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Marxism and Formalism on the Kite Runner

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IntroductionMany times since his death in 1883, Karl Marx’s ideas have been dismissed as irrelevant. But, many times since, interest in his ideas has resurfaced as each new generation which challenges the unequal, unjust and exploitative nature of the capitalist system looks for ideas and a method to change the world we live in.Marx’s ideas – a body of work collectively described as Marxism – was added to by his closest collaborator Frederick Engels after Marx’s death and subsequently added to and enriched by the writings and living experience of Lenin and Trotsky who led the 1917 October Russian Revolution.For any person looking to change the world in a socialist direction the ideas of Marxism are a vital, even indispensable, tool and weapon to assist the working class in its struggle to change society.Most people who describe themselves as socialists will have at one stage or another looked at Marxist ideas and, unfortunately, some have chosen to ignore the rich experience and understanding that Marxist ideas add to an understanding of the capitalist world and how to change it.However, Marx’s ideas are once again becoming fashionable; even amongst people Marx would have regarded as his political opponents. Having been voted the thinker of the Millennium in a BBC poll in 2000, Marx has now been taken up by university professors and City analysts alike as offering one of the most modern ways to understand globalised capitalism.But, for socialists who wish to permanently remove capitalism and establish a global socialist system, we don’t look to Marxist ideas just for a method of understanding – as important as that is. Marxism helps us understand the present struggles of the working class and oppressed masses around the world and anticipate the most likely course of events in the future.Achieving such an understanding allows us to orientate correctly to political movements and economic developments and work out our plan of action in the form of appropriate slogans, demands and campaigns.The purpose of this pack is to introduce people to the ideas of Marxism, also known as scientific socialism. Like any science, the works written by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky use political and economic terminology and shorthand, which may not always be familiar to the reader in the 21st century. Also, some of Marx’s works – like the Communist Manifesto – were written over 150 years ago. Marxism has always been a living science and body of ideas since its inception and Marx would have been the first to demand that his ideas were kept as up to date as possible.The pamphlets in this pack are designed to introduce today’s new audience for Marxist ideas to them in as contemporary and easy way as possible using more modern examples and language. They cover basic areas of Marxist thought and practice including philosophy; economics; history; the state and the need for the revolutionary party.
Even though they are designed to be an easier introduction to Marxist ideas than many of the original works they are based upon, some of the terminology may still cause some difficulties. Whilst there’s always the dictionary for some of the terms, more experienced Socialist Party members will also be able to help explain and add to the material in the pamphlets.In fact, it’s recommended to ask for more discussion and explanation about the ideas in the pamphlets with Socialist Party members. Also, in each of the pamphlets is a list for further reading. Again, these will all prove worthwhile in adding to your understanding and are worth approaching, particularly if you are given assistance in what to read and added explanation by other Socialist Party Marxism and literatureThe kite runner The particular variation of language use Williams is interested in is, of course, literature. Literature, as a concept, has been debased by almost complete abstraction from its conditions of production, to the point of being identified with works expressing “immediate lived experience.” (46) Literature, like the concepts of society, economy, and culture, changed in meaning with the coming of capitalism. Previously, it had referred to a specialization out of the medieval liberal arts of rhetoric and grammar to learnedness specifically in reading. Literature was a form of learning that individuals of high social standing could achieve, a skill of reading that was a marker of a level of politeness, a social distinction. Literature, however, could be all printed works, not specifically works that were labeled “fictional” or “imaginative.” Literature’s meaning shifted to refer instead to a “taste” or “sensibility,” a marker not of the reader, but of the work itself, occurring simultaneously with the narrowing of the category of literature to fiction, and the development of the concept of “tradition” to being put in nationalistic terms, creating for the first time “national” literatures. Taste and sensibility were unifying class terms, “characteristically