The Two Faces of Kim: An Investigation into Rudyard Kipling's Kim

2456 Words 10 Pages
The Two Faces of Kim: An Investigation into Rudyard Kipling's Kim

"I would go without shirts or shoes,
Friends, tobacco or bread
Sooner than for an instant lose
Either side of my head."
The Two-Sided Man (Kipling 179)

To think of "the two-sided man" is to think of the self-searching protagonist of Rudyard Kipling's Kim. "Burned black" and yet white, Irish and yet 'Little Friend of All the World', British and yet native, ruler and yet servant, Kipling's multi-faceted Kim must find his place in the social order of a society that he resides in but is not truly connected to (51). Moreover, what he must also do is recognize that his two identities do not have to come together to form one; it may be more advantageous to keep the two
…show more content…
The first important relationship to the text is a familial one, where Kim's status is that of orphan. Though Kipling writes of Kim's father Kimball O'Hara, he introduces Kim without surname - as just Kim. Not having parents and a last name indicates that Kim is without an inheritance, a background and any titles of rank. Kim can therefore be seen as nameless and without social position, transforming his quest into a search for the parents he does not have and the legitimate social position he has been denied. One would think that his desire to assume the social rank of his father would coincide with the desire to shake off all Indian loyalties, but this is not the case. It is true that from the beginning, Kim takes on an authoritative rule. Atop the gun Zam-Zimmah, Kim takes on the role of king in "his king-of-the-castle game" (51). He even ranks players according to their race and nationality, setting up a hierarchy where white rules over Indian, Muslim and Hindu. What is more is that, around his neck, he wears an amulet that holds papers left to him from his father. However, as much as Kim's racial identity is fixed by his birth, he sits atop the gun "in defiance of [British] municipal orders," is "burned black as any native" and willingly wears the "costume of a low-caste street boy" (49; 51). He even hides the street-boy costume in a secret place, prefers to wear it over any European dress, and enjoys the company of his native friends, indicating

Related Documents