Equality and Unity- The idea of equality and unity of men transcends the idea of class distinctions of the predominantly Hindu society that Kim has become familiar with.
-"We sit, for example, side by side with all castes and peoples." (28)
-"He (Kim) cocked his nose in the air loftily and stepped across the narrow field-borders with great dignity. 'There is no pride,' said the lama, after a pause, 'there is no pride among such as follow the Middle Way.'" (43)
-"I am an old man--pleased with shows as are children. To those who follow the Way there is neither black nor white, Hind or Bhotiyal. We all be souls seeking escape." (212)
Identity- The question of identity and belonging plagues Kim throughout the novel, leaving him with a lingering sense of loneliness.
-"But I am to pray to Bibi Miriam, and I am a Sahib'---he he looked at his boots ruefully. 'No; 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." (118)
Balance- Life is a constant balance between extremes. Life is contrasted by death, youth to age, physical to spiritual, individualistic to communal, curiosity to wisdom, love of the empire to immersion in a foreign land.
-"There is neither high nor low in the Middle Way" (20)
Imperialism- A philosophy that assumes the superiority of a praticular civilization, in this case the superior civilization is the British civilization. Because of this feeling of superiority, Great Britian felt as if they had a moral responsibility to bring their "enlightened" ways to the uncivilized people of India.
-"The English do eternally tell the truth, therefore we of this country are eternally made foolish. By Allah, I will tell the truth to an Englishman! Of what use is the Government police if a poor Kabuli be robbed of his horses in their very trucks." (140)
Biology and Race- Biologically Kim is Irish but he identifies racially with the Indian people. As the book progresses, Kim begins to embrace 'whiteness.' He grows into a man that can pass as either European or Indian. He seems to be everything and nothing at once. The fact that he can fit into both worlds but still not feel at home contributes to his identity confusion.
- "The sweeper shuffled in haste. 'There is a white boy by the barracks waiting under a tree who is not a white boy,' he stammered..." (100)
- "No man could be a fool who knew the language so intimately, who moved so gently and silently, and whose eyes were so different from the dull fat eyes of other Sahibs." (118)- About Colonel Creighton
- "Once a Sahib, always a Sahib." (107)
Hybridization- Kim is unusual in that he can pass as either an Indian native or a Brit. He has the ability to slip in and out of identities.
-"Though he was burned black as any native; though he spoke the vernacular by preference, and his mother-tongue a clipped uncertain sing-song; though he consorted on terms of perfect equality with the small boys of the bazar; Kim was white- a poor white of the very poorest." (1)
-"The shop was full of all manner of dresses and turbans, and Kim was apparelled variously as a young Mohammedan of good family, an oilman, and once-which was a joyous evening-as the son of an Oudh landholder in the fullest of full dress...but a demon in Kim woke up and sang with joy as he put on the changing dresses, and changed speech and gesture therewith" (159).
Relationships Between Men- Throughout the novel, Kim comes into contact with a variety of older men whom he befriends and who he shares a special bond with. These relationships are important to him because they provide him with the love and care that was absent in his life as a child.
-Mahbub Ali says to Kim, "But thou art also my Little Friend of all the World, and I love thee. So says my heart." (143)
-Mahbub Ali asks Kim, "Now hear me. Is it necessary to the comfort of thy heart to see that lama?" "It is one part of my bond," said Kim. "If I do not see him, and if he is taken from me, I will go out of that madrissah in Nucklao and, and-once gone, who is to find me again?" (144)
Religious Growth- Kipling is respectful of Buddhism, and much of Kim's wisdom comes from his relationship with the Lama. Kipling also suggest that some of the finest Christian ethics of love and nonviolence are also characteristics of Buddhism. Kipling pokes fun at the differences between Anglicanism and Catholicism, but he does seem to depict both priest favorably.
-"I know nothing, -nothing do I know, - but I go to free myself from the Wheel of Things by a broad and open road. He smiled with most simple triumph. 'As a pilgrim to the Holy Places I acquire Merit." (9)
-The Lama says, "As a drop draws to water, so my Soul drew near to the Great Soul which is beyond all things. At that point, exalted in contemplation, I saw all Hind, from Ceylon in the sea to the Hills, and my own Painted Rocks at Such-Zen...By this I knew the Soul had passed beyond the illusion of Time and Space and of Things. By this I knew I was free." (288)
Women and Treachery- Kim is predominantly a male story, featuring an all male cast of characters and focusing on traditional male relationships. The women characters factor mostly as plot devices. For example, the old women of Kulu provides a place for Kim and the Lama to rest. Even though women play a minor role, they are ofter regarded as obstacles to the goals of men. As an example of this, the Lama complains that the old women of Kulu had derailed him from his search.
