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Friday, April 29, 2011

KIM VII -- chapter 4.1: A Second Son at Least!

"On the Road"
stop reading at: "He was nearly asleep when the lama suddenly quoted a proverb: 'The husbands of the talkative have a great reward hereafter.' Then Kim heard him snuff thrice, and dozed off, still laughing."
  1. age-old question: The Lama's situation reminds me of a theme from the Agent Pendergast novel (Lincoln/Child) I just finished reading.  Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss, inasmuch as the truth--or the process of gaining it--is so potentially painful.  Is the Lama better off in the dark regarding, or ignorant of, the "real world" (he wonders whether Kim is a spirit or an evil imp) or to see it, experience it, and gain wisdom?  Is Kim better off as he is (he is, after all, an exceedingly happy and optimistic individual), or were he more like the Lama?  More broadly, I think about my children: is it better to protect them from the world that perhaps they may be happier for the lack of darkness thereof, or better off experiencing/observing as much of it as possible?
  2. Along the same lines, Kim, particularly considering his so-terrene nickname, is worldly, while the Lama seeks apparently to avoid worldliness.  The word (and its derivations), "worldly," is pretty plastic in its application.  In its most obvious, Kim is in "the seventh heaven of happiness" as he passes along the Old Trunk Road, watching the world pass by below him, while the Lama keeps, essentially, his eyes and mind closed to all but his own meditations.  Any thoughts here?
  3. The long descriptive paragraphs in the first few pages of this chapter are gorgeous--not necessarily in their prose, but in their subject and the details of which Kipling chooses to accent: a riot of color, life, creatures--animal and humans alike (and how appropriately so!) --sin and piety, caste and race.  What is your impression of life around the Old Trunk Road?
  4. (Is it just me, or is there a taste of Dickens about this book: the orphan, the bustling city...?)
  5. I'm interested in the tonal arc of this chapter and how the ambient activity and light/dark reflect in the mood of the day's inhabitants.

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  1. 1. Always a tough question. I think that happiness should always be a greater goal than knowledge. However, if happiness is constructed on something that is false, then the winds will come, and the house will fall (or some similar paraphrasing). I think in the case of the lama, the question that he is asking is one that Kipling invites us to ask. Yes, Kim is self-interested, but it's not necessarily clear that he isn't some kind of blessing at bottom, even if he's not perhaps what the lama would imagine. I think of someone like Smeagol/Gollum. He's in the quest for his own reasons, yet he was ultimately essential to the success of the quest, so in that way, he was an evil imp and a spirit at the same time. Maybe Kim is similar.
    2. I think that they represent two types of ways of finding happiness. Kim embraces the world and celebrates it for what it is, while the Lama rejects it and hopes for something better.
    3. I think that it's interesting because, while Kipling definitely is a colonialist, he really does celebrate the beauty of India. I think that this passage is one of the most telling.
    4. There's an element of it, but I don't get the sense of pathos in this that I do when I read Dickens.
    5. I know that you read this over a week ago, but if you still remember, could you explain what you mean here?

  2. 1. Well-put. I look at the stuff I know (inasmuch as it's reasonably impossible to truly examine what I don't know) and there's some stuff in there that I simply wish I didn't, which came via experiences which, while informative and even formative, have done nothing for my happiness save offer contrast. And this final word is an excuse for many to learn/experience all they can, no matter how horrible: without the bitter you cannot know the sweet, and by extension, the more you know of the bitter, the better able to you are at discerning all the varieties and degrees and nuances of sweet. It's a difficult balance....
    2. Yes. Is one right? Or is the answer gray, rather than black or white?
    3. I agree, and it creates a fascinating balance between the admiration and the racism.
    4. I am eagerly, and somewhat dubiously, awaiting the arrival of pathos.
    5. (I think so.) If I remember, this chapter was pretty conveniently divided in two -- day and night. Each periods have specific descriptions that emphasize, apart from light/dark, the time of day. How--maybe? --are the characters and situations of this chapter affected by their appearance/occurrence in either the day or the night?


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