In what ways does Kipling’s story, The Gardener, help us understand British attitudes? 

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

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One British attitude that "The Gardener" illuminates is the idea of duty.  The social attitude that the British took towards obligation and responsibility is evident in the story's exposition:  "Every one in the village knew that Helen Turrell did her duty by all her world, and by none more honourably than by her only brother’s unfortunate child.” The British attitudes of doing one's socially prescribed duty "honourably" and towards those deemed "unfortunate" are elements that Kipling uses in order to foster a greater understanding of British cultural perceptions.

Another cultural element that "The Gardener" evokes is the idea of coldness in British society.  Helen is shown to represent an emotionally detached and cold vision of reality.  When she says “I haven’t dared to think much about that sort of thing," in terms of her reaction to death, it is reflection of something larger in her character. Helen's distance from Michael in how she reared him, but yet claimed to be doing her duty is a part of this emotionally frigid element.  Kipling brings out how there is this emotionally frigid element in British society. The fact that she fails to recognize "the gardener" as something more spiritual is another reminder of this detached element of British society.  The way in which Kipling brings out the emotionally distant aspect of Helen's character is a more general statement offered about British social attitudes.

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