(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Kim finds himself torn between the Indian and British worlds which existed side by side during the days of the British Raj. His Irish blood and his Indian upbringing have created within him a crisis of identity as he approaches manhood.

Thirteen but wise beyond his years, Kim meets a Tibetan lama (holy man), and decides to lead the lama across India in search of a sacred river. At first, he considers the quest only another escapade, but soon he becomes a devoted disciple.

Filled with comedy, sadness, danger, and excitement, their wanderings span some six years. The compelling narrative paints vivid pictures of the infinitely varied Indian landscape, customs, and day-to-day life. When Kim encounters the British, who want to make him a gentleman, the imperialists are depicted with equal precision. All action points, though, to the lama’s discovery and Kim’s maturity, the foremost themes of the novel.

Both Kim and the lama have set out on a quest. The lama seeks the sacred river whose waters will deliver him at the end of his pilgrimage from the physical world and carry him to a state of spiritual bliss. Kim, on the other hand, desires to find himself in order to become a whole person. That realization of selfhood is the river he seeks.

To find their respective rivers, the lama and his disciple travel on the roads of India, which form an endless river of physical life. Sometimes they ride trains, but more often they...

(The entire section is 537 words.)