Opening Chapter of ‘the Kite Runner’ with the Opening of ‘the Great Gatsby’
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Both Hosseini and Fitzgerald use their opening chapter to introduce their narrative techniques to entice the reader. In the opening chapter of The Kite Runner Hosseini uses a reflective tone in the narrative to plant the seeds of three prominent themes in the novel: guilt, betrayal and atonement. Similarly Fitzgerald tells the story in the opening chapter of The Great Gatsby by introducing Nick as a first person narrator, telling the story in retrospect, Fitzgerald also lays the foundations for both a love story and a 20th century tragedy in the first chapter. With hindsight one can see that Hosseini uses subtle juxtapositions in the opening chapter to accentuate the extent of Amir’s guilt. Hosseini uses idyllic and utopian descriptions of San Francisco ‘sun sparkled on the water where dozens of miniature boats sailed, propelled by a crisp breeze’ which contrasts notably with the feelings of self-disgust and remorse that consume Amir’s feelings which are so strong that they ultimately force him to leave the freedom and ‘utopia’ of the city he now calls ‘home’ and return to the turmoil and instability of Afghanistan.
On the other hand, the setting of the opening chapter of the Great Gatsby is key in Fitzgerald’s emphasis of the East Egg persona. The Buchanan household is a “Georgian colonial mansion immediately gives the impression of settled aristocracy in East Egg, and allows the reader to easily place Tom Buchanan, and later Daisy and Jordan firmly amongst the well-bred upper social classes. Fitzgerald’s placement of the “courtesy bay” between the two Eggs allows him to further reinforce the importance of the divide between the two societies. The setting is used to closely mimic the story; East and West Egg are geographically close, yet a firm social and natural line is drawn between them. analogously to Hosseini’s Kite Runner; Afghanistan and San Francisco are geographically very far apart; but yet again the social line is very clearly drawn on the lives people lead in each setting ‘I thought about the life I lived until the winter of 1975’
Alongside Amir, the character of Rahim Khan is also introduced in the opening chapter. He is characterised in a prophet-like manner, Rahim is used in the opening chapter as a plot device. Through his phone call to Amir, Rahim acts as the catalyst in forcing Amir to come to terms with his past and his immorality – ‘I knew it wasn’t just Rahim Khan on the line. It was my past of unatoned sins’. Rahim is used as a medium to connect Amir with the past he has tried to bury and forces him into the realisation that he has been ‘peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years’. Moreover, the languages used by Fitzgerald in chapter one of the Great Gatsby is significant. The initial description of Tom Buchanan immediately gives the reader the impression that he epitomises the confident and rich image of the East Egg aristocracy – “Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face”.
The appearances of the Buchanan household and its denizens – “cheerful red and white”, “They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering” are a prime example of the idealistic image of aristocratic grace and taste which Fitzgerald deliberately creates to contrast with Gatsby’s garish and ostentatious alternative. Fitzgerald uses poetic prose is used to emphasise this grace – “then rippled over the wine-colour rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea. both writers use characterisation in their descriptions of new characters into the story to enhance the status the reader views them to be, Fitzgerald and Hosseini may have used this device to put forward how important the status of these characters are whether that is through respect or through wealth.
The structure of the chapter is an ideal example of how Fitzgerald uses Nick as a narrator to remove pace from certain areas of the novel, and fill these voids with Nick’s thoughts and judgements. Nick takes time in describing and effectively judging his experiences with the Buchanan’s at both the beginning and end of the chapter, in which he comments “I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away” After Nick’s collection of thoughts and self description, Fitzgerald plunges him, as a narrator into the busy, upper class discussions of Tom, Daisy and Jordan. The pace and socially privileged refinement and carelessness of their conversations, quickly alternating from unimportant, trivial matter such as “Do you want to hear about the Butler’s nose?” to “And I hope she’ll be a fool. That’s the best thing a girl in this world can be – a beautiful little fool”.
However, the opening chapter of The Kite runner uses a circular structure; it both starts and ends with the currently unnamed Amir alluding to a yet-unknown event which ‘made me what I am today’. Despite providing specific details such as the when, ‘winter of 1975’, and the where, ‘behind a crumbling mud wall’, Hosseini, through the first-person perspective of Amir, neglects to provide the ‘what’ thus shrouding the chapter in a purposeful ambiguity no doubt used to entice the reader. The details that Hosseini is willing to confide are provided with a precision which works to emphasise the character-shaping significance of the foreshadowed event. The writers used the structure of the first chapter to make the reader question the reliability of the narrator as well as help building the opinion of the narrator and the events about to unfold.
In conclusion although they both write in retrospect through the use of first person narrative to entice the reader, the tone and language they use to describe the setting varies hugely even though they both comment on the different social standings within the stories.