Moodle 2

Kipling and Literature 

Kipling's "The Story of Muhammad Din" definitely asserts dominant polarities.  Culture opposed to nature can be seen in the dining room and the garden. Muhammad Din is found in the dining room once, but when he is chastised for being there, he is never found there again. Instead, Muhammad Din plays in the garden, waits by the trellis, and hides in the castor-oil bushes. It is only the "Heaven-born" who is allowed in the official spaces of civility: the dining room and the office. An interesting twist is that Muhammad Din creates a palace in the garden, his natural realm. Perhaps Muhammad Din's garden palace is Kipling's way of saying that within one generation the British will have succeeded in civilizing the "savages" of India.

Despite the muted presence of Christianity, religion was and is a powerful force in the drive to civilize "savages." Kipling creates religious polarity in other texts ("The Mark of the Beast"), which may be an important indicator of its seeming absence in this piece. Furthermore, Kipling knew that many British people read his works as treasured adventure stories. What is Kipling's purpose in deliberately leaving out Christianity? Would this surprise or excite British readers? I am not knowledgeable in late Victorian conceptions of world religions, but I surmise that they were somewhat intolerant. Also, what does it say about Kipling that he knows and uses Muslim words?

One final word. I think an important factor of "post"colonialism is that Kipling did not believe that the British were oppressing or subjugating the Indian people. For much of his life, Kipling firmly believed that the British were helping to civilize and educate a previously "savage" people. They were doing good deeds. Furthermore, Kipling spent his earliest formative years in India, and he was likely more intimately involved in the local people. Because of his intimacy with the culture and the seemingly positive effects of the British occupancy, Kipling may have allowed himself to romanticize the idea of raising up a people. We see this differently. When we look at foreign occupation, we see an oppressed culture, lost traditions, and a confusion of landownership and resources.