Rudyard Kipling's Kim

Self identification is one of the main aspects of moving into adulthood. Facing uncertainties about the origin, background, or ethnicity a person get confused about his or her life determination. The destiny was predisposed for Kim by the environment and society, he lived in. Nevertheless, the uncovered facts challenged his life perseption and identity. The ethical conviction, moral values and virtues, formed in Kim’s consciousness were to be reevaluated.

The Kim’s socialization is focused on the color of his skin. He is ashamed of a fact, that he is originally white. As he was raised in the orphanage, indigence and cruel society forced him to choose the life of thief and bagger as the part of his adaptation to the circumstances (Kipling, 25). Nevertheless, these circumstances educated the virtue of racial tolerance  and love to Hindus in Kim’s heart.

The skin color opposition that took place in India in the beginning of 20th century shows the viewpoint of both: white people and Hindus. Kim contradistinguished himself against people of the same skin color, feeling sympathy to Hindus. The denial of his skin color is the symbol of neglecting the white people’s behavior, political and cultural oppression towards eastern society (Bloom, 117).

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A young man’s social integration begins with the denial of the unnatural behavior and alien ideology. Therefore, neglecting actions of white people towards Hindus, Kim neglects their scale of values, which includes school and education. Considering vagrancy as his own lifestyle and philosophy, Kim disregards education as unneeded and unimportant information, as majority of teenagers do. His life adaptation, development of skills important for surviving, is his way of self-education.

These skills seem important for his teacher, lama, as well. Nevertheless, when the friend of Kim’s father said about perspectives of learning at the school for white children, lama also appreciated this idea. The education seems unimportant for Kim, but when he understood the limitation of his possibilities provided by the lack of education, he was ready to accept this practice.

The main hero’s world perception goes side by side with eastern philosophy, which encourages self-development, self-containment, unity with nature and search for life determination. Buddhism brought lama and Kim into contact, as he helped his teacher to enter the temple. Travelling together, Kim and lama help each other and gain a common aim - they search for lama’s river, which symbolize his determination, while Kim’s sign is emblematic as well - it was a tip about his origin, which helps Kim to face his destiny.

Eastern and western schools establish the opposition in life perception and duality in the philosophy of life. On the one hand, western philosophy symbolize knowledge, on the other hand, eastern philosophy is full the wisdom. As a result, the main hero learned how to combine these philosophical thoughts.

The inside facts of military service are studied by Kim while learning at the school. Previously, he disapproved white army as the source of destruction: dangerous and meaningless actions. Moreover, studying carefully the background information, he becomes reassured about its insensate cruelty. Kim meets the soldier, his Hindu friend’s husband and father of her child, who was forced to avoid his wife. This soldier couldn’t kill people on the war, especially people, who were Hindu, as his wife is one of them (Kipling, 87).

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Interracial marriages are prejudged as wrong and misleading. Women are left alone and doomed to survive on their own, while soldiers are forced to stop seeing their beloved. The soldier and his wife reunited, when the soldier ran away from the military service and became a deserter. The prejudice of interracial marriages is caused by racial intolerance and orthodox perception of a woman in India.

Nevertheless, cultural differences between eastern and western society is another important reason for interracial misunderstanding. Hindus, religious people who primarily venerate traditions, feel disrespected by white people, who do not care about spiritual values. This misperception can be observed at the moment, when white people started to shoot during the religious holiday.

These differences where understood for Kim, however, he was ready to stand for Hindus’ point of view. His life was full of unexpected adventures, since he began to learn espionage (Kipling, 129). His background knowledge, education and skills of the street thief appeared useful during his spy practice. The adventurous, dangerous and adult life of Kim was suggested by the author as the perfect life of young men, who dreams about virtuous deeds.

Bright and dangerous life seems interesting and inspiring for Kim. Nevertheless, the determination of his identity is the most important issue of the novel. The author shows a huge variety of conceptual oppositions, such east and west, black and white color of skin, travelling and adventures, knowledge and wisdom, the disciple and the spy. These oppositions are combined in Kim’s identity.

The eastern concepts outbalances in Kim’s identity, however, future belongs to western civilization. The death of the lama emphasizes several important aspects of Kim’s identity. First of all, the enlightening comes when the person is ready to understand it, as a river was found at the end of lama’s life, when he was prepared to identify it.

The second important issue is that western tradition is good for acknowledgement, and Kim shouldn’t deny it. The third and the most important issue is the disciple’s life determination – his identity is neither black, nor white, it can’t be evaluated or analyzed from only one side of the opposition. The duality and complexity of his virtues, deeds and origin forms his individuality, which is unique and could by identified only as Kim - “Friend of the whole World” (Kipling, 236).

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To sum up, it should be mentioned that the author emphasized main social, cultural and psychological questions important for the certain period of time and for the life perception in general. Kipling depicts Indian society, reflecting its unique culture and terrible indigence. Hindus in the novel are religious, wise and patient, while white people try to impose their peculiarities.  Kim protects oppressed Hindus and learns to understand white people as well.

Kim is a prototype of a young man that has various uncertainties in self identification. He has his own point of view on the majority of ethical issues, such as education, racial intolerance, ethnicity, religiosity interracial marriages, but he is confused, as his origin set against to majority of his considerations. Adventures unravel his virtues, and however dangerous his life is, he shows how courage and supportive he is, how important his education is, and how valiant his deeds are.

His teacher, lama, whose search for the river is a symbol of his own determination, helps his disciple to look for his identity. As a result, the lama helps Kim to understand, that any of the oppositions, criteria or categories can not identify the individuality. He is Kim, and it is the only possible definition. 

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