The Use Of Imagery In The Kite Runner
Narrative techniques are the strategies that writers employ in their work in order to strengthen the depth and emotional response of the reader to the events in the story. The way an author tells a story is as essential as the story itself. In The Kite Runner (2003) by Khaled Hosseini, employs some prominent strategies of narration to rejuvenate the story of Amir’s struggle for redemption after betraying his loyal friend Hassan and attempting to amend his guilt by rescuing Hassan’s son, Sohrab from getting sexually exploited. Hosseini has employed literary devices such as symbolism, imagery, flashback and myths.
Hosseini introduces “kites” as the central symbol in the novel. In the ancient times, kites symbolized freedom, prophecy and fate. These ideas can be applied to the characters and actions in The Kite Runner. As described in the novel, the Afghan kites with their glass strings symbolize the binary between ‘beauty’ and ‘violence’. It denotes the war torn people of Afghanistan in hoping for their essential right to freedom, while Amir and Hassan seek to liberate themselves from the ethnic and racial ethos dominating the interpersonal and social relationship in Afghanistan. There are two main kite fights in the novel: the tournament Amir wins and at the end when Amir flies the kite for Sohrab. The kites also represent Amir and Hassan but also symbolize the juxtaposition of roles- the role of the kite runner shifts from Hassan to Amir. Thus, kites also symbolize the inter-relationship between betrayal and redemption. The ‘pomegranate tree’s’ symbolism, Amir and Hassan are young and close, they carve their names on the tree, and later it bears fruit – signifying ‘healthy friendship.’ Some years later, after Hassan dies, the pomegranate tree still lives but no longer bears fruit. It has become ‘barren’ just like the state of their friendship after Amir’s betrayal. The tree symbolizes a unifying force between Amir and Hassan but also serves as a source of division. Amir wants Hassan to hit him with the pomegranate fruit in order to inflict a physical punishment and lessen his guilt; instead, Hassan breaks the fruit over his own head.
The use of ‘slingshot’ as a symbol represents the ‘two generations,’ the childhood as well as the adulthood where one needs to stand up for what is right. In the novel, Hassan and Sohrab both use a slingshot to protect themselves and to stop Assef from inflicting them harm, although Hassan only uses to threaten but Sohrab actually inflicts pain on Assef at the end of the story. The slingshot plays a vital role in Amir’s life. It is the slingshot that saves him and Hassan from Assef. Finally Sohrab’s use of the slingshot saves Amir and himself escape from Assef.
Another symbolism incorporated by Hosseini is the myth of Rostam and Sohrab. In the myth of Rostam and Sohrab, the character of Rostam, who acts dishonorably toward the king, symbolizes Amir. The character of Sohrab, who does not know who his father is, and who meets an untimely death, symbolizes Hassan. In the novel, Amir spends most of his life trying to forget Hassan because of his guilt. Yet only when he gets a physical reminder of his only best friend; He is able to be at peace with his own self. The scar Amir gets after being beaten by Assef leaves a “hare-lip’ physically resembling like his half-brother, Hassan. The new identity given by Assef in his quest to rescue Sohrab symbolizes his brotherhood with Hassan.
Imagery plays a fundamental role in The Kite Runner (2003). Imagery is the ‘descriptive languages that describe sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, or feel.’ The imagery helps the reader feel like they are in the story. The following are some examples of various types of imagery used by Hosseini in The Kite Runner (2003) to cite a few:
- Auditory image: “It made a sound like a paper bird flapping its wings. Hassan clapped his hands, whistled, and ran back to me” (Hosseini, 2003, p.59)
- Visual image: “A breeze stirs the grass and Hassan lets the spool roll. The kites spins, dips, steadies” (Hosseini. 2003, p.113).
- Olfactory image: “The smell of steamed ‘mantu’ and fried ‘pakora’ drifted from rooftops and open doors” (Hosseini, 2003, p.61).
- Tactile image: “The truth was, the room felt too hot suddenly – sweat was bursting from my pores, prickling my skin” (Hosseini, 2003, p.259).
- Gustatory image: “Rich scents, both pleasant and not so pleasant, drifted to me through the passenger window, the spicy aroma of pakora and the nihari Baba had loved so much blended…” (Hosseini, 2003, p.181).
- Kinesthetic imagery: “I hear chatter, muted sobbing, sniffling, someone moaning, someone else sighing, elevator doors opening with a bing, the operator paging someone in Urdu” (Hosseini, 2003, p.316).
Here, through this sentences, the reader can visualize, smell, hear, feel and taste the actions described.
A flashback is a literary device used by Hosseini to provide some information on events, situations, or a character’s past history. The author’s use flashbacks to disclose some important truth about a character’s past that otherwise the reader might not have known. Flashbacks are important for characterization but also for plot development or conflict and can be included in the story as a break, or blended within the story. The narrator is the main character, and is in constant analysis of a situation speaking from his or her own point of view and using first person. The following are the major instances of flashbacks encountered in the novel:
- I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek (Hosseini, 2003, p.1).
- …when I was eight, Ali was taking me to the bazaar to buy some naan. I was walking behind him, humming, trying to imitate his walk… (Hosseini, 2003, p.8).
- I remember one overcast winter day, Hassan and I were running a kite. I was chasing him through neighborhoods, hopping gutters, weaving through narrow streets…
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