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One Character, Two Worlds: “Kim” by Rudyard Kipling Explicatory Essay

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Updated: Feb 23rd, 2022


Rudyard Kipling’s book “Kim” is a story about a young Irish orphan. His parents were of Irish descent. They passed on while he was an infant. He was left under the care of a half- caste lady who showed no concern for his welfare.

Living under the scorching Indian sun, Kim’s skin pigment became so dark that no one could imagine he was white. He was able to pass for an Indian even though he was White. With no one to look after him, Kim earned his keep by begging on the avenues of Lahore and doing small favors. His life on the streets is full of dangerous exploits like fighting and extortion.

The main characters in the novel are Kim, a Tibetan priest in search of a sacred watercourse; Mahbub Ali, a merchant in horses and a secret service agent; colonel Creighton, the administrator of the secret service and a member of Maverick regiment; Chunder Mookerjee, a secret service agent who assists Kim in carrying out a mission.

One day, a priest passed through Lahore in his search for the sacred stream. Excited about the Lama’s quest, Kim decided to join him. While he was enjoying this new adventure, Mahbub Ali, a stallion merchant asks him to run an errand for him. Without his knowledge, Kim delivers a message from a British secret service agent to an Officer.

Soon after, Kim notices the symbol of his father’s team on a flag and Kim is forced to leave the Tibetan Lama and go back to school to become a Sahib. While in school he becomes worried about his identity. Although he does not like school, the Lama encourages Kim to attend class and pays for his education. The Lama then disappears for a long time and later returns to seek Kim. While in school, Ali rescues Kim following mistreatment by a bully. Their friendship develops from this point.

On realizing what a great asset Kim would become, Creighton and Ali decide to take Kim to school while training him to work as a spy for the secret service. During school break, Kim would disguise himself as a street urchin and work as a spy. On one occasion, he saves Ali’s life after eavesdropping on a conversation in the marketplace. After spending three years in school, Kim sets out on a spy mission with the Lama. With the assistance of Babu, he manages to collect significant documents from Russian spies.

Several levels of meaning in the story

In this story, Kim’s identity predicament has a number of meanings. His identity represents the customs of the west and the east which are incompatible. Although he is originally from Ireland, he identified with the Indian as a young boy.

He preferred Indian vernacular and seldom spoke his mother tongue (Kipling 5). The blazing sun would change his skin complexion to make him look like an Indian boy. He carried notes from his deceased father on a chain around his neck and searched for his squad. He decides to be a disciple to Lama so he can learn the ways of the easterners.

At the same time, he runs errands for Mahbub Ali who educates him to be a spy. Soon after, he discovered the flag his father had talked about, he embraced his white heritage and worked as a spy for the secret service (Kipling 47). His work as a spy enabled the British to stay in power. The author attempts to bring out a connection between race and origin. Despite the fact that Kim was raised in the streets of Lahore, his allegiance was still with the British.

Numerous meanings are revealed in the journey of the Lama to find the river of the arrow. The river was not only important for its cleaning powers but also to provide illumination. Once Kim asks the Lama how he will know he has discovered his river. The Lama replied, “When I find it, enlightenment will be surely given” (Kipling 43).

In addition, this journey represents the growth and development of Kim. His friendship with the old priest was rather odd given their age difference. However, through his interactions with the Lama, Kim was able to gain wisdom. The Lama helped him to respect and embrace Buddhism, which according to the author, promotes moral principles and love.

This novel further demonstrates the significance of good relationships. All through his quest, Kim establishes relationships with people from all walks of life. The associations give him the love and support that he could not receive from his parents. First, he befriends the Lama, who takes him on a spiritual journey. The lama leaves but soon returns to find the boy so they could continue in their quest. Mahbub Ali refers to Kim as “my little friend of the entire world” (Kipling 143).

A minor detail in the book that has several levels of meaning is the character of Kim as a small boy with knowledge and skills that assist him to become a spy. Although the novel is based on a child’s adventure, it also supports the British rule through his character and identity as a white boy who adopts the Indian lifestyle. The audience is children and youth who receive empowerment to be future leaders.

What is the author’s attitude to the government of the British Raj?

Kipling supported the British rule in India. This is demonstrated by his characterization of the protagonist. Kim is a white boy raised in India. His father left him notes so he could find his identity. The author establishes a relationship between the Indians and Kim, and illustrates his superiority over his peers.

