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222 KIPLING'S KmAND CO-EXISTENCE by John Munro (University of Toronto) Kipling's talents as a story-teller have never been in doubt, but many people need convincing about his abilities as a literary craftsman, it is generally held that though Kipling had a genius for spinning a good yarn, a talent for creating believable people in believable situations, his interest in the novel as a form was slight, and his attention to technique either vague or intermittent. Thus KIM (I9OI), perhaps Kipling's greatest novel, has acquired a reputation for being a healthy boy's book, but hardly one which should attract the attention of serious critics. Kipling himself is partially responsible for this view, for in his autobiography he tells us that KIM was a work written under the influence of his "daemon," implying that it is a product of inspiration rather than artifice, and that it is "nakedly picaresque and plotless,"' Actually, a close reading of the novel reveals that KIM is not, as one might imagine, simply a teeming, panoramic view of nineteenth-century India with some intrigue and excitement thrown in for good measure, but is, in fact, a strikingly wel1-organized piece of writing which effectively sums up Kipling's views on the administration of India and at the same time demonstrates his concept of the ideal man. There are three distinct groups of people described in the novel: the Indians, the British, and the secret police. Viewed separately, neither the Indians nor the British seem capable of effective rule. The Indians are venal and grasping, ready to extort money from their countrymen whenever they have the opportunity. For example, when Kim at the beginning of his travels with the lama asks for a railway ticket from Lahore to Umballa, the clerk obliges by taking Kim's money and offering him a ticket for a station only six miles down the line:2 the priest at Umballa who offers hospitality to the lama does so not out of charity but in hopes of financial gain (pp. 61-62); and when the English pol iceofficial and his Indian constables search the train at Delhi for E 23, their presence causes "a ripple of uneasiness; for native police mean extortion to the native all India over." (p. 248) Furthermore, as Kipling sees them, the Indians are undependable and faint-hearted. Their trains never run on time, and at one point in the novel the old soldier recalls the dreadful Indian Mutiny, when "the land from Delhi south [was] awash with blood." (p. 64) Finally, in contrast to the British, the Indians are more ready to capitulate than make a stand, whatever the provocation, (p. 57) Not only does Kipling suggest that the Indian character is deficient in those qualities which make for responsible government, but he also implies that the constitution of the country itseïf is an impediment to effective rule. Constantly we are reminded that India .s not unified, but is made up of a variety of different races, castes and religions. Near the beginning of the novel, on the railway journey from Lahore ^o Umballa, we are shown the suspicion and distrust with which Indians regard or another, a situation which, in this instance, Kim is able to exploit to his and the lama's advantage (pp. 34-43), and later on, at Lurgan Sahib's shop in Simla, Kim entertains his host with impressions of ". . . how the disciples of a certain caste of faquir, old Lahore acquaintances, begged doles by the roadside; and what sort of language he would use to an Englishman, to a Punjabi farmer going to a fair, and to a woman without a veil." (pp. 191-32) 223 In short, Kipling points to the moral and temperamental instability of the Indian race, and at the same time reminds us of the chaos and confusion which exist in the country itself, all of which suggest that India could never be ruled effectively by her own people. If Kipling shows us the ineffectualness of the Indians, his description of their British overlords is not one to inspire much confidence either. The two chaplains with the Mavericks, Father Bennett and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 222-227
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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