What are some of the identity issues of Mowgli in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one of the most profound issues that governs over Mowgli's sense of being in the book is the straddling of both worlds he experiences.  From even the slightest tragic sensibility, one sees that Mowgli is conflicted in his identity.  It is evident that he does not belong to the world of the animals.  His use of fire confirms this and there is a basic disconnect between he and the other animals because of his physical appearance as a human.  At the same time, he finds that he is not immediately accepted by the world of the humans because of his behavior with the animals, as the humans see him as other wordly and something not particularly like them.  Mowgli's identity is conflicted because he is not purely of both worlds, something that he recognizes at the end that he must "learn" to be like the humans.  Another identity issue that Mowgli undergoes in the midst of this existential crisis is how and why evil persists.  He has little understanding as to why Shere Khan is driven to get him and recognizes that his own survival depends on ending the tiger's.  Accordingly, he cannot comprehend why the villagers have imprisoned Messua and her husband, yet he understands that he must formulate a response to such evil.  Another element of his identity crisis is his position against evil, something that is coupled with his own struggle to understand his sense of self.


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