Colonization and Kim

Topics: British Empire, Colonialism, British Raj Pages: 5 (1457 words) Published: August 1, 2013
Eperialism in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim

Rudyard Kipling’s Kim easily falls into the category of colonial texts, which tried to portary an Orientalized Orient during the colonial age. When Kim was published in 1901, the British Empire was still the most powerful empire in the world. The Indian subcontinent was one of the most important parts of the empire, which thousands of "Anglo-Indians," like Kipling himself, called home. As we go through Kim, we find that Kipling, consciously or inconsciously acts as an imperialist agent. Imperialism was not just the practice of the British Empire's acts of colonization of other lands and people; imperialism was a philosophy that assumed the superiority of British civilization and therefore the moral responsibility to bring their enlightened ways to the "uncivilized" people of the world. This attitude was taken especially towards nonwhite, non-Christian cultures in India, Asia, Australia, and Africa.

In his “The pleasure of Imperialism” Edward Said says that Kim is “a master work of imperialism…a rich and absolutely fascinating, but nevertheless profoundly embarrassing novel.” He re-reads Kim from the post-colonial perspective and says that many of the observations of Indian life presented in Kim as fact are derogatory stereotypes, derived from orientalists' beliefs.

For example, Edward Said writes in his introduction to Kim:

Sihks are characterized as having a special 'love of money'; Hurree Babu equates being a Bengali with being fearful; when he hides the packet taken from the foreign agents.

These derogatory ethnic stereotypes are sharply contrasted with Kipling's portrayals of the British and British culture as more advanced. For example, when Lurgan Sahib attempts to hypnotize Kim, Kim recites the multiplication tables he learned at English school to resist—sharply symbolizing Kipling's belief in the advancement of British law over the superstitious ways of the Asians. Such contrasts throughout Kim serve to support and justify the rule of the "more capable" British over the Indian people.

Moreover, according to Edward Said the portrayal of Kim as an orphaned quite a jungali boy, sensitive and friendly is basically an image of Indian people. Culturally he was making them inferior. In his view Indians were good natured, sensitive, friendly but were jungali and uncultured. He conceives Indian society devoid of elements hostile to the perpetualization of British rule, for it was on the basis of this presumptive India that orientalists sought to build a permanent rule. The Kim (the protagonist of his picturesque novel KIM) is a major contribution to this Orientalized India of the Imagination. For example, “Kim would lie like oriental” or, bit later, ” all hours of the twenty-four are alike to orientals”, or, when Kim pays for train ticket with lama’s money he keeps one anna per ruppe for himself, which, Kipling says, is “the immemorial commission of India” later still Kipling refers to “the huckster instinct of the east” …..Kim’s ability to sleep as the trains roar is an instance of “the oriental’s indifference to mere noise”.

Kipling also develops between "native" and "Sahib" conflicts with the unavoidable fact that the British are the governing class, and the Indians are the governed. Kipling, however, presents the imperialist presence in India as unquestionably positive. This is done most effectively through the main plot of the novel — the endeavors of Indian and British spies to protect the northern border of British India from the encroachment of Russia, thus protecting the imperial interests of the British Empire. It is especially significant that Indian spies are shown protecting British interests. In this way, Kipling constructs an India in which the native population supports the British Empire and thus presents Britain's imperialist presence as a positive good.

The way Kipling assigns Kim the protagonist and Babu Hurree Chander oppositional positions,...
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