What are the themes in The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling?

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The Inescapability of Reality

Living in a world of fantasy might be fun for a while, but, at some point, one will have to return to reality. Dravot and Carnehan seem of larger-than-life proportions, as though they have stepped right from the pages of a tale of fiction. They ...

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The Inescapability of Reality

Living in a world of fantasy might be fun for a while, but, at some point, one will have to return to reality. Dravot and Carnehan seem of larger-than-life proportions, as though they have stepped right from the pages of a tale of fiction. They create fantasy life after fantasy life, first as fictitious correspondents (though there is danger for them if they are caught), then as a mad priest and his companion, and then as gods who would be kings. At some point, their fantasies fail and they are forced to return to the gruesome reality. Throughout the story, one gets the feeling that this false way of life simply cannot go on forever.

Imperialism is Ultimately Bound to Fail

Dravot absolutely exploits the people that he rules—though he does seem to actually care for them, to some degree—and he allows them to believe that he is a god. Of course, when they find out that he is only a man, they feel deceived and angry, and they go after him and Carnehan with a blood lust. The Kafiris become absolutely determined to make Dravot and Carnehan pay for what they have done, and the two men suffer terribly for their attempts to rule.

Pride Comes Before the Fall

If Dravot had not allowed himself to become so proud of his position, status, and power, then he might have continued to live a very successful life as king of Kafiristan. However, he finds a way to negate the rules of the contract he and Carnehan had drawn up and pridefully demands that a local wife be found for him. He becomes "white-hot" with rage when no wife is immediately procured, too proud to understand why no one wants to marry him. If Dravot had not become so proud, he might still be alive.

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