Blake and Hosseini Social and Political Protest: Revision Dump

Social protest writing at its best is autobiographical. Explore the significance of the personal context of the writer in two texts. yes, parts no…others experience…argue that social protest may be influenced by individual context, but is most effective as protest when it is the combined voice of entire class or ethnic struggle.

Hosseini autobiographical: he himself left Afghanistan at 15 to escape war. Influence could be when c10-9 1975-81 year sudden leap. From “melting silver” to “we left Kabul just after two in the morning”. And then the Russian soldier episode “barked” “thrust” “30 minutes”…but also then see the balance provided by the Russian officer “drug”, clear that a multitude of views is incorporated…doesn’t feel that autobiographical even if most of plot is quite similar. E.g food stamps “like a man cured of a tumour”, or “no question. No id”.

Is Hosseini Pashtun? Thus would reflect autobiographical in terms of how hassan is treated “shot by a firing squad “crushed it against his own forehead” “stunned to find an entire chapter”.

Hosseini bases off other accounts: Hassan epistoles of oppression in c15 “hanged corpses rotting in soccer fields with blood stained grass”, see change from autodeigitic narration for c16: RK: “we had celebrated”. Building up a more realistic/reliable picture of Afghanistan society. Although seems to undermine this whole autobiographical approach with “hearing is not the same as seeing”.

Blake’s holy Thursdays, based from personal context of freedom of religion: “multitudes” “companies” “thousands” could be commenting on religion as opium of masses…highlighting his idea of indiv…but final line seems ominous/ironic “then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door”. Contrasted with experience: “fed with cold and usurious hand”. Clearly more autobiographical here.

Blake’s hatred of city life in London, vs country life utopia in Echoing Green. Autobiography in sense that Blake lived in Soho, London for most of life..did spend 3 years in Felpham farm sussex. Allows the contrast between city and country. “chartered streets” and the “mind-forgd manacles” are based on blakes own experience of living in the city. Perhaps also something modern audience could share in the sense of the Vauxhall Cross building: centres for parliament, spying, gov authority etc.

‘Political and social protest writers often use personal experiences as a catalyst for criticising the worlds they inhabit.’

Explore the significance of personal experiences as they are presented in two of the texts you have studied


All social and political protest writers are indeed influenced by their personal experiences. Whether it is Harrison’s university life in Them and [uz] or Hosseini’s actual migration to the USA, both writers are basing their texts upon their own personal experiences, as well as the personal experiences of others. However, the writers use their personal experiences in different ways, with Harrison arguably more overtly personal than Hosseini’s voice in The Kite Runner. These personal experiences are then used to criticise sometimes similar, but distinctly different vices of society, from different time periods.

1- Harrison uses his personal experiences of university as a catalyst for criticising elitist professors and the issues of social class that they cause.

  • “Poetry’s the speech of kings”. Upper class supercilious nature; language referring to head of society, of an established order and feudal system where there is no social mobility. Likewise, Harrison is trying to show how he is subject to the king. Speech also In terms of Received Pronunciation: also a distinguishing aspect of class.
  • Recently, BBC has tried to broaden accents etc and be more progressive…but before RP would dominate news, media etc

2- Similarly, in terms of social class, Hosseini’s own personal experiences of growing up in Afghanistan are compared with moving to the USA, as a way of criticising social class divisions along ethnic lines.

  • Structuring: denouement of chapter 25: General Taheri moment “you will never again refer to him as Hazara Boy in my presence”. Throughout novel, ethnicity foregrounded: here finally and resolutely opposed.
  • Context: Hosseini moved to USA too: perhaps showing that no country is free from racism: from his personal experience

3- The significance of Harrison’s personal experiences of local MP Hugh Gaitskell serve as a catalyst to criticise the ruling classes.

  • Rhyming couplets of “jeering” and “cheering” juxtapose two conflicting emotions, show how this was an unpopular MP: meant to represent all his constituency, not just half of them.
  • ‘v’ on channel 4: his personal experiences were broadcasted as they were critical and enlightening of the faults and vices within society

4- The controlling nature of Taliban society is represented by the personal experiences of real people that suffered, which Hosseini condemns in The Kite Runner.

  • Repetition of “oh” twice, before silence not only shows the physical control of the Taliban by beating the woman, but also the psychological control they wield using fear and informants.
  • The Ghazi stadium setting is REAL: ok the characters/novel isn’t real…but it is an similar reflection of how the Talibs would control the Afghan people

5- Patience Kershaw’s testimony left a great impact on Harrison’s personal experiences, which is clearly used to criticise the controlling nature of his society.

  • “wherever hardship held its tongue the job ‘s breaking the silence of the worked-out-gob”. Final two lines of sonnet meant to sum up the rest of it. Harrison plays on the ambiguity of gob to mean the space after coal extracted, or mouth, or speech. (Speech of children to commission expressing horrors of mine. Jobs- coal miner- as means of controlling the poor: no escape/way out
  • Context is that Patience Kershaw was a 14 year old girl: men she worked alongside hit her and she was subjected to hard labour


Although Hosseini and Harrison have very different personal experiences, they do use them as a catalyst for criticising the worlds they inhabit. Within this the vices and focuses of their criticism vary. Harrison is mostly using his personal experiences to comment on issues of social-economic class, whilst Hosseini uses his and others personal experiences to show the horrors of warfare and the rise of the Taliban.



5 paras


 More blake stuff here:

Spirituality and states of being

Across both Songs of Innocence and Experience, Blake offers the viewpoints of both the innocent and experienced. He shows that there are, therefore, different states of being, and varying levels of spirituality. He supports the freedom of spirituality and religious expression, thus condemning the dictats of an established church.