bourgeois categories,” which can refer not only to literature, but also manners, wine, and poetry (49). Literary criticism also became professionalized at this point, as the “conscious exercise of ‘taste’, ‘sensibility’, and ‘discrimination’. It became a significant special form of the general tendency in the concept of literature towards an emphasis on the use or (conspicuous) consumption of works, rather than on their production.” (49) In this process of professionalization of criticism, literature became a concept in order to define the object of this practice, providing a stable domain where bourgeois class sensibilities can be exercised. The narrowing of the scope of the concept of literature to imaginative or otherwise fictional works is a response to the repressive aspects of capitalist production, which increasingly takes on the form of automation, stifling human creative faculties. The concepts of art as a special province of human skill defined by imagination and sensibility, aesthetics as a specialized perception of beauty and artistic quality, and literature as the repository of fiction, seen as the bearer of “imaginative truth,” are all responses to this repression, designed to “preserve” human creativity when in everyday practical activity it was being systemically destroyed. With these new concepts, bourgeois criticism took as its task the discrimination between works that deserved the title “literature” and those which did not, based on “literary values”, particularly ones stemming from a supposedly national tradition, which defined “great” works. The Marxist theory of practical consciousness has never been applied to the realm of literature, in Williams’ estimation. Literature has in general been assimilated to ideology, expressing a particular class identity. This has had the advantage of including popular literature as something equally canonical with the “great” works as defined by bourgeois critics, but has so far failed to mount an effective attack on bourgeois concepts of literature, art, and aesthetics. Williams outlines exceptions to this situation (Lukács, the Frankfurt School, Formalism, discussed in later chapters), he concludes that an effective Marxist literary theory must challenge each of these bourgeois concepts. This challenge must begin, though, as an immanent criticism of Marxist concepts, beginning withMarxist theory mainly deals with the literary works and evaluates the works by the examining of its historical, social and economical background. Marxism evaluates the work how it is influenced by the time in which it was produced as well as social, political, economical sphere (Chowdhury, 2011). Thus, this paper will focus on: The Marxist Approach To The Kite Runner; The relationship among characters as a representation of the differences between social classes ; The relationship between Baba and Ali serve as a representation materialism versus spirituality;Baba as the representation of economic power in his society in the period of time; and Cultural and political hegemony as representation of situation in Afghanistan.Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan – America physician. He is the Afghan writer who wrote his novel in English in which he conveyed a message about Afghanistan before the world. Khaled Hosseini in his novel magnificently depicts of the social, economic, religious, and political aspects of the Afghanistan. He shows us how are the morality and honesty degraded by politically, socially, economically, and sexually in Afghanistan that can alert any conscious citizen in the world against immorality. He presents Amir and Hassan as representatives of the Afghan children through these characters Hosseini identifies thousands of Afghan children’s terrible sufferings. Amir, the narrator of The Kite Runner, is the son of a rich businessperson in Kabul. He is a Poshtun boy as well as Sunni Muslim and his best friend is of their servant’s son Hassan who is a Hazara from an ethnic minority. The novel reveals the cruelty and violence prevalent in the society against the weaker. The sadistic neighborhood bully Assef who raped Hassan because he was born in the Hazara community while Amir was present behind the wall but he failed to save Hassan because he was afraid of getting hurt. Actually, Amir behaved cowardly. Having revealed the inhuman activity Khaled Hosseini tries to pick up the grassroots power combat of Afghans to light. Amir did it because the history and traditional beliefs were more important than friendship.Amir says, “I actually aspired to cowardice, because the real reason I was running, was that Asseff was right. Nothing was free in this world. Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay to win Baba. Was it a fair price? The answer floated to my conscious mind before I could thwart it: He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?”