Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Kim discussion: Chapters 6 – 10

The middle third of the book covers Kim’s formal education as well as his extended informal learning. The book can be read solely as an adventure story, but some of the themes in the book add substantial depth. Kim’s reflection upon entering the school is worth noting:

’I am Kim. This is the great world, and I am only Kim. Who is
Kim?' He considered his own identity, a thing he had never done before, till his head swam. He was one insignificant person in all this roaring whirl of India, going southward to he knew not what fate.

The bleakness of the quote stands in marked contrast to Kim’s behavior: half happy-go-lucky, half measured actions. But in uttering “Who is Kim,” he captures the question of where he resides in British-controlled India—an Irishman’s son or just another English gone native? One other contrast in this section is the apparent change in the lama’s approach toward Kim. While obviously still caring deeply for him (paying for his schooling, waiting a day and a half just to get a glimpse of him at the school, etc.), he acts much more detached toward his chela. Some of the change is in order to keep Kim in school, while he also confesses that he has to avoid becoming too attached to Kim (which would derail his search for enlightenment).

We meet several additional father figures and guides to Kim in this section—Colonel Creighton, Mr. Lurgan, and Hurree Babu. Add these to the lama and Mahbub Ali from the first few chapters and you have many men looking after young Kim. Kim is very much a male novel, with the only significant female so far in the book is Huneefa, disguising and casting spells over Kim to protect him.

I find the whole premise of The Great Game tiresome and manufactured, unfortunately. Yes, I know there was some struggle between Russia and England, but the drama invoked almost seems like a cartoon. The adults repeatedly mention that one wrong word or misplaced tic could get you killed, in addition to how long someone would live after divulging secrets. Some of the examples of information gathered are laughable today, but in an age where facts were harder to gather and in a location that was massive and possibly hostile it makes more sense. Sill, instead of romanticizing and building the premise of The Great Game, the entire conceit just feels fabricated and straining credibility. On a related note, the way the adults all instantly recognize and value Kim’s potential gradually annoys me. Maybe if it wasn’t hammered home as often, this wouldn’t irritate me as much. Overall these are minor irritants, but grating nonetheless.

Since this section is mostly laying the groundwork for the last section, these items probably bother me more. However, I’m positive about the overall feel of the book so far. I hope that the final section lives up to the foundation to date. Next: Chapters 11 -15.

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