Holy Thursday, Innocence vs Echoing Green and Nurse’s Song, Innocence.

The sheer mass numbers that Blake uses, and how they are forced to “be raising their innocent hands” to god acts as a direct attack on religious conformity. The use of multitude, companies and thousands repeated to show the scale of enforced religion.

Furthermore, colour shows the contrast between the two states of being, and the different spirits within the “grey-headed beadles” compared to the children in “read, and blue and green”. Here the youthful, joyful colours of the children is one state of being, however this is restricted by the mundane colour of the beadle, who restrict and dicate the freedom of the children and their spirituality.

Meanwhile in Echoing Green//Nurse’s Song…children are seen as free. Contrasting nature shows the two different states of being. The ideal, versus the nadir of spirituality and the freedom to express it. This is because of Blake’s use of sound as well as sight imagery, both natural and human. For example, the use of the “cheerful sound” of bells, that of the “skylark and thrush” in the opening stanza, and the sound of laughter in the middle stanza. Furthermore, in Nurse’s Song, there is the laughter of the children, which is placed alongside the dying light of the evening sun. These all contribute to a peaceful state of being, a free and happy state of being. It could also be argued that Blake is creating a countryside utopia, free from urban and therefore governmental control…in contrast to London.

Infant Sorrow and the restriction of childlike spirit and state of mind

“striving against my swaddling-bands”. Blake uses standpoint and state of mind of a child just born, to already show the restrictions on spirituality. In a way, he also suggests, with the sibiliance of these lines, the struggle of life to come and how this child is predestined to be oppressed. Blake manipulates the usual joy at newborn life to shape the meaning of his poem as to show the oppression of children from birth in his society.

The Schoolboy

Blake uses the example of a school boy on a summer morning as a metaphor for the wider issues of restricted spirituality and the failure to reach that highest state of being. “How can the bird that is born for joy sit in a cage and sing?”. The image of a caged bird is commonly used, in King Lear to Cordelia, in Keat’s deathsong and in Angelou’s poetry also. Blake uses the symbol here because he is critical of the nature of the established church and the feudal system which restricts freedom of spirituality and state of mind. His own spirituality, visions, and dreams, which he sets out in the Books of Urizen were shunned as madness and foolery. Thus, this poem’s image of a schoolboy, enslaved to the school regime, stands as a much larger metaphor for all kinds of spiritual oppression and restriction.





Some interesting criticism and ideas for Hosseini here:


 Once Upon a Kite: Glimpses into Afghanistan’s Race Relations



This section looks at the construction of race and ethnicity in Afghanistan, and how, over time, it produced Qawm – a rigid and segmented social system. The relevant Afghani social concepts are Qawm (people, tribe, community), Wulus (nation, tribe, relatives), and Tyfah (clan, tribe, group) (Roy, 1989; Goodson, 1998; Shahrani, 2002). According to Shahrani (2002), the Qawm, Wulus and Tyfah:

…provide the most fundamental bases for individuals and collective identities and loyalties, and they are the most persistent and pervasive potential bases for the organization of social formations, for the mobilization of social action, and for the regulation of social interaction among individuals and between social groups. As generalized social organizational principles, Islam, ethnicity, and kinship have been equally available to individuals and collectivises in Afghan society at large, as well as to those who have controlled the central government powers. They have been applied and manipulated not only to further common or similar collective national goals, but also to pursue separate, often divergent, and sometimes conflicting and contradictory aims by individuals, groups, and state institutions. (707)

Centuries later, these perceptions have been transferred from generation to generation embedding latent racism, negative prejudice and stereotypical traits which are ‘willed’ as a social truth of a particular tribe.

Islam serves the country more as “a unifying force” against foreign non-Muslim invaders, but it has never been enough to unite all Afghans

In conclusion, TKR is a good fictional example how latent racism thrives through the institution of racism into law, education, social structure and history. It is important to highlight here that this is done through a long period of honing ethnic unconscious positivity over time until it becomes the norm. This reality ultimately influences the development of the characters and the story itself in TKR, where Hosseini reaffirms the superiority of the Pashtuns over the Hazaras.

As presented by Hosseini in TKR, each and every tribe in Afghanistan is inadvertently influenced by and subscribes to a racist mentality that has been passed from one generation to another. Negative Qawm tribal-ship will not help the Afghan people to develop the country as a nation, but will prolong internal conflicts



Literary work is assumed as a mirror of a real world

Mimetic criticism: The characters and setting within the story may represent the age, the culture and the social in a certain place.

Pg 13/133

Afghanistan meets the Amazon

The Kite Runner activates the desire to overcome/elude partisan, ethnic, religious and national divisions: capable of allying with a diversity of antagonistic political orientations

The Kite Runner foregrounds its foreignness with use of everyday life and Farsi vocabulary

Danger of text being read as foreign and therefore impossible to understand. Or just seeing how the attitudes/values are of the readers own society.

Question of universality: careful not to go too far in “stripping away” the text

Is TKR endorsing USA interventionist position?

Or is the take home message a human one: be compassionate

TKR is not just about Afghanistan but also universal human themes: guilt, friendship, fatherhood, forgiveness

Amir as more Americanised: spends time watching films, drinking coke: versus traditional Afghanistan: the Kochi nomads travelling through Kabul

Yet adopts Islam and becomes more traditional in some aspects

The appeal to religious interpretation: redemption and sin: both Christian and Islamic contexts

“Identification” where readers “feel what they believe the characters are feeling”

Does Hosseini portray the USA is far too hospitable for Muslims? Not a single racist event…example of after 9/11 the backlash against anyone not White, Anglo-Saxon and Christian…

Reading TKR is an act of collective atonement for those Americans troubled by their country’s treatment of Muslims abroad and at home












Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s