In "The Man Who Would Be King," where do the characters fit into the Anglo-Indian hierarchy?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is clear from the way that the narrator acts towards Carnehan and Dravot that these two characters before they set out to be kings are somewhat dubious and shady characters. This is revealed in the suspicion that the narrator has towards them and also the information that they give the narrator about themselves, and their unspecified profession. The fact that they are free to admit that they have been "most things in our time" seems to indicate that they occupy a very low position on the social rung in British eyes, at least, as they have been forced to turn their hands to many different jobs in order to survive rather than establishing themselves in one profession. However, clearly, amongs the people of Kafiristan, they are able to convince them, albeit briefly, that they occupy the highest social rung as gods. When Carnehan returns to tell the narrator about their experience, however, he has sunk back down the social hierarchy into obscurity, as the following description of him makes clear:

...when there crept into my chair what was left of a man. He was bent into a circle, his head was sunk between his shoulders, and he moved his feet one over the other like a bear. I could hardly see whether he walked or crawled--this rag-wrapped, whining cripple who addressed me by name, crying that he was come back.

If Carnehan only occupied a low position in society before, it is clear that after his experience in Kafiristan, his status has sunk into obscurity, and he has become nothing more than a "rag-wrapped, whining cripple." Note the way that the narrator compares him to a bear, suggesting he is more animal than human now. Even for a white man, his physical state suggests he possesses no prestige or power now. He has undergone a rags-to-riches and then riches-to-rags transformation. 

Read the study guide:
The Man Who Would Be King

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question