(The kite runner 77)Amir who is a motherless young boy did it because he wants to win the heart of his father also that jealous psychology is important in this novel. Amir saw his father’s love went for Hasan who is an orphan boy with a cleft lip difficult. He conspired against Hassan and forced him to leave. It is the power struggle between Amir and Hasan. Amir is persistently battling for his father’s love and he feels that Hassan should be standing from his way.Eventually one day Hassen saved Amir bravely from the hand of Assef who was a sadistic boy. This event haunted Amir throughout his life. After a long time Amir came to know that, Hassan was his father illegitimate son and Sohrab who is son of Hasan, his nephew is in the Taliban’s captivity. Eventually, the guilt leads Amir to return to Afghanistan to rescue Hassan’s son and take him back to the United States.Assef who became a Taliban leader after his boyhood sexually abused many boys and girls in Afghanistan. Among them, an orphan boy who was a victim of his sin is Sohrab.Khaled Hosseini who depicts the political difficulties of Afghanistan in his novel and exposes how the political leaders snatch the children from the orphanage for their sexual amusement is the virtual orator of the noble.In the novel Hosseini portrays a terrible scenery of an orphanage about two hundred fifty orphans are living there but they have lack of food, cloths, clean water, and beds. The director of the orphanage Zaman informed to Amir that a Taliban official often come in to the orphanage and take the children. If he denies him one child, he takes ten.(Kite runner,50)We know that Marxist approach to literature based on the philosophy of Karl Marx. “Marx major argument was that whoever controlled the means of production in society controlled the society.”(English Literature, 89) Khaled Hosseini vividly portrays the devastating results of war. Amir and Hasan had passed their days happily, until the Soviet tanks smash their dreams. Amir and Baba flee to Pakistan and end-up in America. Khaled Hosseini drew a real picture of Afghanistan under the tyranny of the Taliban rules. Amir saw a man, selling his artificial leg in the market to feed his children. It was heart wrenching to Amir when he had seen an adulterous couple stoned to death in the stadium during the halftime of the football match. He found his town and the home both were though nearly in ruins.Many critics over the years have praised The Kite Runner for highlighting child abuse, social as well as political decadent and religious misconceptions. According to Meghna O Rauk says, “The abuse of children is rampant in all societies of the world and thus this evil requires a united effort to solve.”(A1). In addition, Meghna also describe the present condition of Afghanistan where trafficking is a main problem and the children who are trafficked are boys for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. Murry Brewster reports, “The illegal marriage of underage girls and the sexual abuse of young boys is commonplace….” (A1).When Amir met with Assef who is a powerful Taliban official to save the Sohrab from his hand informed Amir about his mission of stoning adulterers, raping the children, flogging women for wearing high heels and massacring Hazaras.In this novel, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid picture of Afghanistan that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence and economic domination. Nevertheless, even today they are not free from violence and social inequalities that continuously threaten them.I think in The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini tries to highlight the political, religious, social and power exploitations in Afghanistan. Therefore, we see that children were not only abused by the adult but also abused by the children. Hosseini expresses it through the character of Assef who raped Hassan in his childhood and as an adult, he repeatedly raped Hassan’s son Sohrab. On the other hand, we see that when the soldier was saying lavish story to Hassan about his mother then he was silent and when they went in the cinema Amir heard Hassan was croaking in the dark and his tears were sliding down his cheeks.I think Amir also is the victim of power struggle because his father was not treating him well. His father wanted him to become a violent, but Amir was a self-centered boy. He liked books but his father did not encourage him. Often he was accused of his mother’s death.In addition in The Kite Runner Sohrab was another main victim of crucial Taliban’s want. I think Khaled Hosseini skillfully portrayed Sohrab character when Sohrab was rescued from the Taliban then he thought he was the worst boy in the world and Allah would never forgive him because he was raped several times in the Taliban house. Amir had informed Sohrab of his plans to take him back in to America and he would never be sent to an orphanage again. While the US authorities informed Amir that it is not possible to take Sohrab in America Sohrab was attempting suicide. Because he was afraid to think of his past life and he was scared of that place. He thought they would hurt him again. Khaled Hosseini very masterly depicts the inner crying of Sohrab.Marxist theory mainly deals with the literary works and evaluates the works by the examining of its historical, social and economical background. Marxism