The protagonist in “Thrown Away” is never identified other than as The Boy. A young subaltern in India, The Boy led a sheltered life with his family in Great Britain and never had to deal with unpleasantness. After his years at Sandhurst preparing for military life in the colonies, The Boy is sent first to a third-rate depot battalion and then to India.
At first, he finds India attractive. The ponies, the dancing, the flirtatious women, and the gambling all appeal to him. However, The Boy has been quite protected until now. He has developed no sense of humor. He takes life and its petty tribulations very seriously. Rudyard Kipling likens The Boy to a puppy, saying that if a puppy bites the ears of an old dog, the old dog will properly chastise it, making it wiser. However, if the puppy grows to be a dog with its full set of teeth and bites the ear of an old dog, never before having learned that there are limits to what it does, it is likely to be hurt. The Boy apparently has never been placed in the situation of having to learn his limits and is now like the grown dog with a full set of teeth who is about to bite the ear of an old dog.
The Boy falls into gambling, and his losses mount alarmingly. He takes these losses seriously and broods over them. For six months, The Boy makes one personal mistake after another, and the people closest to him know that he is making them but presume that he will learn from his mistakes and will fall into line as do most other people who come out from Great Britain.
When the cold weather ends, The Boy’s colonel talks to him with some severity, but not much differently from the way colonels typically talk to subalterns: “It was only an ordinary ’Colonel’s wigging’!” the reader is told. The Boy, however, takes the “wigging” very much to heart. Shortly after it, one more event contributes substantially to what is ultimately to happen: “The thing that kicked the beam in The Boy’s mind was a remark that a woman made when he was talking to her. There is no use in repeating it, for it was only a cruel little sentence, rapped out before thinking, that made him flush to the roots of his hair.” Again, he has something to brood about.
For three days after this unfortunate occurrence, The Boy...
(The entire section is 933 words.)