul in Part Three & recalls the marriage-centred plot of The Trials of Arabella, as well as the unsatisfactory marriages of the novel so far.INTERTEXTUALITY: In Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey , Catherine Morland accounts for her false accusations as having ’all been a voluntary, self-created delusion’. The Meissen vase alludes to the flaw in the titular bowl of Henry James’ novel The Golden Bowl (1904). Briony writes The Trials of Arabella as a lesson for Leon in how to choose his bride (cf. Austen’s P & P), but ends up writing her novel as an act of atonement.
104Paired narrative scenes #3 The Kite Runner, Chapter 9 (pp.91-2):Hassan’s confession is delivered in an episode that comes to represent not only the end of childhood, but of the old life in Afghanistan, his & Ali’s exile prefiguring Amir’s & Baba’s four pages on. Recognising Hassan’s sacrifice for what it is, Amir silently comes to ‘love[ ] him in that moment…more than [he’d] ever loved anyone’(p.92). But this silent epiphany also witnesses Baba’s repudiation of his moral code, forgiving ‘the one unforgivable sin’(p.92), as well as Amir’s own abject moral condition, from whose disguise Ali’s accusatory look frees him. The snake image underlines the scene’s evocation of the expulsion from Eden, a myth underlying the entire novel (Sohrab’s passage to America becoming Amir’s last hope of regaining Paradise).INTERTEXTUALITY: In the hero tale of Rostam and Sohrab, deception is circumstantial to both Sohrab’s birth and Rostam’s military strategy. Hassan’s honourable lie instead places the deceptions of both Amir and Baba in the worst light. Amir begins his writing career as an attempt to impress both Hassan and his father (cf. the Shanamah as tales honouring kings), but ends up writing this novel as an act of atonement for both his own and his father’s sins, as well as to give honour to the ‘poor wounded name’ of his Hazara friend Hassan.
105Worksheet for Comparative Analysis of Paired Texts “Grounds“ for comparison…What you notice in the Atonement passageWhat you notice in the Kite Runner passageWhat does the comparison reveal?Narrative POVRevelationsToneStylistic featuresNarrative contextwhere does it appear in the plot &/or narrative structure?References to other works, ideas or imagesliterary; political; artistic
106Paired narrative motifs Alongside the metafiction of his intertextuality, McEwan also draws attention to the constructed nature of his narrative by employing parallel or symmetrical motifs:Marshall’s rape of Lola takes place by the eighteenth century, crumbling, stuccoed Greek temple in the Tallis grounds with its ’row of pillars and the pediment above them’ (68).The wedding of Marshall and Lola turns out to be at a London church that looks ’like a Greek temple,’ especially its ’low portico with white columns beneath a clock tower of harmonious proportions’ (304). Separated by five years, the rape and marriage are brought into shocking juxtaposition by purely narrative means.The last occasion on which Briony encounters the Marshalls at the end of the book takes place outside the Imperial War Museum which echoes the other two buildings in being based on Greek temple design and featuring columns and a portico. Behind the neo-classical facades that come to represent the ’mausoleum of their marriage’ (307) lurk respectively ruin, a joint lie, and the destructive memories of a war from which Marshall made his fortune. [NB: Blake’s ’marriage hearse’]Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
107Paired architectural motifs Chiswick House and GardensMcEwan uses very particular references to architectural & landscape design in his characterisation of the Tallis family estate as a setting for the novel (p.18 & pp ). In her blog, architectural writer Elizabeth Hornbeck comments that McEwan’s elaborate description of the island temple advances his work by:describing the scene where the novel’s central crime(s) will take place on the night the twins run away and managing in passing to associate it with delinquent behavior;using architectural history to position the Tallis family within the landed aristocracy, the 18th century patrons for these Adam style houses (though only one half of the family is aristocratic; the other belongs to the nouveau riche, descended from a grandfather “who made the family fortune with a series of patents on padlocks, bolts, latches and hasps“ – a subtle gesture towards Briony’s fallible desire for secrets and obsessive tidiness;creating a metaphor for the Tallis family’s descent, being a time-honored theme in British literature: the degeneracy of Britain’s aristocracy;alluding to the situation of the children in the novel, who suffer because of the adults’ neglect, much like this temple has been abandoned by its parent, the vanished Adam house.Stationary Nomad: Journeys in Visual Culture, Elizabeth Hornbeck (2002)