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Rudyard Kipling’s stories of India were originally seen primarily as entertainment. For a British novelist of his period, Kipling treated India and its inhabitants in a way that was both knowledgeable and sympathetic. Often the Indian characters are the most admirable in the stories. Given that the leading characters of Kim, as of many of Kipling’s works, are all male, it is easy from a 21st century viewpoint to accuse Kipling of being an imperialist whose oppressive attitude towards India is echoed in a similar disempowering narrative of femininity. Such a critique, though, would be anachronistic.
Kim is a story about the coming-of-age of a young male orphan who tries to forge an identity in a complexly multi-cultural society. It is written primarily for a young male audience and address the concerns of masculine identity within a broader context of cultural identity. Ultimately, however, the complex panorama of the novel is ill-served by a narrow critical focus on gender, as the issues of cultural and spiritual identity are ones shared by male and female readers alike.
i suggest that the role of masculinity is inherant in the book. The first image we have is of Kim astride a canon - an obvious phalic symbol. Femals are hardly mentioned except in a stereotyped way: an insignificant, drunk, opium eater, a deceitful prostitute and a demanding woman who can't stop talking. None of these images of women are attractive, but the main male characters are brave, noble, spiritual... QED
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