To begin with, my brain is fried--I just finished our tax returns. But I wanted to get this written out so that I could start on another book with a free mind.
I enjoyed reading Kim a lot. I've read The Jungle Books, and I didn't really like it that much. This was far better. It reminded me of reading Huckleberry Finn, only set in India. I thought Kim was a completely enjoyable character: innocent, boyish, and fun. He was quite obviously a "golden" boy, nothing ever really went wrong for him and everybody that knew him, loved him and went out of their way to help him. There's nothing that really adds much depth to the novel or to Kim, himself, to make them more than a fun adventure except the lama. I really think that the lama's presence in the novel is what makes it a piece of classic literature.
Again, it reminds me of Huckleberry Finn and the bond formed between Huck and Jim, the runaway slave. Both pairs are an unlikely duo and I think that's what makes both books compelling. In both situations, the boy character--in their society and with their race--choose a mentor/father-figure that was taboo at that time. I found it amusing that Mahbub (an equally taboo choice) was even jealous of the bond between Kim and the lama. Yet through much of the book Kim refers to the lama as crazy, and while he studies the Buddhist principles extensively with the lama on their last journey together, he still never leaves his "Britishness" enough to recognize and understand when the lama has reached nirvana. So despite their attachment, the taboo of a white kid becoming fully indoctrinated and assimilated into the other's culture is never crossed.
However, I think think this possible crossing of a "taboo" is what the climax of the book is really about. When Kim is sick towards the end of the novel, Rudyard Kipling makes it clear that it is due to him trying to decide who he is in the world. For instance:"All that while he felt, though he could not put it into words, that his soul was out of gear with his surroundings--a cog-wheel unconnected with any machinery...(pg. 331)" and again later down the same page, "I am Kim. I am Kim. And what is Kim? His soul repeated it again and again." I think the pressure put on him of carrying the packet of papers (pressure to be British) and the pressure of taking care of the lama (pressure to remain a chela) forced him at that time to decide which life he was going to pursue--that of a sahib or an Oriental. While it's fairly obvious throughout that he will always be a "sahib" and I don't think Rudyard Kipling would have had it any other way, I think the author almost wished it could be the other way, as his love for India is so evident in the novel. Kim ultimately retains his own culture, which is again made completely clear when he fails to grasp his teacher's nirvana or even to care much about it at that point, besides wanting to make sure the lama is taken care of.
(The End--of my very short essay.)
However I do have a few other comments. I loved Mahbub. He was by far my favorite character. I also found it interesting how closely the Buddhism described in the book was the same to what I learned in my world religions class--for some odd reason I had expected disparities. And now, I really need to go to bed. Chao.