Showing posts with label Kim by Kipling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kim by Kipling. Show all posts

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eperialism in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim

Rudyard Kipling’s Kim easily falls into the category of colonial texts, which tried to portray the East as an Orientalized Orient. 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 unconsciously 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 jungal 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 perpetuation 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, for example, is also crucial to the power relations within which the narrative operates. The relationship between the colonizers and the natives was indeed a complex one, because there was no tidy transfer of power between the two parties. There are connections between the portrayal of Kim and the Babu but it becomes Kipling’s challenge to assign these two characters distinct roles in his political narrative. 

Kipling’s portrayal of Babu Hurree Chander Mookerjee, a native employee in the British administration, is a literary device used by Kipling to depict imperial authority. Indeed for Kipling, who believed that it was India’s own destiny to be ruled by England, it was imperative to stress the superiority of the white man, whose colonial mission was to rule the dark and ‘inferior’ races. He does this by locating the educated Hurree Babu in a position that is subordinate to Kim.

In terms of the social hierarchy enforced by colonial order, therefore, Kim occupies the privileged position by belonging to the ‘rulers’ whilst the Babu is his insignificant ‘other’. Despite this notable fact, both characters are, undeniably, products of a colonial upbringing in a colonized society. Thus, Kim develops as a superior in his role of authority, whilst Babu Hurree Chander is his excluded opposite. In other words, the Babu is Kim’s anti-self, to whom Rudyard Kipling assigns a negative value in relation to Kim. In fact the relationship between the coloniser and the colonized is a tense one, because of the intensity of the British colonial period. This is Kipling’s major dilemma in the novel and a problem that he attempts to overcome. The characters are merely there to highlight how the British Empire affected those at grassroots level, the people most affected by colonial authority. This is also why we see so many male relationships forged throughout the novel. Colonies were essentially run by men and imperialism was driven from a predominantly male perspective.
It is with this social and political context in mind that exposes Kipling’s imperialist ideology as being nothing more than a narrative strategy, to represent Kim’s authority over the native inhabitants of the colony. However, Kipling was arguably an imperialist, and Kim embodies attitudes towards British rule in India, which these days are wholly unacceptable and unpalatable. Kipling believed it was right and proper for Britain to ‘own’ India and rule its people, and so the possibility that this position might indeed be questionable never seems to have crossed Kipling’s mind. However, at the time that Kipling was writing, there was considerable ferment of revolt amongst Indians against British rule but Kipling appears to dismiss this at points in the novel when he could have acknowledged it. This is particularly apparent in Chapter Three when he has an old soldier comment on the Great Mutiny of 1857, dismissing it as mere “madness”:

In terms of explaining colonization and imperialism, therefore, Kim is the ideal embodiment of the conflicting Indian and English worlds. Interestingly, it appears that all of the events of the Great Victorian Empire are inbred in Kim’s own character. As the British Empire sought to discover and entrench its imperial authority in India, so too does Kim seek to find a place in the country in which he was born. Thus, Kim faces an ongoing struggle to create a new identity for himself. “Who is Kim?” “What is Kim?” are two questions that Kim asks himself as the novel progresses. For example on page 331 of Chapter 15, Kim poses exactly these questions from “his soul”:

‘I am Kim. I am Kim. And what is Kim?” His soul repeated it again and again.’
As in the words of Edward Said, “we have been shown two entirely different worlds existing side by side, with neither really understanding the other, and we have watched the oscillation of Kim, as he passes to and fro between them.” As such, Kipling renders a vision of India where intellectual, moral and political boundaries are less than equal. Indeed, if Kipling believed, as he well argued, that East and West can never really meet in the Indian colony, then in Kim he makes sure they do not.

Kipling’s emperialism becomes more evident if we compare him with another Victorian novelist Conrad. Unlike Conrad, Kipling did not offer any negative assessment of the imperial project.  On the contrary, for him it represented high adventure.  It was Europe's moral duty to 'enlighten' the non-white world.  Kipling believed in racial difference, that is, in European superiority and for him British rule in India was a solid fact, beyond any challenge.  