- "Better that we go now. Those who search bags with knives may presently search bellies with knives. Surely there is a woman behind this." (25)
- The Lama says, "Thus it comes- take note, my Chela- that even those who would follow the way are thrust aside by idle women." (215)
- "How can a man follow the Way or the Great Game when he is so-always pestered by women?" (257) Kim talking about the Woman of Shamlegh.
Quest- The Quest is a metaphor for the journey towards enlightenment that Kim and the lama will embark on together.
-"We take the Road then?" asks Kim. "The Road and our Search. I was but waiting for thee. It was made plain to me in a hundred dreams-notably one that came upon the night of the day that the Gates of Learning first shut-that without thee I should never find my River" (192).
River- The River of the Arrow is a spiritual journey the Lama is embarking on and it remains much of a mystery until the very end. According to legend, this River sprang up from the spot where an arrow shot by the Buddha landed. Legend also tells that anyone who bathes in the river will be cleansed of all sin and desire. Only when the Lama has reached spiritual perfection can he find it.
-" 'Now, how wilt though know thy River?' said Kim squatting in the shade of some tall sugar cane. 'When I find it, an enlightenment will surely be given.' " (43)
- The Lama says, "No matter what thy wisdom learned among Sahibs, when we come to my River thou wilt be freed from all illusion- at my side. Hai! my bones ache for that River, as they ached in the te-rain; but my spirit sits above my bones, waiting. The Search is sure!" (212)
Grand Trunk Road- This is the road where all of India meets, it is the metaphor for diversity. The road can also be thought of as the physical representation of the Lama's journey for his River.
- "The Grand Trunk at this point was built on an embankment to guard against winter floods from the foothills, so that one walked, as it were, a little above the country, along a stately corridor, seeing all India spread out to left and right...It was equally beautiful to watch the people, little clumps of red and blue and pink and white and saffron, turning aside to go to their own villages, dispersing and growing small by twos and threes across the level plain." (63)
- "All castes and kinds of men move here. Look! Brahmins and chumars, bankers and tinkers, barbers and bunnias, pilgrims and potters- all the world going and coming. It is to me as a river from which I am withdrawn like a log after a flood...such a river of life as nowhere else exists in the world." (57)
Pony- This is the code word for Kim.
- " 'As regards that young horse,' said Mahbub, 'I say that when a colt is born to be a polo-pony, closely following the ball without teaching-- when a colt knows the game by divination-- then I say that it is a great wrong to break that colt to a heavy cart, Sahib!' " (113)
- "Think, Sahib! He has been three months at the school. And he is not mouthed to that bit. For my part, I rejoice: the pony learns the game.' " (129)
Travelogue- Kim's plot is based on a pilgrimage. Kipling uses Kim's vast travels to to provide his readers with the varied landscape of India, and of its native inhabitants. Almost the entire subcontinet of India is covered.
Spy Novel- Spying is portrayed as a game in this novel with deadly consequences. While much power can be held in terms of the amount of knowledge a certain spy has, it comes at a high price.
Picaresque- Kim is considered to be a picaresque novel in which the young protagonist travels and lives life on the road showing the audience what life is like for the common people of India. (Bedford 3rd edition, p. 382)
Epigraph- An epigraph is a piece of writing that is used at the beginning of a work to set the tone for that work or to highlight thematic elements. Every chapter in Kim starts with an epigraph, many of which are from Kipling's own work. (Bedford 3rd edition, p.146)
- An epigraph from the first chapter of Kim:
Oh ye who tread the Narrow Way
By Tophet-flare to Judgment Day
Be Gentle when the heathen pray
To Buddha at Kamakura!
Epiphany- An epiphany is a sudden revelation experienced by a character, often representing a resolution of an internal conflict. Both Kim and the Lama experience an epiphany that resolves a conflct developed within the plot. (Bedford 3rd edition, p. 147)
Bildungsroman- Kim is a coming of age novel that begins with Kim's childhood and then follows him as his life progresses into adulthood with the goal being maturity. (Bedford 3rd edition, p.39)
Indebted to the following sources: Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: St. Martin's, 2009.