The Kite is a typical modern short story written by Somerset Maugham. Maugham occupies a significant place in the realm of modem short story writers. He is a modern both in his attitude to language and experience. In this story, he presents a psychological pattern of the movement of characters around the kite. The author in this story deals with the development of the amorous relationship of Herbert with Betty Bevan leading to hasty marriage. But in the end, there develops a jealousy in the heart of Bevan for the kite which takes most of his beloved’s time. Maugham, here, narrates the tragic story of the close of their married life.
Maugham is primarily an artist if the communication of experience is the essence of art but in every art idea or feeling must be communicated in a dramatic way. Dramatic technique gives objective tone to the art. In THE KITE, Maugham mainly appears as a writer of dramatic short story. He does not tell the story himself. For this purpose, he creates Ned Preston as his friend telling the story. The narrative method gives the objectivity which is the first requisite of any art.
With the advancement of science and technology, life in the modern world has become complex and complicated. It has led to the break of sequence of life. It is for this reason, modern artists are not guided by artificial distinction of time. To them, time is fluid. Any division of time between past, present and future is arbitrary. Maugham also seems to be influenced by the modern concept of time. The story begins in an abrupt dramatic manner from the end:
“He felt his wife and the court ordered him to pay so much a week in alimony and he is absolutely refused to pay it.”
Thus, we see THE KITE is a proto-type of modern short story.
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The development of psychology in the modern world has impelled the artists to present the atmosphere of the mind of the Characters. Maugham has also been greatly influenced by the science of psychology. In these stories, he presents the complex pattern of the relationship in which the characters are engaged. In THE KITE Maugham deals with the love affairs of the typist girl and an accountant and its pre-mature end. The typist girl feels jealous of the kite because it stands between herself and her beloved. It is for this reason that she becomes envious of the kite and smashes it. When examined psychologically, this envy seems not to be out of place. Maugham has artistically presented the insane jealousy of the typist girl for Herbert’s kite.
Suspense is the excitement of curiosity. It is an important feature of every short story. In THE KITE, Maugham succeeds in maintaining suspense by using a new narrative technique. It is a strange story. Maugham explains the reason for writing it. He has put it in black and white with one hope. Somebody would understand it out, he himself might get a clearer grasp and comprehension of certain aspects. However, there is one surmise. Before telling the story, the writer wants to clarify one more fact. The story is not his ‘story. It was related to him. He himself does not know any of the characters of the story. The name of the friend was Ned Preston. Once, the writer and Ned Preston were dining together at the Cafe Royal. They were sitting over Coffee. They were drinking. They were smoking also. Ned Preston was smoking against his doctor’s orders. In this place and in such an atmosphere Ned related the story to the writer.
In this story, there are four characters. All belong to the same family. There is the father Samuel Sunbury and the mother is Beatrice Sunbury, Herbert Sunbury is their son. Herbert is the hero of the story. He married a girl named Miss Bevan. But in the story, she is called’ Betty. Betty is, therefore, the daughter-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. Sunbury. The conflict between Herbert and Betty arises over kite flying. Finally there is separation between the husband and wife. Herbert was thrown in prison. He has separated from his wife. Yet he had refused to pay her any allowance. He had defined the orders of the court. Hence, he was in prison. The only fault of his wife was that she had smashed a kite. Herbert Sunbury was prepared to remain in jail but he was not ready to pay a single penny to his wife. He rather took delight in thinking that she was starving. He was a perfectly well-behaved man. He created no trouble in jail. He worked well and seemed happy.
It is very interesting and essential to watch the birth and growth of the conflict in this story. The causes of the conflict are embedded in mysteries of human nature. Maugham, the writer of the story openly confesses that he has failed to bind out a satisfactory explanation of the central event of the story. Thus, this story is a superb specimen of Maugham’s artistic success in the field of modern short story.