Dan Sandman

35: Kim by Rudyard Kipling

In Adventure, Books, Fiction on 26/08/2016 at 12:00 pm

Kim by Rudyard KiplingKim is an orphan street boy from the marketplace of Lahore with deceased Irish parents. One day, he meets a wise lama from Tibet who is searching for an enchanted river to wipe away all of his sins. In his own search for a Red Bull, Kim joins the Lama on his quest for the river, becoming the holy man’s disciple or chela. But simultaneously, the divided adventurer is working for a horse-dealer with connections to a secret network of spies. After encountering a colonel from the British army, Kim is pushed into receiving a public school education and becoming a sahib (European gentlemen).

Kim (1901) is perhaps what is called in German a Bildungsroman, which roughly translates into ‘education novel’ or rather ‘novel of education’. It is also a ‘coming of age’ story, dealing with the problems that arise from the adolescent Kim’s conflicted identity. Kim is many things: an orphan, a chela, a spy, a sahib; and advantageously navigates the world by adopting different roles.

I think Kipling created Kim to introduce his Victorian readership to the complexities of Indian society. He spent much of his career focusing on India, but here he creates a hero who represents the various pressures placed upon a boy growing up in a colonized nation. It does not take a huge leap of imagination to draw a parallel between the torn interests of the character Kim and those of the country India itself.

Should I write 5,000 words for my MA about Kim or Don Juan by Lord Byron?


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