In his allegorical story “Kim”, Kipling Rudyard gives the history, cultural identity, and social practices of India when it was under the British colony. Using Kim as the protagonist in his masterpiece, Kipling gives a detailed description of the hardships that Kim encounters as he pursues identity.
Despite being an Irish, Kim does not know any other home other than the streets of India. The tough economic and political conditions motivate Kim to manipulate the environmental for survival. In his masterpiece, Kipling uses Kim’s escapades to highlight the main landmarks in the Indian subcontinent. As the story unfolds, Kipling reveals to the audience his admirable literary skills.
In comparison to other novels in the same genre, Kipling’s novel outshines most of them. Through describing the establishment of imperialism in India, Kipling reveals his positive attitude towards the Britons. On the other hand, using Kim, the author highlights the qualities and requirements of an intelligence officer. The following discussion analyses the novel exploring given elements that the author intended to pass to the audience.
Kipling’s story focuses on the transformation of Kim from a pauper to an intelligent officer in the British government. Secondly, it also gives a description of the transformation of India during the nineteenth century when imperialism had taken root in the world. Although he is a product of Irish parents, Kim’s parents abandon him together with his sister in the streets of India.
Adapting to the street life Kim becomes a beggar on the streets of Lahore. Occasionally, he runs some errands especially for Mahbub Ali to supplement his income. Unfortunately, the woman who volunteered to shelters him is an addict of opium, which forces him to fend for himself. To fit into the Indian society, Kim learns the social, economic and political practices of the natives.
Consequently, due to sunburns and assimilation into the Indian culture, Kim’s physical appearance resembled the locals. As an adventurous boy, he meets Tibetan Lama, an old Buddhist man who claims to be tracing the ‘river of the arrow’. Furthermore, Kim’s flexibility in life compels him to become Lama’s chela or disciple. Together with Lama, they decide to look for the river, yet none of the two knew, which way to go.
They faithfully followed the Grand Trunk Road as their map. Incidentally, during the journey they encounter imperialists who recruit Kim as an intelligence officer for the British government. His role as a spy for the colonists propels him to explore different parts of India. In short, Kipling novel is about the hardships of an orphaned Irish boy amid strangers.
Categorically, Kipling’s masterpiece is in four sections or levels. In the first section, Kipling unravels the identity of Kim who is the story’s protagonist. Originally, Kim is Irish, but due to assimilation into a new culture, he does not qualify as an Irish, Briton, or Indian. The author’s struggle to reveal Kim’s identity seems to be the keystone area in the story. Through description of Kim’s strenuous life, Kipling’s decision to hide the identity of the principal character forms the plot of the story.
In several occasions, Kim asks, “Who is Kim? What is Kim?” (Kipling 300), which means the author’s mission, is to capture the reader so that he or she continues to trace Kim’s background. More so, Kim unknown identification makes the novel interesting because any child reading the story will closely monitor his movement. Thus, the first section is to attract and add flavor to the novel as an adventurous story.
The second section is the encounter of Tibetan Lama, and eventual journey along the Grand Trunk Road. The journey takes about four years and Kim updates his status as an intelligence officer with the British government. Kipling uses the second section to disclose his vast knowledge about the culture, the physical features and social practices of India.
Besides educating his audience about the Indian subcontinent, he also appreciates the social and religious activities of the India. In addition, the author uses the second section to teach the audience about the history of India as a British territory.
In the third section, the author intends to pass on the message or the theme about the positive impact of friendship. Kim collaborates up with different persons like Lama, Colonel Creighton and Babu Huree. For example, he befriends Lama who gives him both spiritual and emotional nourishment and in return, he accompanies him during his sacred mission.
Similarly, Lama forms a partnership with Creighton and through the friendship; he acquires both education and a job. Kipling third level of the story is like a revelation to the audience because he confirms no human being can survive single handedly.
While the final part focuses on Kim’s, urge to fulfill his duties as a disciple at the same time as an intelligence office. Lama as a spiritual man could not allow Kim to work as a spy because of the society’s negative perception about intelligence officers. On the other hand, Creighton could resist Kim’s religious activities.
