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Abstract:

In post-colonial world Edward Said depicts the
false image of the ‘Orient’ which is designed by Western thinkers as inferior
‘other’ in contrast with the superior and civilized West. Said feels that the
outcome of the colonialism is still existing in different forms i.e.
corruption, wars, bloodshed, coups and chaos in many of the ex-colonies of the
then empire. The colonizer has imposed his language and culture on the native
people. In his important work Orientalism
(1978) Said says that “Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an
ontological and epistemological distinction made between the Orient and the
Occident”. This kind of approach has been used to justify the occupations and
horrors that accompany the oriental world. The occident have dominated these
people and exploited their wealth in the name of educating, civilizing and even
humanizing them. Most of the colonial texts have  produced 
their so called otherness. According to Said these texts are highly biased
which depict the orient people as irrational, strange, week and even feminine
.On the other hand west has been presented as the rational, strong ,wise and
masculine.  The present article explores
the subaltern ideology in Kipling’s novel 
‘Kim’.

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Key Words:
Post-colonial, Oriental, Hegemonic, Imperialist, Occident.

 

Introduction

Post-colonial literature depicts the contrast
between the oriental and the occident. The hegemonic power structure just wants
to justify the inferior other’s point of view to defend the notion of
subalterns. Edward Said has defined the subaltern as the inferior other who
does not have the civilized way of life. In 
this context Kipling’s view of Indian people’s habit ,language  and the different ways of living the life
shows that Indians can be out witted and dominated by the British . In the
novel Kim, Kipling has mentioned that
Indians lack sense of time and do believe in their ability to tell a lie. Kim is a story of a quest under taken by
Kimball O’ Hara the son of an Irish soldier, now an orphaned street urchin who
lives in Lahore. Kipling is sensitive to nuances of Indian speech and the life
lived here enables him to find the smell of inferiority. In this novel Kipling
presents the superiority of the active life of occident over the lazy way of
life lived by oriental. Lama, a follower of middle way seeks a river that will
wash away sins and Kim is looking for ‘Red bull on green field’. It means the
Red British army marches on the green Indian fields to dominate the Indian soil.   On the other hand, Kim is a predominantly male novel with women as distant presence
put into the sphere of the man’s world. The novel has a layered structured in
which we find the perspective of the imperialist ideology. Kipling shows his
sense of belonging in Kim but not
without contradictions .Kipling as journalist tried to differentiate between
the life he lived with his parents and the life working for the British
interests. Kipling considers imperial rule as a philosophy that celebrates the
superiority of British culture and civilization. He seems to be the spokes
person of the empire and tries to justify the cruelties of the British rule on
the Indians under the pretext of law and enlightenment. Kim is a pro-imperialist novel which mentions the authority and
benevolence of imperial rule in India. This novel further presents the western
attitude towards Indian people through the biased portrayal of Indian
characters in the novel. Kipling has idealized imperial British rule in India
by showing the developmental works undertaken by British government. In this
way he celebrates the energy and vitality of the imperial rule, power and
brings forth the meekness of Indians. Kipling has made many other biased and
rash generalizations about India and its people in this novel. It means we
can’t defend or excuse Kipling’s attitude but it can be discussed as a
historical fact which has its unique place in the history of India and in the
history of English literature. This paper explores the real intentions of the
west to dominate east in the great game of the principle of domination.

 

Kim and Subaltern Ideology

Kim (1901) is Kipling’s last
novel in which he presents the story of an Irish boy   who
grows up independently in India . Kim grows up as a native and knows how to
communicate with the large groups of people in India. When he meets Lama, they
make a journey around India. After this journey Kim gets  the knowledge Indian culture and habits of
the people. He also visits the army regiment where his father has worked. So,
Kim is the blend of double identity that is represented as the guide for
British empire. It is true that both India and British Empire cause the problem
of identification for the colonial subjects. Here Kim from an Irish family is
able to have an appropriate relationship with the natives by adapting elements
of Indian culture and integrating himself into the Indian community. In this
regards Bhabha rightly observes that ‘Kim is an in between character whose
interstitial position is needed to empower the desire of imperialism and this
estranges any immediate access to an ordinary identity (Bhabha, 2). Kim is presented
as a person who has acquired all the customs of the country which he knew and
loved.

