The Man Who Would Be King

by Rudyard Kipling

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Explain Dravot's interaction with Imbra and the blond men in "The Man Who Would Be King."

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According to Carnehan’s story, as recalled by the narrator, Dravot got to be king through a combination of frightening and manipulating the kingdom’s people. When Carnehan and Dravot arrived in the mountain valley, they saw two groups of men chasing and shooting arrows at each other; the men were “fair . . . with yellow hair and remarkable well built.” Dravot primarily frightens them by shooting his gun but also kills quite a few. At those who remain nearby, he shoots over their heads until they drop to the ground. Taking advantage of their fear, he orders them to carry the boxes of supplies; the group crosses the valley and goes to the top of a hill, where there are “half-a-dozen big stone idols.” Dravot pretends to be on friendly terms with all the idols, especially the largest, which is Imbra. Dravot goes right up to it and acts familiar, touching it and rubbing noses, and tells the men that he is friends with the idols. He acts haughty when the men bring him food, refusing it until the priest comes with food.

Overall, Dravot’s attitude of authority works to make his plan succeed by behaving as though it is already working. After he shoots over their heads, he gets the men to do his bidding by behaving as though that were natural. He “waves his hand for all the world as if he was King already.” This self-confidence merging into arrogance, combined with violence and appropriation of indigenous knowledge, prove a workable strategy for ensuring Native cooperation—for a while.

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