Although he is in a dilemma, and he cannot serve two masters at the same time, Kim will have to forgo one part of his life. Critical analysis of Kim’s utterance “I am not a sahib” shows that he may take up the role of a spy consequently Lama will be on the losing end (368). Kipling uses this section to show that life is not a bed of roses. Even though Kim has a sense of belonging and a stable job, he cannot make solid decisions concerning his life.
When reading the novel Kim, the author’s candid attitude toward the British comes out clearly. According to him, the whites are intelligent, strong and influential because nearly all of his characters celebrate the British authority and the colonists. For instance, Kim as the main character gangs up with the British colonists to control India locking out other nationalities like the Russians. Even Mookherjee an Indian native works for the colonists while Mahbub Ali is an intelligence officer in the colonial government.
Despite their nationalities, all the characters blindly follow the British as superior, which was the foremost message Kipling was sending to his audience. Therefore, from Kipling’s point of view the British rule in India was necessary because the whites established most of Indian infrastructures like roads, railways and industries.
In the final part of the novel, Kim’s secures a job as an intelligence officer to the British government. Therefore, what are the requirements for a spy? The most fundamental requirement is education. When colonel Creighton recruited Kim in his government, he trained for about three years.
Kim had poor speaking, writing and reading skills, which are vital needs for any spy. After the training, the British government sends him to loot some documents from the Russians. Unless he knew how to read and write, he could not be able to carry out the mission.
The second requirement is dishonesty. To carry out his mission Kim had to manipulate and lie to the people in order to access crucial information from them. Furthermore, he concealed his identity because Lama could disown him. Deceit is also another requirement for an intelligence officer. Nobody can reveal the nationality of Kim; he was unique and did not look like an Irish, Indian, or Briton. His deceitfulness is to ease his accessibility especially during his mission as a spy.
Flexibility in both lifestyle and movement is the fourth requirement. Kim was able to survive in the streets of Lahore; he walked tirelessly during his mission with Lama, and he gripped his lessons faster especially during the training.
Although he had never stepped in class, he was quick to learn. Kim accepted to be a disciple of Lama without thinking much about the consequences. Furthermore, he leaves for an unknown destination forgetting about the danger the journey may pose to him. The next requirement is perseverance especially during hardships.
During his journey with Lama, Kim sleeps in the cold and begs on the street for survival but he spirit always kept burning. During his mission to stop the Russian from interfering with the imperialists, he fights with the Russian agents, but he does not give up regardless of the impediments.
Although the Russians capture him, he persevere their torture and manipulates them to get his freedom. During his missions, Kim had to depend on the natives for both basic needs and direction; however, it is not easy to mingle with strangers. Finally, for an individual to qualify as a spy he or has to have knowledge about the geography, language and natives of the surrounding.
Kim knew how to communicate with the natives in their local languages. As a child who had grown up on the streets of India, he was aware of all the places, towns and villages of the subcontinent. Kim possessed the qualities and requirements colonel Creighton wanted from an intelligence officer. Therefore, his position in the government perfectly suited him.
In conclusion, Kipling novel Kim gives the history of India through focusing on the adventures of the main character Kim. Critical reading of the book reveals its division in four parts, and each of the sections has significance to the reader.
As a child who had grown up in India, Kipling brings out his prowess in literal arts while focusing on the politics of India as a Britain colony. Through Kim, the administration system of the British government especially during the colonial era becomes evident. Kim’s hardships in all his life give him a chance to become a spy for the colonialists.
Moreover, Kipling maximizes on his writing skills to express his positive feelings towards the British government including the citizens. Reading the novel enlightens the audience about the people of India and teaches about the qualities or essential qualifications of a spy in the British government. Therefore, reading Kipling’s novel is necessary for all people including young children, historical and social experts.
Kipling, Rudyard. Kim. United Kingdom: MacMillan, 1901