            In the novel Kim, Kipling compares Kim and Hurree Babu from different
perspectives. Kim faces the problem of double identity. One way he realizes
that he is a British and on the other he sometimes finds himself as an Indian.
This type of feeling is the result of strange mixture of prejudices against the
natives because European considered Indian and their culture an inferior to the
European.  Kipling’s observations
regarding the Indian customs and society show that he is a classified
colonialist. In the novel he admires the work of the ordinary civil servants,
engineers, architects and other agents of the British Empire.  In this regard Carrington says:

            If
India was being wickedly exploited, certainly they (the English Officials) were
not the exploiters.  It could not be
denied, by anyone who took the trouble to enquire, that they were giving India
internal security, communications, precautions against famine, irrigation, afforestation,
even the rudiment of an educational system, on a scale that no other country in
continental Asia or Africa could approach. These young Englishmen had much to
be proud of, and it was a matter of pride with Kipling to serve for seven years
in this unselfish army.(83)

             It happened because at that time in Europe
nationalism was a powerful issue which is reflected in the novel by Kipling.
Now we will take some of the examples from the novel which support this point
of view. Kipling depicted India as a country where the Europeans are confronted
with different castes and religions and find they confused. Kipling narrates
the story where Kim is caught by two white British priests within a military
unit. But here Kim writes to his friend Mahbub Ali to rescue him from that
situation . As it is not a difficult task for Mahbub Ali, nobody knows him and
when he puts Kim on his horse and rides away then nobody knows where to search
them as it was difficult for them to search in the native surroundings. Kipling,
therefore presents a kind of knowledge as well as social relationship of Kim
through his friendship and relationship with the natives which he finds
important value in Indians. This is the result of the being brought up in
Indian society by a half caste woman. Kim’s close friends are all Indians and
his knowledge of native India is deep. However, he is completely bewildered by
the world of the Europeans. So, it signifies that he is culturally separated
from them and belongs to the Indian world . 
Kim refers to the priests as to the ‘thin fool’, fat- fool  and ‘the camel like fool’. At the beginning
of his captivity among the British soldiers, he claims that it is an
interesting experience to be a sahib and having found himself as a European.
Now he believes that it is an amusing cultural change . Before this he was a chela and now he is a sahib. Kim thinks
in Hindi language and finds very difficult to translate them into English language.
It is because Kim is not well acquainted with the English speaking and
celebrated authors in England like Shakespeare who has been regarded as
inevitable for the British. The only tie to the European for Kim is his
biological descendancy. But here, Kipling shows that his European parents died
when he was just three years old. It means Kipling gives more importance to the
descendancy and ethnicity at the expense of other values of environment in
which he has grown up.

            Another character which is just different
from Kim is Hurree who is of Oriental origin. But he is pro-European and
pro-British. Being a spy he risks his life for the British. Moreover, he is
also very much interested in the official British culture and has classical
education of the Europeans. Kipling has different approach for these two
characters in the novel. Kipling  treats
Hurre as an Oriental although he has a British taste. As he says “I am
unfortunately Asiatic , which is serious detriment in some respects. And all-so
I am Bengali-a fearful man (Kim,
297).” He is not a negative character but also shows his virtue when he listens
to Lama reverentially, he is presented in such a way that he shows his true
nature:

            He Hurree  
himself had been  taught by sahibs,
who do not consider expense , in The lordly halls of Calcutta; But as he was
first to acknowledge , they lay a wisdom behind Earthly wisdom –the high and
lonely lore of meditation. Kim looked on with envy. The Hurree Babu of his
knowledge –oily, effusive, and nervous – was gone ;gone too, was the brazen drug
vendor of overnight.(301).

            In the above mentioned quote,
Kipling presents a change of character that seems to exist in two forms. The
first one is Hurree who is ‘oily’, nervous and effusive’ and he finds some respect
when he advances to Lama is the second one. This is just contradictory because
of his classical British education, for example his use of Latin words and when
he speaks about Shakespeare. Now it is quite interesting that in some way he is
connected with European environment and still he targeted as an Oriental.
Hurree Babu also expresses his positive 
attitude towards the oriental culture as expressed ; he is perceived
positively but his inclinations towards western 
values are always depicted as pictures but seem rather funny and
opportune. Here Kipling chooses everything by ethnicity rather than the freedom
of the characters in the novel.  In this
regard Williams says “In Kipling’s writings the Indians are superior to the
British in the matter of religion as the British are to them in material.” (483).