Thus, the Great Empire had a profound effect on Rudyard Kipling’s literary creativity, especially in the creation of his characters and the distinctive lives that they lead. As Said points out Kipling's Kim embodies the absolute divisions between white and non white that existed in India and elsewhere at a time when the dominantly white Christian countries of Europe controlled approximately 85 percent of the world's surface.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Character of Lama in Kipling's Kim

In his Kim Kipling portrays the character Lama with sympathy and devotion.Through the Lama, a Budhist priest the write draws the basic principles of Budhism.Budhism gives emphasis on the Nirvana,which means the total negatation of the desires.

According to Budhism all the desires ,emotions and bondages are the ’maya’ or illusion. The realisation of Nirvana comes through the acid test of illusion or ’maya’,that means when a person can discard all his desires then he can achieve the Nrvana.Thoroughout the novel the Lama makes a journey to find this spiritual Enlightenment.But he is also a human and faces many internal and external obstacles to fulfilling his quest.

Many a time he is disturbed by the emotion of love throughout the novel and also by the emotion of anger at the end of the novel.But all his human faults and his realisation of these faults elevate his position to our eyes.And the novel culminates with his triumphant attainment of his goal. The lama's success at attaining Enlightenment at the end of the novel serves to validate the authenticity and truth of his messages.

Who is the Lama?

We find the Lama in the first chapter when he comes from Moti Bazar before the Lahore museum.He is described as six feet tall,old,with a kind of yellow wrinkled face and a dingy shapeless mass when sunk in thaught. He lives according to the teachings of Buddha.He follows the middle path.Such a description of the Lama suggests something holy about his character.

Kim and the Lama

Kim got introduced with him and he told Kim that he had come from Kullu from beyond the Kailash.Kim takes The Lama to the museum and is greatly impresssed by the respect with which the Lama was treated by the Curator.That the Lama was a man of more than average intellectual ability was shown by this incident that he is so graciuosly received by the curator of the Lahore Museum.There is a long conversation between the curator and the Lama and kim listens to the conversation.From the conversation Kim learns about the Lama’s mission. The Lama has come to India in search of the Holy River that sprang from the arrow of the Buddha and which promises Enlightenment to its believers. The River proves elusive; even the learned museum curator at Lahore knows nothing of its location. Kim learns that the lama is traveling alone, as his chela, or follower and servant, died in the previous city. Seeing that the lama is an old man in need of assistance, Kim, dressed in the manner of a Hindu beggar child, agrees to be the lama's new chela and accompany the lama on his quest.

Wheel of things

The Lama takes a mission to find the River of the Arrows ,which has the miraculous power of freeing from sin all those who bathed in its waters.The Lama has dreamed of this river and mow hoprs to find it when he has attained freedom from wheel of things that is by meditation ,freed his mind from all earthly desires and passions.He hopes to free himself by his pilgrimage to Holy places by which he will acquire merit in the eyes of Buddha.

But Kim has his own mission too.By the Lama’s quest Kim is reminded of his own search for the Red Bull on a green field of which his father had spoken so often. Thus Kim and the Lama start their journey in the picarasque manner.

The Lama is shown to have an ’ammense simplicity’.He is utterly unfamiliar with the ways of the woeld and is dependent on Kim to look after him.After Kim and the Lama reach at Umballa ,they take lodging at a Hindu cultivator’s home.Here the Lama impressed the people by his gentle kindliness and his scholarliness.But never for a moment ,however,did he forget the River of Life which was the object of his search.

After leaving the cultivator’s home Kim and the lama proceed to the outskirts of Umballa in search of the River.Here they accidentally encroach upon a farmer's garden. The farmer curses them until he realizes that the lama is a holy man. Kim gets angry, but the lama teaches him not to be condemnatory, saying, "There is no pride among such who follow the Middle Way."
It is noticeable that throughout their pilgrimage together ,the Lama succeeds in instilling in Kim something of his fine philosophy.Thus when the Lama pardones the farmer and places the blessing upon his fields instead Kim becomes impressed.

