Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

This novelette, so suggestive in its theme, appears to be at variance with other works by Rudyard Kipling. In his celebration of the troops and administrative staff of the British Empire and in his adventure stories, the author seems at first glance an unlikely candidate for the authorship of THE BRUSHWOOD BOY.

The tale does, however, contain some of Kipling’s special interests: the qualities of military leadership, the adventures of youth, and the commitment to the British way of life during the days of the Empire.

Essentially, THE BRUSHWOOD BOY is an intense, childlike fantasy based on the ambiguous device of a shared dream. It is never clear whether the children had shared experiences and fantasies in their young lives or only imagined they had. (This ambiguity at the end preserves Kipling from the merely supernatural.) Kipling’s device, however, is less interesting as “story” than as psychological examination.

In recent years, Kipling has come to be viewed more importantly as a thinker, or rather as the literary representative of a certain type of thought, than as a serious writer of fiction or verse. Although he wrote some memorable lines and phrases and created new rhythms in his poetry and although some of his books are still of great interest to children, Kipling’s heavy-handed treatments and moralizing have reduced his popularity.

THE BRUSHWOOD BOY is interesting, then, more...

(The entire section is 488 words.)