I tend to read the story as critical of the English presence in India. The English in the story view themselves as "civilizers," but it’s clear that they have little idea of what Indian culture or values might be, and their own "civilized" values seem limited to trading horseflesh and drinking (a lot). The story suggests that whatever curse befell Fleete, its power was beyond anything the English could understand.
It’s also true that the way in which Strickland and the narrator act to save Fleete—by capturing and brutalizing the Silver Man (apparently—Kipling coyly omits those details, saying they are not fit to print)—suggests that the British attitude towards the Indians is to class them as subhuman. Fleete’s descent into bestiality can be seen as another way of "going native," something that must be stopped at all costs. Kipling sees Fleete as a kind of harmless fool, but one who does not deserve the punishment given him.
In "The Mark of the Beast" Kipling reveals once...
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