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Le grand jeu and the Great Game: The Politics of Play in Walter Scott's Waverley and Rudyard Kipling's Kim Chris Ann Matteo Although nearly a full century divides Waverley's anonymous publication in 1814 and the 1901 date on Kipling's novel, the Great Game functions in both tales as a specific, metaphoric code word for the relationship between England and her annexed colonies. Set in his vast and diverse contemporary context of turn-of-the-century India, Kipling's novel conceives the Great Game as an intricate system of English surveillance which attempts to avert and anticipate the internal treachery of power-hungry native Rajahs and the external maneuvers of the invading Russian enemy. In the following brief passage we hear Kim's friend Mahbub Ali mention the Great Game rather ominously: "... Lurgan Sahib has a shop among the European shops. All Simla knows it.... and Friend of all the World, he is one to be obeyed to the last wink of his eyelashes. Men say he does magic, but that shall not touch thee. Go up the hill and ask. Here begins the Great Game."1 Likewise, in Scott's work, le grand jeu represents a historical struggle: the Rebellion of 1745, when the Scots allied in war to reinstate "the Adventurer" Charles Edward to the throne of England. "«Ah, Beaujeu , mon cher ami», said he as he returned to his usual place in the line of march, «que mon métier de prince errant est ennuyant, par fois. Mais courage! c'est le grand jeu, après tout»" (Waverley 58:403).2 JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 30.2 (Summer 2000): 163-186. Copyright © 2000 by JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory. 164 INT Against the expansive historical and political chronotope of the game—a term I will detail shortly—both novels figure the central player as an English youth in transition from boyhood to maturity: descended from English knights of loyal Tory politics,Waverley's ancestral origins are indisputably more stable and aristocratic than Kim's; yet, despite his poverty and orphanhood, Kim nevertheless practices undeniable privilege in that multifarious and caste-conscious Indian society, solely due to being a sahib, that is, a white man. The courses of both novels shuttle the hero through the boundaries of a perilous political climate; the centripetal hero, whom we might very easily identify with the average English reader, starts out at a static "home base," from which the plot casts him, centrifugally, to investigate and explore the mysterious unknown that lies beyond home, which is alien, foreign, distinct from oneself (Bakhtin 1968, 1981). Furthermore, the hero's investigation of the frontiers of self and other can be likened to the intriguing fusion of genres in the two novels, for both authors artfully weave the story of the education and maturation of the young man, or the bildungsroman plot, with the romantic mythos of an adventure , and specifically, an adventure of espionage (Bakhtin 1986, Frye 1971). The heroes' formal education is part of the story, as well as motivational pretext for the story. For instance, we learn that young Edward Waverley , in spite of the aristocratic advantages of his uncle's rich library and his quick native apprehension, idles through his reading without discipline , thoroughness, or discrimination (Waverley 5:45-49). Beyond simply accounting for Edward's serious character flaw—his inclination to mental "absence" (Waverley 7:73)—this orients the project of the novel to guide Waverley through an alternative, "real education" of experience; and so, his meaningful education commences when his Highland adventure begins , and where his formal schooling and military indoctrination end. And in the case of Kim, we need only return to Mahbub Ali's speech, above. There, Kim's longtime street-confidante, horse-trader, and Ethnological Survey agent, Mahbub has freed Kim from "imprisonment" in the Sahib school, where he has been beaten by envious older boys and constrained in uniform. But upon the boy's liberation, Mahbub inducts Kim into the science and art of practical observation under the direction of the Healer of Pearls, Lurgan Sahib. At Lurgan's market stall, Kim rehearses his skills of measurement and estimation with his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9248
Print ISSN
1549-0815
Pages
pp. 163-186
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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