“The Kite” is a psychoanalytical story that explores the mother-son relationship and its complexities. In this article, we’ll see whether Hubert becomes an independent person at the end of the story or not?
This story revolves around a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and a son Herbert. Mrs. Sunbury, Herbert’s mother, had always controlled her son. When he fell in love with Betty, she played very thriftily to take her son back. In return, Betty destroyed the thing that was dear to Herbert, his kite. The story’s title is not merely based on an object used for entertainment; rather, it symbolizes Herbert. According to Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory, when a child sees something that fascinates him, he idealizes it. He wants to be like it. Similarly, the kite became an “ideal-I” for Herbert because it was the only thing Herbert had control.
The kite was the nucleus of his life; he desired to be like it; free, but controlled by a thread. The kite reflected his subjectivity. His mother had always influenced him since childhood, and he made that robotic life his comfort zone. His mother imprinted herself on her son and tried to bind herself and her family to her fictional selfhood. Mrs. Sunbury molded Herbert as per her needs. For instance, when she taught him to drink tea, and he asked why to drink it that way, she said:
“That’s how it’s done. It shows you know what’s what”.
She was the superego that suppressed the ‘Id’ and the ego of Herbert by imposing traditionalist rules on him. For instance, Maugham wrote, “Herbert grew tall despite growing up. Herbert had always been a pampered child, that is why when he grew up he still had that delicate, smooth and clear skin”.
Mrs. Sunbury conditioned him through interpellation; she gradually made him the way she wanted him to be, as she said:
“If you’re a good boy and wash your teeth regularly without me telling you, I shouldn’t be surprised if Santa brings you a kite on Christmas day.”
In his whole life, the only freedom Herbert had was to fly a kite; it was the reflection of his desires, and it somehow allowed him to break barriers as has been by Maugham: “It became a passion with Herbert.”
Moving on, Herbert fell in love with a girl who looked like his mother, that is what the Oedipus complex by Freud is based on, the fact that children are more attracted and attached to the parent of the opposite gender, as narrated in the story:
“Betty Bevan looked very much as Mrs. Sunbury have looked at her age. She had the same sharp features and the same rather small beady eyes”.
When Herbert married Betty against his mother’s will, he somehow became independent, but moving out of his comfort zone was very hard for him; that is why he started meeting his parents; this made Betty felt insecure. Herbert cannot buy a kite due to lack of money, and his mother was well aware of how obsessed he was with kites; she used this “kite” to snatch him from Betty. Because of Mrs. Sunbury’s conditioning, Herbert had to suffer in the battle between two women. Being a part of a patriarchal society, both Betty and Mrs. Sunbury needed Herbert to have agency. His mother’s dismissal made Herbert leave Betty, and, in return, Betty destroyed his kite, assuming that it was an obstacle in her relationship.
She symbolically destroyed Herbert and his desires. Destroying his kite was as if someone had ruined him and his dreams. His Id that the superego has always repressed burst out by this childish act of Betty. Therefore, to take revenge on her, he refused to pay furniture installments because it was very dear to Betty, as he said:
“I can see her face when they take the furniture away. It meant a lot to her, it did, and the piano, she set a rare store on that piano”.
His preference was to go to jail rather than paying her money.
From all above, Herbert seems to become a free man at the end of the story because destroying the kite made his repressed Id come out. That is why he made a firm decision not to pay any money for her. The childish behavior of Betty and Herbert, both husband and wife, ruined their relationship. Hence, we can conclude that Herbert had developed his I-ness as described in Lacan’s psychoanalysis. The kite was the symbol and appropriate title of his Ideal I, and when it was destroyed, his anger that has remained dormant throughout his life.
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