How is the essay topic "the significance of an individual's attempt to live unconstrained by convention or circumstances" applicable to the following works? The works are: The Kite Runner by...

How is the essay topic "the significance of an individual's attempt to live unconstrained by convention or circumstances" applicable to the following works? The works are: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Hemingway, Hamlet by Shakespeare, and "Boys and Girls" by Alice Munro.

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In completing this assignment, you should start with an introduction that focuses on this theme as part of the rise of individualism. You should make the point that as a literary, philosophical, and political movement it is associated with liberalism and the Enlightenment, although the Greek Cynics may be seen as precursors. As a literary theme or plot type, it becomes especially popular in the nineteenth century, and is also associated with the notion of the artist as a rebel against bourgeois conformity.

Hamlet is the odd work out here, not just in being a play and being considerably earlier than the other works listed, but also in having the least direct connection with the theme. Here you might discuss Hamlet as a reluctant hero. Typically, in Revenge Tragedy, the hero has suffered a deep wrong, quickly discovers the identity of the villain (or knows it from the start) and has no qualms about the pursuit of revenge. Hamlet himself is not a decisive "man of action" and struggles to conform to the stereotype of heroic masculinity.

The case of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini fits more consistently with the theme. Amir struggles with the constraints imposed on him by Afghan traditions of class and gender. He is not naturally hypermasculine and does not enjoy the need to behave in the aggressive fashion that would be admired by his father and respected in his community. He would like to be friends with Hassan but social pressures lead to his betrayal of his friendship. He is caught between Afghan and American cultural codes and struggles throughout the book to find a way to balance his own emotions and loyalties with cultural traditions and demands.

Harry in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Hemingway feels that he has betrayed his calling as a writer by his striving for material success. He thinks he came closest to evoking his potential as a writer when he was living in adversity and danger, exploring the world alone, and that rich women, such as Helen, who cater to his whims and provide him with financial support and conventional society are somehow to blame for the decline of his writing.

"Boys and Girls" by Alice Munro shows how puberty marks a time when children are forced into gender roles that betray their natural inclinations. We see that the narrator is about to be forced into a traditional feminine role that betrays her innermost character. Her freeing Flora is a defiant act in which she tries to give the horse the freedom she herself will not have.