Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes” is rich in meaning. One theme that Rudyard Kipling explores here is that of the social stratifications that exist both within Indian society, with its caste system, and between the local Indians and their British masters. One is reminded of the exploration of similar themes in Sir James Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton (1902) and in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954). In the Kipling story the master prevails, but not without the help of the faithful servant.

Morrowbie must prove his mastery to the people confined in the crater: “I have been accustomed to a certain amount of civility from my inferiors, and on approaching the crowd naturally expected that there would be some recognition of my presence.” These people, however, first laugh at Morrowbie and cackle after him. He thrashes one or two of them, and then they keep a respectful distance. Morrowbie realizes, “I had left the world, it seemed, for centuries. I was as certain then as I am now of my own existence, that in the accursed settlement there was no law save that of the strongest.”

When Morrowbie’s pony is killed, Gunga Dass explains to him that horse is “better than crow, and ’greatest good of greatest number’ is political maxim. We are now Republic, Mister Jukes, and you are entitled to a fair share of the beast.” This political statement, written in the 1880’s, must have been startling for...

(The entire section is 482 words.)