In the 3rd chapter Kim gets another lesson from the Lama.As they go on from the from the farmer’s fields Kim sees a big cobra with fixed ,lidless eyes and tries to kill it.But the Lama forbids Kim saying ’let him live out his life .May thy release come soon ,brother’.
This shows how truly the Lama believes in Budhism.Budhism believes in the doctrine of the transmigration of souls.According to this doctrine ,all life,a part of the great plan,is seeking a sublime state of soul perfection known as Nirvana.

Another important event takes place in this chapter. Kim and the Lama meet an old soldier,who fought on the British side in the Great Mutiny of 1857. The lama preaches to the soldier the virtues of maintaining detachment from worldly items, emotions, and actions in order to attain Enlightenment.But in the next moment the lama goes out of his way to entertain a small child with a song.It is the first evidence of the lama's fault as a human.It also truly reflects his human struggle with maintaining distance from his human emotions.Apparently it may seem a contradictory characteristic of his character,but this contradiction or the fault raises his position as a man.He may fail to become a perfect lama for his showing of emotion but his action reflects the true human love which lies at the center of Budhism.So,this does not minimize his position.On the other hand his unconscious action displays the true goodness of his heart.

The character of the Lama is further developed in the fifth chapter.Kim and the Lama reach the Grand Trunk Road.Suddenly Kim encounters army surveyors and finds that their regimental flag bears the design of a Red Bull on the green field.He spies on the regiment and is caught.His father’s former connection with the regiment is discovered and the regiment takes charge of him.It is decided that Kim will be sent to the Protestant Sanawar Military Orphanage.But the Lama is broken-heart when he thinks that he will lose Kim to the regiment.But finally he decides to ’acquire merit’ by paying for Kim’s education.Here once again we see that the Lama breaks the law.He knows that showing emotion is a weakness of the world,but still he shows his increasing love for Kim.But it also reflects his true goodness of his heart.

Later the Lama also waits for Kim for a day and a half outside the school,but will not admit to himself that it is out of love for him and says it is simply to see that the money for his education is well spent.After Kim leaves him the Lama follows the blessed feet throughout India ,but postphones his search for the river umtil Kim can accompany him again.

After three years Kim goes to Benaras and meets the Lama again.The Lama’s delight at having Kim with him once more is truly touching:We are together ,and all things are as they were-Friend of the World-Friend of the Stars-my chela.

Kim’s quest for espionage

Kim is sent, per Creighton's instructions, to the home of the antiques and jewel dealer, Lurgan Sahib, who is another "player" in the Great Game. Lurgan Sahib is a hypnotist and a master of disguise. He, along with his servant, a small Hindu boy, teaches Kim to master many mind games to train his powers of quick observation, in preparation for his future work as a "chain-man" in the spy network. Another key chain-man, the Bengali Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, visits Lurgan Sahib and Kim and approves of Kim's potential and progress in his training. Mookerjee returns Kim to Lucknow and presents him with the gift of a medicine toolkit.

Kim completes his next year at St. Xavier's with great success as a student. He spends his summer holidays working as an assistant to Mahbub Ali and his Christmas holiday continuing his training with Lurgan Sahib.

After Kim returns for his third year of school, Mahbub Ali and Lurgan Sahib convince Creighton that Kim is ready, at the age of sixteen, to be discharged from school and put into chain-man training directly in the field. After he is discharged from school, Kim is taken to Huneefa, a blind prostitute and a sort of sorceress, who puts him in an authentic disguise as a young Buddhist priest and places a charm against devils upon him. Kim is also provided with all of the trade tools of a chain-man, and Mookerjee informs him of the secret code for recognizing another chain-man, or "Son of the Charm." Kim has officially been initiated into the network.

On the train, Kim encounters E23, a chain-man in the disguise of a Mahratta, who, having intercepted enemy documents, is under hot pursuit. Kim puts his training as a master of disguise to use and, in order to protect E23, transforms him into a Saddhu — a member of a sect of ascetic priests.

The lama, who knows nothing of Kim's training as a spy, believes that Kim has acquired the ability to cast spells and charms, and he warns Kim against using his powers for prideful reasons. Kim and the lama enter a discussion about the virtues of action versus inaction. While the lama advises Kim to abstain from "Doing" except to acquire merit towards Enlightenment, Kim responds that "to abstain from action is unbefitting a Sahib." The lama answers, "There is neither black nor white.... We be all souls seeking to escape."

