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Kites are a strong symbol in some nations, in dreams and in literature traditions. In all these uses, the positive symbolic meaning of kites represents variations of personal pride, independence, highest hope, accomplishment, freedom and expansion. The negative meaning is feeling out of control or at the mercy of surrounding conditions. In Somerset Maugham's short story "The Kite," Herbert begins flying kites when he lives happily with his parents and feels free and as though he can accomplish things in life. One of his accomplishments is to marry. Herbert continues to have the same positive feelings symbolized by his kite although his new wife has a different opinion and sees his kite as a childish diversion that needs to be released.
When they disagree about purchasing a new kite and she sends Herbert back to his parents, his wife breaks his kite, symbolizing the destruction of his freedom, independence and individual accomplishment. He refuses to pay alimony and therefore goes to prison because now the kite has reversed its symbolism and come to represent the negative meanings attached to it. The kite now means being out of control of his own life (his wife controls him now) and being at the mercy of surrounding circumstances. Herbert goes to jail to protest this and to reestablish--one way or another--control of his own life (One will worry about that choice turning out not so well, but...). Maugham chose a kite to symbolize human relationships because a kite embodies some of the most important concerns in human relationships: freedom, independence, accomplishment, control and manipulation.
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