How does Hosseini begin the story of ‘The Kite Runner’?

The novel’s opening establishes a highly personal, intimate first person narrative voice that has distinctive qualities. It is very much a speaking voice, with fragmented sentences (‘Because the past claws its way out’) that lend it an informal, conversational quality. It is also serious and reflective in tone: ‘I became what I am today…’ and ‘I thought of the life I had lived…’ are pensive, perhaps heavy. We may sense a cathartic quality beneath the surface of the language, as if the narrator is somehow cleansing himself of past events through the act of storytelling.

Secondly, there are a number of unanswered questions posed by the beginning, most obviously: What was it that happened on that day in the winter of 1975? How did it ‘change everything’? The answers are hinted at; we can infer from the ‘overcast’ and ‘frigid’ weather that it was a negative experience, and the mention of a ‘past of unatoned sins’ hints at a guilty act, a shameful ‘sin’ of unspeakable nature. We must continue reading to find out the precise nature of this sin.

In terms of setting, it is clear that we are in the real world – references to actual places such as ‘Golden Gate Park’ in ‘San Francisco’ make this clear. It is not explicitly stated, but we may well deduce that the past events of the winter of 1975 occurred in either Kabul or Pakistan, as someone called ‘Rahim Khan’, calling from Pakistan, is depicted as synonymous with ‘my past of unatoned sins.’ The two settings are interesting; readers may well detect a tension between the East and West, or, more specifically, make connections with the recent conflict between America and Afghanistan.

There is a gap of 26 years between the ‘today’ of the narrative’s frame and the events that form the main plot. This considerably lengthy period of time may lead us to presume that the novel will tell the story of those 26 years, and to deduce that the narrator – if 12 years old in 1975 – is now 38 as he tells it.

Other characters are mentioned briefly – we are told that Rahim Khan is a ‘friend’ and that Hassan is (was?) ‘the hare-lipped kite runner’. Who exactly Baba is remains unclear for now. Interestingly, there are the voices of both Rahim Khan on the telephone in the present and Hassan ‘whispering’ from the past. Both have a memorable, haunting quality, as if their speakers are communicating from a far away time and place.

Finally, the ‘kite runner’ of the novel’s title is revealed, and the image of the kites in the sky acts as the catalyst for Amir’s memories. They are depicted as vivid and free – ‘high above the trees’ and ‘floating side by side’, hinting at some of the novel’s key themes of childhood, freedom and friendship.

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Robert Frost: Section A part b

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As there are no past exam questions about Robert Frost for you to complete as part of your preparations, you will have to do a bit of extra work and consider possible questions that may be in Section A of the exam.

You know what Section A part a will be:

Write about the ways Frost tells the story in One Of The Poems We Have Studied.

Preparing for this part of the exam is relatively straightforward. Re-read the notes we have made in class, and then have a go. Give yourself half an hour. Remember that you are being assessed on your response to language, structure and form, so this part of the exam is all about close reading.

To prepare for Section A part b, you should bear in mind that you will be asked to respond to someone’s opinion of Frost’s poems. The question will be worded something like this:

How far would you agree with the view that…
Some readers think that… How do you respond to this view?
Readers have responded differently to the idea that… How do you respond?
What do you think of the view that…

Clearly, you are being asked to engage in some kind of debate. This requires you to offer more than one point of view. Avoid simply agreeing or disagreeing with the idea that is offered in the question. You should respond to it with a number of different points, which offer different insights.

Have a go at these:

How far do you agree with the view that Frost presents manual labour negatively in his poems?

Some readers consider Nature to be the dominant theme of Frost’s poetry. How do you respond to this view?

‘The most striking quality of Frost’s poems is their power to disturb.”
How do you respond?

What do you think of the view that Frost’s poems resist any one meaning?

What do you consider to be the significance of journeys in Frost’s poetry?

To what extent is it possible to sympathise with the ‘outsiders’ in Frost’s poems?

“In his poems, Frost is chiefly concerned with death, in various shapes and forms.”
What do you think of this view?

If you hand it in by Wednesday I’ll even mark it by Friday…