evaluates the work how it is influenced by the time in which it was produced as well as social, political, economical sphere in which the author moved the psychological background of the author and the books and theories that may have influenced the author.Khaled Hosseini though he is living in America last twenty-seven years but his novel represent the historical, economical, political background of Afghanistan. Therefore, I think his novel is in the category of Marxist because his novel expresses the essence of Marxism. Hosseini uses the Marxist view of the characters to expose their racial outlook and their social exploitations.In The Kite Runner, we can see the representation of the Hazara minority who is suffering unquestionable. They are the part of Afghan history but they are dominated generation after generation. Hosseini highlighting on child abuse tries to invite the readers’ collaboration to stand against evil is frequently happening in Afghanistan.Moreover, in The Kite Runner, we can see that Taliban oppresses the people cruelly so that people do not get the opportunity to voice their thoughts. It was also the part of Afghan political environment. Hosseini also informed us in The Kite Runner about Soviet invasion that was occurred in nineteenth eighty-one in Afghanistan.Khaled Hosseini indeed a critical writer and he criticizes the malpractices and manipulations in Afghanistan.Now, trying out to apply some of the Marxist theory on The kite Runner novel“In it, I read that my people, the Pashtuns, had persecuted and oppressed the Hazaras. It said the Hazaras had tried to rise against the Pashtuns in the nineteenth century, but the Pashtuns had ‘quelled them with unspeakable violence.’ The book said that my people had killed the Hazaras, driven them from their lands, burned their homes, and sold their women. The book said part of the reason Pashtuns had oppressed the Hazaras was that Pashtuns were Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras were Shi’a. The book said a lot of things I didn’t know, things my teachers hadn’t mentioned” The history of the ethnic groups in Afghanistan Timeline of Afghanistan history Understanding some of the history of these two groups, their differences, their shared history, helps readers better understand the power differences between Amir (Pashtun) and Hasan (Hazsra). Without this historical background, Western readers may struggle to understand why Amir treats Hasan as he does, why he struggles with their friendship and differing status. This is particularly evident in chapter 4 when Amir gets pleasure from exposing Hassan’s ignorance ."Then, Baba and I drove off in his black Ford Mustang- a car that drew envious looks everywhere" This quote shows how the wealth of Amir's family affects how they are seen socially, affected by economic standards. Amir wears western clothing and is more fortunate then many, Hazan included, and because of this he is treated better then those with less then he. Amir remains untouched by the other children of the neighborhood, while Hassan, a servant who dwells in a mud hut, is terrorized by others daily, not only because he is Hazara, but because he is poor. The way the two are treated differently because of their economic class sets up the atmosphere for later events thats change their relationship, beginning with the mistreatement of Hassan and whether or not Amir will stand up for his companion. Changes in their friendship are in part to their economic standings.Formalism in LiteratureAll literary theory has as its task defining what literature is and how it should be studied. As part of this work, literary theorists are concerned with answering a number of questions, among them, what are the respective roles of the author and the reader? To what degree, if at all, should an author’s life or the historical moment in which a literary work was written be a relevant variable in the analysis and exegesis of the work? What characteristics of a text should be considered most salient in arriving at an interpretation of its meaning? What literary techniques and resources are used to establish the text, its action, and the ways in which it can be read?The different schools of literary criticism each make their own case for privileging certain aspects of a text over other characteristics, and some strains of literary theory have withstood the test of time better than others. This is the case for formalism, which is but one of many branches of literary theory. Unlike several other trends in literary theory and analysis that have emerged within the last century, formalism has remained one of the most steadfast and frequently-employed forms of literary criticism and analysis—partly because unlike feminist, postmodern, and other forms, it is less prone to changes in ideology.As a mode of examining literature, formalism appeared rather early. Formalism emerged after the 1917 Revolution in Russia (Bennett 3). Bennett writes that formalism could hardly have been considered a movement, given that the founding “members” of this school were simply a group of like-minded colleagues who met regularly to talk