Tale of The Kite

Herbert Sunbury, the main character in an obscure story entitled The Kite written by William Somerset Maugham, is an intriguing and complex character. In this entrancing tale about the complexities of human nature, Herbert lives a life completely controlled by a domineering and abusive mother.

As he is twenty-one years old, he is an adult. He is married. He has a good job linked to a promising career. But his entire salary is given to his mother, and he makes do with a pittance, an allowance that provides a bit of pocket money and minimal expenses.

But Herbert has a special place that allows him to be free and happy. He escapes with the joy of kite playing.

His mother finds his child like enthusiasm for the kite to be amusing. His wife, Betty, isn’t quite as tolerant. She finds it to be a waste of time, and is jealous of the hours he spends making his kite dance on the wind.

She often reprimands him. “Flying a kite, you, a grown man. Contemptible I call it.” Eventually she responds with violence and with a hatchet transforms his beloved box kite into kindling. And so Herbert finds a bit of courage, leaves her, and finds himself in legal trouble that ends with incarceration.

If you are thinking murder, Herbert is not that bold, nor that desperate, even though on several occasions he did vow to kill her for the destruction of his kite. At his trial for not paying alimony Herbert stands before the magistrate and proclaims that, “I said I wouldn’t pay her and I won’t, not after she smashed my kite.”

Tale of The Kite. It is a weird story that somehow grabs your attention. The author himself seemed confused by the entrancing power of the story. “I know this is an odd story. I don’t understand it myself and if I set it down in black and white it is only with the faint hope that when I have written it I may get a clearer view of it.”

For the kite enthusiast there is a simple message in the story. The lowly kite has the power to lift a person from most any circumstance and to provide a bit of peace even in troubled times.

A number of psychological studies have validated this. In scientific parlance it is referred to as mindfulness. This is a process or activity that fosters an focus on the here and now. This temporarily blocks thoughts of pending deadlines, issues, and problems.

The health benefits are numerous. Decreased anxiety, alleviation of depression, pain management, and even lower blood pressure are associated with activities that induce mindfulness. And that includes kite flying.

Curious? Need to find an escape from the days troubles? Consider the wisdom of young Herbert Sunbury. Go fly a kite. But first visit Tumbleweeds & Tarantulas for all of your kite supplies.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America