Kim (Penguin Classics)
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An epic rendition of the imperial experience in India, one of Kipling's greatest works
Kim, orphaned son of an Irish soldier and a poor white mother, and the lama, an old ascetic priest, are on a quest. Kim was born and raised in India and plays with the slum children as he lives on the streets, but he is white, a sahib, and wants to play the Great Game of Imperialism; while the priest must find redemption from the Wheel of Things. Kim celebrates their friendship and their journeys in a beautiful but hostile environment, capturing the opulence of the exotic landscape and the uneasy presence of the British Raj. Filled with rich description and vivid characters, this beguiling coming of age story is considered Kipling's masterpiece.
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p. 97). See also Chapter 2, note 18. 51. Devadatta: A cousin of the Buddha and king of Banaras who became his disciple but later caused a split among the followers; he eventually repented. See the epigraph to Chapter 3, and also the lama’s narration, p. 167. 52. under the Bodhi tree: This, in Bodh-Gaya, was where Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment (bodh) and thus became the Buddha, the Enlightened One; the tree is ficus religiosa, in Hindi peepal/peepul. Some other major episodes in the
world under the title “heathen” ’, while Kim’s Indian characters are far more complex and interesting than the English. Colonel Creighton may be significant for his joint role as ethnologist and intelligence boss, but as a character he barely exists compared with his agents Mahbub Ali and Hurree Babu. That said, Kipling’s conservative imperialism is obvious, not just in Kim’s work as a spy or in the stereotyping of ‘Orientals’ as lazy or untruthful, but more subtly in the vividly realized and
beard. ‘They will walk in their boots, making a noise, and then they will wonder why there are no fakirs. They are very clever boys – Barton Sahib and Young Sahib.’ He waited idly for a few minutes, expecting to see them hurry up the line girt for action. A light engine slid through the station, and he caught a glimpse of young Barton in the cab. ‘I did that child an injustice. He is not altogether a fool,’ said Mahbub Ali. ‘To take a fire-carriage for a thief is a new game!’ When Mahbub Ali
‘My son,’ said he, ‘what need of words between us? But is not the little gun a delight? All six cartridges come out at one twist. It is borne in the bosom next the skin, which, as it were, keeps it oiled. Never put it elsewhere, and please God, thou shalt some day kill a man with it.’ ‘Hai mai!’ said Kim ruefully. ‘If a Sahib kills a man he is hanged in the jail.’ ‘True: but one pace beyond the Border, men are wiser. Put it away; but fill it first. Of what use is a gun unfed?’ ‘When I go back
obsessive in his private quest and, as the novel progresses, even comical in his quixotic venture. In any case, the lama is frequently treated by Kipling with gentle irony which turns into outright farce at the climactic moment when he does find his river. The lama does not metaphorically stumble upon it so much as he is made literally to stumble into it, by being ‘three parts drowned’ and then by having to be most unceremoniously ‘dragged’ out (pp. 285–6) by the omnipresent and ever resourceful