about literature and their particular approach to reading and interpreting texts (16). In other words, they did not necessarily intend to change the way that other people read, though this did, in fact, occur as a consequence of their theoretical production. Unlike some other more modern and contemporary movements in literature and criticism, the formalists did not even name their own movement; it was named by a critic who disagreed with formalism’s aims and arguments (Bennett 16).The key figures of the formalist movement included Roman Jakobson, Viktor Shklovsky, and Juri Tiniyanov; these core group members promoted an approach to literature that was ordered and scientific (Bennett 18). Literature, they argued, should be approached only on its own terms; there should be no external influences or considerations, such as the author’s personal characteristics or the sociopolitical and historical conditions under which the text had been written (Bennett 17). In short, it was a very formal and non-historical or author-specific way of considering works of literature that would not involve the personal history of the author, the consequences of the time period the subject matter was written in, nor the given tastes of the reading public or any other such external influences. With such a way of examining texts, it is worth mentioning that it obviously was a controversial form of criticism, especially since critics up until that point often considered the author and his or her historical and social positioning when offering insights on works. The name of their movement, formalism, was apt because their way of approaching texts was highly structured and formal. The formalists contended that it was possible to devise a methodology that could be applied to any text, and they worked to develop such a method, both individually and as a collective. What is formalism? Any introductory study into formalism relies on looking at the historical and social movements that were shaping such an emergent mode of criticism. Though considering the historical context of the birth of formalism seems contrary to the movement itself, it is important to signal that formalism was a reaction to and against Marxist literary theory. Marxist theory, consistent with Marxist political thought, was preoccupied with the roles of society in the text and the text in society (Bennett 16). Prior to formalism, literature had often been viewed as a product of political or social origins, a product which was always attached to its creator. Formalism departed from the Marxist perspective completely. The formalists did not wish to apply any other theoretical constructs—sociological, historical, psychoanalytic—to the reading of a text; rather, the text should, in their view, stand alone and be able to be understood on its own terms. To this end, the formalists proposed a method for reading a text in such a way; literary works became machines that could be tinkered with and understood if the component parts and their respective functions were known (Shklovsky 5). In fact, Shklovsky, one of the most central figures of the formalist movement, likened this methodological approach to an algebraic formula (5). Shklovsky even considered an algebraic methodology to be an “ideal expression” of the practice of literary analysis (5). To understand a text on its own terms, it was important to understand words. In turn, in order to understand words, the formalists believed that it was crucial to understand the relationship between the symbol and the object, experience, or emotion being signified. A sentence could be parsed into its respective words in order to arrive at meaning; in this way, an entire text could be understood (Bennett 17). Again, the question, what is formalism? Interestingly, the formalists were also deeply interested in the poetic properties of language. While this might seem contradictory, given their mechanical tendencies, the formalists argued that the use of poetic words and images could, if deployed effectively, cause the reader to see a familiar object or experience from a completely new perspective. In this way, language had the power to disrupt common perceptions or images taken for granted by replacing them with fresh associations. Bennett offers the following example to illustrate this point: “Take, as a brief example, the following sentence… ‘It was a sunny day and the sky was like a new sheet of blotting paper with the blue ink tipped into the middle of it’” (17). What Bennett explains is that the reader has a fixed assumption about and association with the sky being blue. Yet, written in this creative, poetic way, the reader is forced to stop and reconsider the quality of that blue, and link the color to other, fresher associations. In this way, the formalists achieved the identification of “devices through which the total structure of given works of literature might be said to defamiliarize, make strange or challenge certain dominant conceptions [and] ideologies…” (17). The image, then—the symbol, the metaphor, the simile—is important, but so too is the very unit of language itself, the word (Bennett 