For example, when Kim was involved in a street fight, he kicks the Indian child and wins the fight. He has special rights because of the color of his skin. Kim further enjoys a good relationship with adults. His intellectual capacity is demonstrated in his interactions with the adults. Ali listens to him every time he speaks and says, “Speak, Sahib: thy black man hears” (Kipling 136).

Father victor’s response to Kim also demonstrates his superiority as a white boy. The father suspected Kim was a thief because of the way he was dressed as a beggar. He later produced notes that revealed he was British; the father was embarrassed and apologetic. When at the regiment’s camp, the drummer had superiority issues as well. He looked down on Kim because he chose to adopt an Indian lifestyle. He bullied Kim until he was rescued by Mahbub Ali.

In Kim’s adventure, the author’s support for the British government in India is portrayed in his description of the characters in the novel. At the end of the story, we see the British secret service triumph as they discover the information held by Russian spies. Kipling seeks to give power to children who will later on become influential in their generation.

The author once again demonstrates his support for the government of the British Raj in the third chapter. Kipling describes the protest of the Indians against the colonialist as foolishness. He does not believe that the British rule is oppressing, he sees it as a method by which the British are passing their moral values and obligations to the Indian.

The author perceives their denial as imprudence. According to the book, the British colonialist also views the revolt as illogical and unnecessary. The choice of words used by Kipling to describe the revolt proves that he is siding with the British rule.

Although the narration does not come from a British citizen, the Indian soldier who describes the incidence makes the revolt sound unreasonable. The soldier continues to give credit to the government for retaliating against the rebels. The literature used credits the British rule for its accountability and justice.

How does the author see human nature?

Equity is important to the writer. This is portrayed clearly in a conversation between Kim and Lama. He teaches Kim that all men are the same despite the color of their skin. The lama has a wheel of life which is a representation of the sequence of the human life. In his teachings, the greatest achievement for the human soul is knowledge.

Enlightenment promotes egalitarianism and harmony. Unity is equally important to the author as he illustrates human nature. For example, all the main characters in the book are from different nations and tribes. Colonel Creighton is English; Ali is from Afghanistan while Babu is Bengali. These characters are united with an objective to protect the British government in India.

The author views human nature in terms of relationships. Friendship is important too as shown in the interactions between Kim and the Lama. Additionally, besides relationship, the author considers religion a part of human nature. Kipling comprehended Buddhism and proudly presented it in the book.

eligion is one of the main themes in Kim. The author discloses the connection between the search for the river and individuality. The author uses the journey in search of the river to describe the different cultures and values adopted in India. He is dedicated to providing descriptions that give a picture of diversity. He vividly describes the people Kim meets such as the old woman from the north.

The requirements of being an intelligence officer or spy

To become an intelligent spy, intense training is required. For example, Lurgan Sahib was a master in masquerade and a professional hypnotist. Together with a Hindu youngster, they taught Kim how to read people’s mind and master the art of camouflage.

The ability of Kim to pass as white or Indian also made him a strong spy. He could disguise himself and pass for a street beggar. However, what made Kim a strong spy was his secrecy (Kipling 177). He was able to travel with the Lama for a long time without revealing his identity as a secret agent.

Throughout the book, the Lama had no idea what his true intentions were. Furthermore, Kim was very thoughtful. He saved the life of Mahbub Ali disguised as a rogue. He had memorized every Indian trick. He has extensive knowledge of traditions and language. Team work is vital for one to become an intelligent spy.

Kim worked together with the Babu in their last mission. The Babu posed as a distraction so that Kim would steal the documents from the Russian spies. As the novel progresses, he volunteered to show Lurgan Sahib, how much he had learnt (Kipling 174). He revealed the attitude and language to apply on a farmer, an unveiled woman and an Englishman. All these tricks demonstrate the skills that Kim possessed.


The story of Kim is very significant, it not only captures the adventure experienced by a young boy, but it describes the imagery of the developed and less developed nations. Although these nations have diverse customs and values, this book demonstrates that it is possible for the two worlds to meet.

Kim’s character has two identities, he is Irish but he is intertwined in the Indian lifestyle. Religion plays a major role in the story. With the help of the Lama, Kim was able to understand the importance of impartiality and unity.

Works Cited

Kipling, Rudyard. Kim. California, NuVision Publications, LLC, 2009

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