Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Lahore (le-HOHR). Now a city in northeastern Pakistan, Lahore was part of British India at the time in which this novel is set. Its museum or “Wonder House” (which represents the city’s richness and cultural diversity) has a curator modeled on Rudyard Kipling’s father, who was curator there from 1875 to 1894. It is appropriate that Kim opens in Lahore, because Kipling’s earliest memories came from there. His appreciation of the city’s ethnic and religious heterogeneity owes something to the Masonic Lodge, which he joined there as a young man; it was an organization teaching the brotherhood of all races and faiths. Kim’s presentation of India is best when it conforms to this Masonic spirit. However, from the novel’s first sentence, Kipling overlays this tolerance with the presupposition that the British have won the right to rule Lahore, and, indeed, all of India.


*Afghanistan. Independent country west of India that was thought to threaten British India, particularly if Afghanistan were to ally itself with Russia or France. Personifying the best of Afghanistan, Mahbub Ali, repeatedly called the “Afghan,” exudes courage and ferocious virility as well as guile, yet Kim wins his affection. To celebrate that boy’s becoming a man, Mahbub Ali dresses Kim in the robes of a prince of his Afghan tribe. This incident symbolizes Kipling’s hope that the British Empire will eventually expand into Afghanistan.


Such-Zen (sewtch-ZEHN). Fictional Tibetan Buddhist monastery, where an...

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Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

British Imperialism in India: Its Intellectual Roots and the Role of Orientalism
When Kim was published in...

(The entire section is 761 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The novel begins in the Indian city of Lahore. The time is the late nineteenth century and the British are in political control of India....

(The entire section is 148 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Epigraph An epigraph is a piece of writing that is used at the beginning of a work to set the tone of that work or to highlight thematic...

(The entire section is 478 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Kim has an exciting plot filled with suspenseful incident. Kim's fortune depends on the prophesy that he will find protection from a...

(The entire section is 314 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Kipling delicately treats the theme of religious growth through the lama's quest for salvation through Buddhism. Kipling is respectful of...

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Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1890s: English readers were fascinated by portrayals of “exotic” British colonies like India written primarily by...

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Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. In Kim, like a number of novels for young adults, is a story about a boy living by his wits. How has Kim managed to survive with a...

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Compare Kim with one or two other well-known novels of a young person's education, such as Treasure Island, Huckleberry...

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Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Modern readers of Kim will find many of the descriptions of the Indian people throughout the novel grossly stereotypical. In...

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Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Kim is the last of Kipling's novels set in India. Readers interested in Kipling's other writings about India should look at The...

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Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

Kim was adapted as a film in 1950. Directed by Victor Saville, it starred Errol Flynn as Mahbub Ali and Dean Stockwell as Kim. It was...

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What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Quest for Kim: In Search of Kipling’s Great Game (1999) is a historical analysis written by Peter Hopkirk....

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For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Carrington, Charles C. Rudyard Kipling. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1955. This book is the standard biography of Kipling and...

(The entire section is 136 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

Gilbert, Susan M., and Sandra Gubar, “The War of the Words,” in No Man’s Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth-Century, Vol. 1, Yale University Press, 1989.

Maurice, Arthur Bartlett, “Rudyard Kipling’s Kim,” in Kim, by Rudyard Kipling, edited by Zohreh T. Sullivan, W. W. Norton, 2002; originally published in Bookman, October 1901.

McClure, John, “Kipling’s Richest Dream,” in Kim, by Rudyard Kipling edited by Zohreh T. Sullivan, W. W. Norton, 2002; originally published in Kipling and Conrad: the Colonial Fiction, Harvard University Press, 1981.

Millar, J. H., “A ‘New...

(The entire section is 290 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. An excellent introductory source gathering a cross section of essays providing extremely useful criticism. Analyzes character and theme, discusses Kipling’s views on India, presents revisions from an earlier draft, and compares Kipling’s views on the British empire with those of E. M. Forster and George Orwell.

Page, Norman. A Kipling Companion. London: Macmillan, 1984. Helpful introductory source providing a brief biography, chronology, and discussion of Kipling’s world. Identifies historical figures and gives clear, insightful analyses of the...

(The entire section is 232 words.)