            Hurree is of Oriental origin and his
approaches are portrayed as to the European culture which is quite ridiculous
and funny where as his mentality is presented as completely Oriental. It means
Kipling does not approve mixing of races. So, Kipling designs his characters by
ethnicity and not by the cultural aspirations. Colonial superiority shapes the
character  and identity of Kim and in the
process of learning  Kim forms a new
image of Brutishness.  This involves some
connection with British culture, English Language and even the role of church.
But Kipling puts Kim in the main frame of his descendancy from parents and
ethnicity which gives his Brutishness a specific taste. Here, we find that Kim
express his ideas like this, “Kimball , I suppose you would like to be a
soldier. Gorah- log white folk.No-ah, No-ah. Kim shook his head violently .
There was nothing in his composition to which drill and routine appealed. I
will not be a soldier (Kim, 127). The
British ruled India by having the post of soldiers, civil servants and rulers
and they were considered by the natives in the same role. In the character of Kim,
the consciousness of belonging to Britain exists to keep his Indian culture
away. So, the character of Kim is blended with two types of components. First
Kipling’s praise for Indian culture and his partial identification with it and
the other one is his thinking that British are the suitable rulers of the
natives.

             Kim
is a novel in which Kipling shows his fondness of the native culture. But at
the same time he also draws the boundaries between his own position as the
ruler and the admiration of Indian   culture. The   character of lama is displayed with Kipling’s
this kind of thinking. He is an enjoyable figure in the novel. He   shows
his love for the living creatures and children which means he is having the
humanity that reduces the distance between the Oriental and the European. But
Kipling stress on the benefits of the colonial rule in the less civilized
Oriental countries. Lama accepts this kind of Kipling’s approach towards the
natives. Even though Lama is positively portrayed but he bears the colours of
the British. In fact producing the in- between sense of belongingness in half
educated natives is to just assist the political domination of British rulers.
Although, colonial discourse desires reformation and regulation of
the colonized Indians. But they did not consider these natives equal to their
own level in any sense. In this regard Said states that ‘Kim is a person
capable of changing his appearance quickly like chameleon-like character’ (Said,155).
In the novel Kim Kipling gives
emphasis on the instability of Kim’s identity. Kim is a double agent who is an
Irish orphan and also acts like the native. 

In this
novel Kipling described the world of native in contemporary India . He also
relates it to the world of colonizers. Kipling presents the images of Indian
city which supports the idea of distance between the civil servants and the
native community. He also describes ‘Smile as a conglomeration of verandas,
alley –ways and bolt –holes, and the city where the police controlling the inhabitant’s
familiar with the place encounter serious difficulties.’ (Kim,68) . In this novel the reader can notice a gap between the
natives and the European officials . Kipling as a colonialist admires the work
of the civil servants who bring European inventions and the so called progress
to this part of the world which he considers inferior to the West. But at the
same time he points out the mistakes they make . In this regard  Carrington 
remarks, ” the Native –Born is an appeal from the colonial born  overseas for a little understanding on the
part of his English brother (259). This kind of attitude is found in the
character of Kim.

            Thus in Kim, Kipling  presents India
as mixture of the old customs and traditional life style of the native  castes with the modern inventions  and 
the progress of the British –Raj . But the two parts of the life did not
mix with each other and remain  far away
from the blending of it. Kim tries to define the bond between the two worlds of
colonizers and the native Indians but he did not succeed completely in his
motive because Kim is also a victim of the rulers ‘s arrogance to the
natives.  The novel therefore does not
offer a scrutiny of the native people of India of that particular period of the
colonial rule , but it is rather a picture created by the colonizers. Kipling
offers a vision of Indian society and culture admired by the British. He
admired the efforts of ordinary people just to survive and not to achieve anything
in the world. Kim is a descriptive novel
centred on the differently flavoured atmosphere of India  presented through a variety of characters.
The relationship between the British and the native population is an
indispensable part of India as represented in the novel, reveals the great
distance between their world and cultures.

 

Works Cited

 

Carrington, Charles, (1955) Rudyard
Kipling: His Life and Work. London: Macmillan.

Kipling, Rudyard. (1994) Kim . London : Macmillan.

Said. Eedward. (1994) Orientalism. London: Vintage.

——————.Culture and Imperialism. London.

Williams, Patrick. (1994)
“Kim and Orientalism”.Colonial Discourse
and Postcolonial Theory: A Reader.Ed. Patrick Williams. Cambridge:
Cambridge UP.

 

 

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