Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 679

For success at satire, the writer must engage the interest of the reader in the narration itself, and then almost imperceptibly make an about-face from lightness to depth, from pleasant entertainment to pungent import. This is exactly Kipling’s technique; he tells a romantic tale set in the hills of Northern India that has the allure of distance and strangeness. Even a familiar name such as Elizabeth is changed to Lispeth in the hills, and names of places—Simla, Kotgarh, Narkunda—add to the romance. Kipling’s narrator takes on the easy, purposeful tone of the fireside storyteller, step by step piling irony on irony, up to the climax, when the reader feels the full thrust of the satire.

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Apart from the skillful management of content and style, Kipling uses the two notable techniques of contrast and irony. Lispeth is the only character who is individualized. She is, therefore, the only one of the principal characters who is mentioned by name—and a distinctive one at that—to show how extraordinary she is in beauty and character. In contrast, none of the English characters is mentioned by name, and they accordingly share a stereotyped attitude of superiority. Lispeth’s depth of feeling, her forthright character and conduct, stand in ironic contrast to the superficial proprieties and deviousness of those who pride themselves on being her betters. The contrast helps pinpoint the irony that assumed superiority is pathetically hollow, altogether incapable of uplifting the so-called “savage,” who in this story is the only one possessed of redeeming nobility. Instead of helping to save her soul, her would-be benefactors reduce her to poignant misery.

Contrasts work throughout in subtle as well as obvious ways. When Lispeth comes down the hill carrying the Englishman, her burden is both literally and symbolically heavy, and unconscious of her vigor and purity. Lispeth’s strenuous effort and devotion contrast with the chaplain’s wife’s indolence of body and spirit, for when Lispeth comes in exhausted from her tremendous lifesaving effort, the chaplain’s wife has been dozing in the living room. Lispeth saves by her own effort; the English promise to save by conversion to the Church of England. Lispeth walks twenty or thirty miles; English ladies walk a mile and a half into the hills and return by carriage. Lispeth is referred to as a child, and she has a child’s innocence and lack of knowledge of the world; she cries and tries to see in a jigsaw-puzzle map where her beloved might be.

The Englishman, on the other hand, much traveled and educated, forgets the girl who loves him and to whom he owes his life. In a book he...

(The entire section contains 679 words.)

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