36). In this respect, formalists were deeply interested in the subjects of semantics and linguistics, aspects of form more than content. While the formalist movement only lasted for approximately thirty years, their arguments and areas of interest eventually became the principal features of the theorists known as structuralists, who followed the formalists in the development of a mechanistic literary theory. The formalists also influenced a group of literary theorists who are subsumed under the title of “New Criticism,” which also separated the author from the text and privileged the content of the work as the only worthwhile area for interpretative focus (Dawson 75).Ultimately, the formalists addressed all of the questions that are of interest to all literary theorists, though there are obviously those who reject the formalists’ particular set of arguments and approaches. Nonetheless, and despite the brevity of their movement, the formalists’ questioning of some of the basic and most fundamental assumptions of literary theory had a lasting impact on literary studies in general. With respect to literary production, the formalists introduced the notion of art for art’s sake, as opposed to art as a political, social, or cultural tool with specifically articulated goals. With regards to literary interpretation and theory, the formalists offered a framework for decoding and understanding texts based on the information that they contained. Various schools of literary theory continue to debate whether the formalists were justified, so to speak, in their assertions; however, the fact that these two aspects of literary theory continue to be points of unresolved contention signifies that the formalists identified fundamental literary concerns that will continue to be examined and debated for some time to come.Moving to our case study which is the kite runner, we’d try out to apply the formalist features on it:From a Formalist Perspective "The Kite Runner" Literary Analysis Formalism Redemption So what exactly is the meaning of Khaled Hosseini's novel anyway? Baba (Rahim Khan’s Letter to Amir, pg 301) Amir “A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.” Stephanie Black - Wednesday March 6th, 2013 - Ms. Fedorowicz - ENG 4U Have YOU ever written an essay based on the structural elements of a literary work? Characters? Plot? Symbols? Tone? Theme? Well then, you've taken the role of a formalist critic. [ri-demp-shuh n] Baba Amir 1. The act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or a mistake. “Your father, like you, was a tortured soul, Amir jan.” "No one ever doubted the veracity of any story about Baba." (Amir's Narrative Voice, pg 12) “A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer.” (Rahim Khan's Letter to Amir, pg 301) “There is no act more wretched than stealing, Amir" (Baba to Amir, pg 18) “That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past always claws its way out.” (Amir's Narrative Voice, pg 1) (Baba to Rahim Khan, pg 22) (Amir to Sohrab, pg 371) "There is a way to be good again." (Rahim Khan to Amir, pg 192) (Rahim Khan's Letter to Amir, pg 301) “My body was broken -- just how badly I wouldn’t find out until later-- but I felt healed. Healed at last. I laughed.” (Amir's narrative voice, pg 289) "For you a thousand times over." “…do not forget that you were a boy when it happened. A troubled little boy. You were too hard on yourself then, and you still are…” "...There is only one sin, only one. And that sin is theft."(17) Baba tells Amir that all sins are rooted to theft. For example if you kill a man, you stole his life, or if you cheated on a man with his wife then you are stealing the man of his wife. Baba isn't basing his beliefs on what everyone else thinks, but he has his own point of view on the world and the sins of the world.“During the school year. . . .Hassan stayed home and helped Ali with the day’s chores” (27). This shows how Hassan is subservient to Amir. This display of frienship dynamics, I feel, will play a role later in the book.Bibliography * Marxism and Literature, Marxist Introductions Series, London and New York, Oxford University Press, 1977. * René Wellek and Austin Warren's "Theory of Literature"I.A. Richards' "Practical Criticism" and "Principles of Literary Criticism" * Noor, R.; Hosseini, Khaled (September/December 2004). "The Kite Runner". World Literature Today 78 (3/4): 148. * Miller, David (June 7, 2013). "Khaled Hosseni author of Kite Runner talks about his mistress: Writing". Loveland Magazine. Retrieved July 31, 2013. * Wyatt, Edward (December 15, 2004). "Wrenching Tale by an Afghan Immigrant Strikes a Chord". The New York Times. Retrieved August 2, 2013. * Mclellan, D, The Thought of Karl Marx, Macmillan Press, London, 1971. * Crowley, Sharon. The Methodical Memory: Invention in Current-Traditional Rhetoric. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990. * helin, WIlliam H. "Advocating Language: An Ethical Approach to Politics in the Classroom". The Ethics of Writing Instruction. Michael Pemberton, ed. Stamford: Ablex Publishing, 2000. |

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