Monday, February 22, 2010


First, in response to some of the questions I posted.

1. For decades many critics have shown great disdain for Kipling, equating his work with the idea that British imperialism was a righteous and justified act. Is this assessment fair? Was Kipling simply writing what he knew or structuring his literature on his political beliefs?

This question is silly. Kipling is very blatant that he finds no fault with imperialism. I don't think anyone could rationally argue that he was opposed in any way to the Brits presence in his beloved India. He wrote "The White Man's Burden," after all. However, Kipling's acceptance of imperialism led to him both writing what he knew, and structuring his literature on his political beliefs. There is no "or."

2. As Kim moves from the intellectual world of school to the spiritual world he finds with the lama later in the story, he continually questions who he is. Is this questioning simply that of a young orphan or does it hint at larger political unease?

Again, I'm irritated with the question. Kim never moved into the intellectual world in any real way. He was putting in his time so he could fully integrate into the Great Game. Yes, his exposure made him more aware of his sahibness. Yes, he was groomed to act more white and therefore less religious. However, Kim was a religious person in a sahib setting much more than he was later a sahib in a religious setting. I recognize that Kim wasn't religious in the sense that he worshipped a particular God or followed a particular code of behavior. He was religious in the sense that he embraced religion in all its forms as natural. His questioning of self wasn't a defining of himself as sahib or Indian or spiritual or secular--it was his coming-of-age decision making. Was he going to stay with the lama indefinitely or jump into the Great Game full throttle?

3. What is the purpose of the prophecy Kim brings to the soldiers?

It was a literary device that allowed Kim to enter the world of the sahibs as an equal and thereby invigorate and enlarge the spying element of the novel. It also led to all future conflict as he was no longer allowed to wander around India at will. It also allowed Kipling to express disdain for Brits who felt superior to Indians.

4. Is it surprising, given Kim’s spirituality, that he joins the Secret Service? How does he reconcile his two separate lives?

I would argue that Kim was not very spiritual in a sense that would make the Secret Service an odd choice. Kim loved the lama. He was willing to do anything for the man. He never demonstrated any inclination toward affiliating with Buddhism or any other religion. The excitement and glamour of the Great Game was far more enticing than any religious devoutness, and even if the Great Game had not presented itself as a possibility, it was quite obvious that Kim was destined for a life most lively.

5. In a 1943 essay, critic Edmund Wilson referred to the ending of Kim as a “betrayal” of the relationship of the old man and the young Kim, which made the book more literary than a mere adventure story. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

I am confused by the question. Was the ending a betrayal by Kipling of an adventure story that he wanted to dress up as a literary novel? Or, was the ending a betrayal of the relationship which launched the book out of the mud of adventure novel into the lofty heights of literary novel? Hmm. Regardless, I loved the ending because it clarified for anyone still wondering that the main point of the book was the relationship between Kim and the lama and not the somewhat superfluous spying plot thread. The lama was old. He was wise and gentle and Kim loved him. Nothing could make Kim happier than knowing his beloved lama had found his river. And nothing could make the lama happier than knowing his beloved chela had washed in the river. Kim, no doubt, would wash himself, feel no different but assure the lama otherwise and happily skip through the rest of his life grateful that his eternal destination was clear. In short--he wouldn't give it much thought. He would, however, derive a great deal of happiness from the happiness of his lama. That is the point of the ending.

6. In her article “Adolescence, Imperialism, and Identity in Kim and Pegasus in Flight,” Nicole Didicher says, “Adults writing for adolescents inevitably use imperialist discourse to influence their readers’ maturation. Kipling . . . uses an existing imperialist society to present the protagonist’s establishment of his psychosocial identity.” Do you agree that all adult writers “inevitably” use imperialist discourse to reach their adolescent audiences? Did Kipling use imperialist India because that is what he knew, or was he simply entertaining a young audience?

I'm pretty sure that's a lot of circular writing to ask if Kipling knew what he was doing in the literary sense by placing Kim in an imperialist setting. I would say no. Most writers write what they know and Kipling knew India during the Brits imperialistic heyday. That adolescents respond to injustice stories of all kinds because they feel disenfranchised and picked on isn't very relevant to this story. The story is about love and friendship. If adolescents responded well to the book it is most likely because they thought it was a story about spying and getting to run wild around an exotic country.

I know I promised Susie Q an essay today, but I'm tired and I am going to bed. Stay tuned though . . . tomorrow for sure my essay will be posted.

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