Sunday, May 28, 2006

Foreshadowing symbols

This entry is my humble interpretation and analysis of Chap 5 - 8. I'll try not to make it sound too academic (though I am enjoying the process loads and am thankful for this Bookish Club, as it is through an analysis of a novel's themes, characters, plot and author's literary writing styles that one can then thoroughly savour the crimson juices of a story) and put in more personal reflection =)

For me, although this is an emotionally-stirring novel and overall a smooth read, I don't quite like it simply because the qualities given to Hassan as a boy are rather incredulous. Docile, fiercely loyal, pure and simple - but too much pathos (meaning: an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion) in the plot for me to have Hosseini portraying him as an infallible hero thus far. Like how Cinderella's Fairy Godmother appeared - a moment too good to be true, Hassan's perfect enduring spirit was too good for me. Then again, allow me to say that I am, by nature, cynical so please do not let my comments interfere with your enjoyment of the novel.

Interesting symbols of (i) wounds, (ii) the kite, (iii) dreams that foreshadowed happenings and (iv) redeeming blood:

(i) Wounds
Hassan had a cleft lip and was given a surgery by Baba that healed over time. It is ironical, however, to know that he would stop laughing with his newly-formed lips that winter. He was born with an imperfection but he came out smiling. Now that he has fully-formed lips, he stopped smiling. For Amir, his scar from his circumcision surgery was one which he would not forgive Baba for waiting until he reached 10 years of age. Looking at Hassan, Amir wished that he had a scar which would warrant some attention from Baba, and he did have a scar through Hassan in the end. Hassan's physical and emotional wound - sodomised and humiliated - gave Amir a scar which didn't heal over time. Sadly, the only difference was only that Baba wouldn't be pleased to help Amir heal the scar.

(ii) The triumphant blue kite
The blue kite which was cut by Amir symbolised the untying of the Gordian knot between Amir's love and jealousy for Hassan. It was cut loose, Hassan ran to retrieve the 'prize' ( a superficial symbol of victory for Amir over Hassan) and was humiliated in the process as he salvages the lost prize and relationship between Baba and Amir, for Amir's sake.

(iii) Dreams
Hassan's dream: Both Amir and Hassan conquered the rumours of a monster in the lake by swimming in it and the lake was named after them. However, a monster that seemed to be non-existent was actually lurking in the deep waters, as what Amir says in Chap 8. That monster is Amir, who dragged Hassan down underwater, and is also one who understood the nature of his new curse, that if he kept mum about what he had witnessed, no one would know. Superfically he appeared all right, but within his heart, he alone knew what he saw and the truth breaks him.

* Amir's dream: Lost in a snowstorm without a sense of identity when a familiar shape appears with an outstretched hand. From the deep gashes on the person's palm, blood dripped and stained the snow. It was an offer to help Amir with his loss of identity and redeem him from his situation. (this point is closely linked to the following)

(iv) Redeeming blood
As Hassan was sodomised by Assef, he had the look of a sacrifical lamb. During the last month of the Muslim Calendar, a lamb is slaughtered on Dhul Hijjah to redeem humanity from sin. This memory is the last in the chapter before Hassan appears, with blood staining the white snow black. Here, Hassan is illustrated as a lamb slaughtered to redeem Amir's sins, and this image is further enhanced with him appearing with blood spent on washing Amir's conscience clean.

However, Amir rejects Hassan's blood of repentance and forgiveness by splashing blood-red promegranates at him. Repeatedly Hassan had tried to rekindle their friendship by asking Amir to play together but the latter flatly rejected him. (see * above) And now on top of the hill, Amir demands Hassan to throw a promegranate back at him, and unexpectedly, Hassan picks up a promegranate and offers it to him - '"There," he croaked, red dripping down his face like blood. "Are you satisfied? Do you feel better?"' Hassan's behaviour is portrayed like the Christians' sacrificial Jesus who shedded his blood for mankind with unconditional love. It is understandable that Amir feels worse at not being reprimanded for his cowardice, for human behaviour understands that the wages of sin is death, or karma; retribution.

The numerous symbols present in Chap 5 - 8 foreshadowed incidents which would happen and also emphasised Hassan's role in Amir's life to further enhance the pathos of the story. The most significant symbol for me is Amir's dream of a bleeding outstretched hand staining the snow, which I immediatedly pulled together the incident of Hassan bleeding in the snow after the attack. Hosseini then merges the image of a helping hand with Hassan's look of a sacrifical lamb, bleeding in a vain attempt and offer to rescue our fallen protagonist.


Blogger marie thought ...

Hmm, you got a point there. There are at times, when we look back to the past and we tend to see it with rose-tinted glasses. We tend to remember the good times and forget the bad ones, self-defense mechanism in play perhaps? Amir, full of guilt towards Hassan, may have unconsciously recalled only Hassan's unconditional affection towards him, making him sound almost 'saint-like'. just a thought here.

12:29 am  
Blogger shaz thought ...

I kinda agree with marie. It could be guilt that makes Amir recall Hassan the way he has. Or like Syl says, a flaw in Hosseini's writing style. Go figure.

9:01 am  
Blogger yeng thought ...

Perhaps Hosseini wanted to portray Hassan more altruistically to contrast with Amir more clearly so that we can understand the immense guilt Amir feels for ill-treating such a loyal comrade.

12:57 pm  
Blogger shaz thought ...

I agree with the very Christiany theme that creeps into this chapter. Another place where I have seen this is 'the memory' bit where a rooster crows and Amir withdraws his hand. Very much like Simon's act of cowadice at Christ's passion. I have a strange feeling the author's christian. :)

1:39 am  
Blogger SeaLs thought ...

Yeah, I agree with all 3 comments. That Hassan is portrayed almost saint-like in contrast to Amir to display the roles of 'saviour' and 'sinner'.

At the same time, it is because I didn't feel that Amir was viewing his past as a kid, that's why I am harsh on Hosseini's writing style. From the start, and all the things which happened seemed to be coming from an adult-Amir's point of view.

If Hosseini had written CHap 1 - 8 in a child-like manner, then readers would have easily recognised and deemed the narration of the past more credible. This is because as children, significant events/objects/people would likely to be white or black, right or wrong. Just like Amir - sinner, Hassan - perfect saint.

1:41 am  

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