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Monday, May 9, 2011

KIM XI -- chapter 6.1: Trousers and Jacket Cripple [the] Body and Mind

"First I will take my pay."
Stop reading at: "This somewhat consoled Kim for the beatings."

While I enjoyed this chapter perhaps more than much of the rest of the book to this point, there's not really a lot to discuss or question.  One thing, however, that caught my eye here as well as previously, and which also connects to something I learned prior to beginning the reading of the novel, is the issue of Kipling's racism.  While decidedly racist (and how could one supporting imperialism not be, really?), his bigotry appears to toe a line.  In this chapter we see the distasteful word, "nigger," repeatedly, but Kipling's use thereof is about as favorable as that of Twain's--that is an indicator of ignorance, stupidity, or simply [the stultifying, as opposed to Kipling's subtler and entirely non-self-conscious, brand of] racism and superstition on the part of the one uttering it.  Kipling appears here to recognize a line dividing acceptable and unacceptable "levels" of racism.  Thoughts?  In support of this, there is the issue of Kipling's use of the swastika as an accompaniment to his signature and emblem appearing in early editions of his books.  Despite the immensely negative connotations of the swastika, it's originally/etymologically intended use is markedly innocuous.  The word itself is Sanskrit for "auspicious object" (and I prefer Princeton's definition of "auspicious" simply for its simplistic elegance).  In other words, a swastika is pretty much a good-luck charm.  Yet, according to Wikipedia and its pertinent article's sources, Kipling tossed aside the symbol as soon as there was even the slightest possibility that it might associate him with the Nazi movement, which, of course, was founded nearly entirely upon racism, bigotry, and supposed biological superiority.  But isn't this essentially what an imperialist movement is also built on? --that one race (or government/religion) is exactly what makes the moving country better than / superior to the one it's invading and conquering?  Kipling supported imperialism.  Where did his racism lie?


  1. Yeah, Kipling would have used the swastika before it got hijacked by the Nazis, so I don't think that it's a point against him. The racism is hard to understand because I'm not sure if the use of the "n-word" is used to make the British look somewhat stupid or if he's just accurately describing how they would talk at the time. Twain is so over-the-top that it's clear that he's mocking him. Here, I don't think that you can say that Kipling is endorsing it based on the text, but you can't be sure that it's parody either. I think that it's clear that Kipling was a bit of a racist, but I really don't know how much at this point in the book. The interesting thing to me about Kim is that he doesn't seem to fit in with either side. I wonder if Kipling believes that this is sort of his position in society, whether he was right or wrong to think so.

  2. I've never had such a hard time pinning down an author. Or else, I've never had such a hard time pinning down an author who's book left me room to think, "What is he really doing here?" There are other books that leave a great big blank where the author sits, but they're engaging enough that I don't care, or unimportant enough that I don't bother reading them.

  3. My B&N introduction suggested that Kipling himself was deeply conflicted, based upon his background and the author's analysis of his texts as a whole.

  4. That is really interesting, and, so far, seems to make a lot of sense. After all, didn't he spend a great deal of time in India? How could he not start to really understand and sympathize with them when around and with them so much--at least so much that he was able to write what he did?


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