Is Kim Against Women?
In the beginning of Kim, by Rudyard Kipling the reader is introduced to a male dominated world. In this novel, women are seldom mentioned, and when they are, it is not in a flattering way. In the introduction written by Edward Said, he says that in this novel women are debased an unsuitable for male attention (pg 12). This statement id supported any time through out the novel. Although women are not glorified, they are not all portrayed in a negative way. There are a few women who Kim does form attachments to.
Regardless of Kiplings attitude towards women in Kim, it should not be removed from the canon of works. Literature is a way of expression and that should not be limited due to an authors opinion. There is far more to this book than a few chauvinistic opinions.
As Kim starts out, the reader is introduced to the main character, Kim. He is an orphaned English boy. He has adapted to his surroundings in India, and looks like one of the natives. Kims mother had died of cholera when he was young. His father, a sergeant in the British Army tried to raise him, but after he became addicted to opium and died, Kim was left to another woman. She too, was addicted to opium. She let Kim roam the streets. He basically had to raise himself. The lack of a mother figure could possibly be the reason behind Kims dislike of women.
The story of Kims childhood mirrors that of Kiplings. He was born in India. His father was a teacher. The curator of the Lahore Museum is based on his father. At the age of five he was sent back to England for school. At the boarding school he was badly mistreated. The way he was treated at school affected him for the rest of his life, but like Kim, he went on with life and made the best out of his situation.
Kims critical view of women is shown through comments in the book. On page one hundred and twenty, Kim says, Women do not think of anything, save children. Kim believed that women were inferior creatures who did not think the same as men. Kim and the lama meet a woman on a train. She is the wife of a farmer. It is obvious that she thinks too highly of her self. She acts rather snobbish. There is also a courtesan on the train. The two women are portrayed as conceited, though when Kims ticket comes into question, the courtesan takes care of it. A better light is put on her because she helps Kim with his journey by purchasing his fare.
The most influential woman in the story is an old woman referred to as the Widow of Kulu. At first Kim believes that she is loud and over bearing. He says She and the parrots are alike, they screech in the dawn (pg 122). He also comments that all she thinks about is children. This is a way of saying that her journey is far less important than theirs. The old woman is just a novelty until she begins to help. She helps the lama while Kim is in school, and ultimately heals Kim of his illness. In the end of the story Kim confesses that he never had a mother and she is the closest he has had to one. He admits that he does love her.
Kim also respects the Woman of Shamlegh. He sees her as too lusty. She does make advances toward him, but before he leaves, Kim hears something special. For once he has been regarded as a man instead of a boy. The Woman of Shamlegh really loved Kim, and he loved her, but because of the journey they had to separate. Yet again it can be said that Kims fondness of this woman can be credited to her help. She served as a messenger for him, bringing him valuable documents. She also made sure he and the lama were prepared to continue their adventure.
Women are not completely degraded in this novel. There are several comments that show that women were thought of as hindrances to men. The idea that women should stay home and tend to children is also presented, but consideration has to be given to the time when it was written, and how women were generally thought of. Gender equality is a modern concept, so to expect it from a novel from this time period is absurd. This novel tells of a great adventure and the journey to find ones self. There are many great themes and ideas that should not be shadowed because women arent portrayed as equals. Kim should remain in the canon because it is a true work of art that should be taught and enjoyed by many.