The old woman whom Kim and the lama had previously encountered on the Grand Trunk Road hears of the lama's proximity and summons him to her home to request further blessings from the lama for her grandchildren. Here, Kim finds Mookerjee waiting for him in the guise of a hakim, or healer. Mookerjee reveals to Kim the details of the spy mission that has been occupying the Great Game for the past few years: the northern border is being jeopardized by five kings who rule over the independent regions bordering British India and are believed to be allying with the Russians, thus creating a significant security hazard for the British Empire. Mookerjee has been enlisted to intercept two Russian spies in the northern hill country and relieve them of their documents. He asks Kim to help him. Kim, eager to participate in the Great Game, convinces the lama to travel to the northern countries.

Finally having reached the northern lands, Kim finds the cold, wet weather and the dramatically hilly landscape difficult to travel; however, the lama is happy to be back in a region and environment familiar to him. All the while, Mookerjee has been stalking the two enemy spies, who turn out to be a Frenchman and a Russian. He eventually crosses their path and introduces himself to the spies as a welcoming emissary from the Rajah of Rampur, offering them his services and hospitality as a guide through the hill country. His true aim, of course, is to knock the spies off their course and relieve them of their secret documents before they are delivered into enemy hands.

Mookerjee leads the spies as if he is a travel guide and happens upon Kim and the lama, who is expounding on his Wheel of Life. One of the spies demands that the lama sell him his drawing of the Wheel. When the lama refuses, the spy reaches out to grab the paper and rips it, much to the chagrin of the lama, who in anger rises and threatens the spy with his lead pencase — inciting the Russian spy to punch him full in the face. Kim immediately tackles the Russian spy and beats him, while the spies' servants — who are Buddhists and therefore enraged at the attack on a holy man — drive away the French spy and run off with the luggage.

Kim, leaving the spies to the care of Mookerjee, convinces the servants that the luggage, being the possession of two evil men, is cursed. He obtains the package with the secret documents and heads to Shamlegh-under-the-snow for shelter, where they stay with the Woman of Shamlegh.

The lama, meanwhile, is shaken at his inability to resist his passions and at his gross display of attachment to his artwork and to his emotions. The excitement and worry have made him ill. In his illness he spends much time in meditation and, after a few days, informs Kim that he has seen "The Cause of Things": his bodily desire to return to the hills caused him to abandon his search for the River; his act of giving into his desire led him to further give in to his passions and attack the spy — thus moving farther and farther from his quest on the Way to Enlightenment. Having come to this conclusion, the lama demands that he be taken back to the lowlands of India to continue his search for the Holy River.

Kim and the convalescent lama travel for over twelve days and return to the home of the old woman of Kulu, where Kim collapses into a feverish illness. The old woman nurses him out of his illness, for which he is grateful. Having acquired many father figures throughout his journeys, he has now acquired a true mother figure. Mookerjee, hearing that Kim is awake and well, relieves him of the secret documents and proceeds to deliver them to the Colonel.

Coming out of his fever and suddenly relieved of the burden of the secret documents, Kim is overcome by a sense of displacement that has visited him several times throughout his travels. He repeats to himself, "I am Kim. What is Kim?" At this point, he experiences an epiphany of his existence. Having previously seen himself as detached and somewhat alienated from the world, he comes to a feeling of utter belonging among all people.

Meanwhile, during Kim's illness, the lama, having foregone food for two days and nights in the pursuit of meditation, has attained the Enlightenment he has been seeking. He relates to Kim how his soul released itself from his body, how he flew up to the Great Soul to meditate upon The Cause of Things. However, a concern came to him suddenly regarding Kim's well-being, and so, for Kim's sake, his soul returned to his body and landed, headlong, in the Holy River of his seeking. He declares his Search is over and that he has attained Deliverance from sin for both himself and his beloved chela.

He reaches Nirvana and contenment at last,peacful and passionless ,but relinquishes his union with the Great Soul to share his salvation with his beloved chela.