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ELT 48 : 1 2005 The Complexity of Kipling's Imperialist Politics Andrew Hagiioannu. The Man Who Would Be Kipling: The Colonial Fie tion and the Frontiers of Exile. New York: Palgrave, 2003. ix + 222 pp. $65.00 KIPLING CRITICS typically employ a "yes, but" rhetoric of qualification : yes, Kipling was an ardent imperialist—witness his poems "Recessional " and "The White Man's Burden"; but notice how a story such as "The Man Who Would Be King" can be read as anti-imperialist, or at any rate as opposed to the wrong sort of imperialism. And, yes, Kipling believed in the superiority of the English and, more generally, of the "white race" to all other nations and races; but notice how often it is his Indian characters who capture our attention and sympathy, and conversely how much difficulty he sometimes had—in The Light That Failed, for example—making his English characters equally interesting and sympathetic . He could also write quite powerfully about adult characters and subjects, such as interracial love and marriage in "Without Benefit of Clergy"; but he was perhaps an even better writer for children (The Jungle Books, for instance). He loved India (Kim), but he also feared and loathed it ("The City of Dreadful Night"). And he could treat occultism as hokum ("The Sending of Dana Da"), but he could also treat it as credible ("Wireless," "They"). So Kipling tends to be viewed, perhaps no differently from most of us other mortals, as a bundle of contrary impulses, and therefore as less successful than writers like Joseph Conrad who developed more unified visions about empire and everything else. In The Man Who Would Be Kipling, Andrew Hagiioannu does not contest this mixed view of Kipling. More usefully and persuasively, he shows how the various ideological faultlines in Kipling's essays, fiction, and poetry express the complexities and contradictions of the situations Kipling experienced and explored in the Punjab, in North America, in South Africa, in Australia and New Zealand, and of course in Britain. Hagiioannu is very good at contextualizing Kipling's thinking and writing in terms of specific periods and places. Thus, the first chapter, "The Sentence for Mutiny," examines how and why Kipling's position as a young man and reporter for the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore from 1882 to 1887—the Kipling οι Departmental Ditties and the Railway Series of short story volumes, starting with Plain Tales from the Hills—led him to admire the imperial vision of John Lawrence and his supporters. This was a Carlylean, man-of-action imperialism at odds with the centralizing, bureaucratizing, theorizing, utilitarian imperialism that 88 BOOK REVIEWS was increasingly empowered after the Great Mutiny of 1857-1858. The sense of opposition between different models of Britain's imperializing mission only increased when Kipling moved to Allahabad to serve as a reporter for the more important newspaper, the Pioneer. It was in the last years of the 1880s, before his return to London in 1889, that Kipling's forays into "native states" and the Rajastani desert provided him with an active alternative to the routines of office and urban life. Hagiioannu is summing up Kipling's entire career when he writes: "The rebellious impulse that took him outside the newspaper office, into the Indian Desert and Native States, took him also beyond the frontiers of British imperialism, leading him to challenge the very terms and values of conservative England—even while he seemed so intractably a part of conservative culture." Having married an American, Caroline Balestier, and settling for a time in Vermont (1892-1896), Kipling learned enough about the United States to see it as one of Britain's rivals for world-dominion and as presenting still another model of imperialism—and as far as he was concerned , not a very attractive model. In The Day's Work (1897) and Captains Courageous (1897), Kipling views American culture as materialistic and American motives for colonial expansion as mercenary rather than moral or idealistic. Having befriended Theodore Roosevelt, he once argued with him, while they were examining the ethnological displays in the Smithsonian, about "a people who, having extirpated the aboriginals of their continent more completely than any...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 88-91
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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