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Now what the reader tends to expect is that Kim will come eventually to realise that he is delivering into bondage to the British invaders those whom he has always considered his own people [Wilson refers here to the novel’s ending, in which Kim returns to the British Secret Service as, in effect, an enforcement officer for British imperialism against the Indians among whim he has lived and worked] and that a struggle between allegiances will result. Kipling has established for the reader – and established with considerable dramatic effect – the contrast with the East, with its mysticism and sensuality, its extremes of saintliness and roguery, and the English, with their superior organisation, their confidence in modern method, their instinct to brush away like cobwebs the native myths and beliefs. We have shown two entirely different worlds existing side by side, with neither really understanding each other, and we have watched the oscillations of Kim, as he passes to and fro between them. But the parallel lines never meet; the alternating attractions felt by Kim never give rise to a genuine struggle … The fiction of Kipling, then, does not dramatise any fundamental conflict because Kipling would never face one.

‘The Kipling that Nobody Read’ – Edmund Wilson, The Wound and the Bow, 1947. Edward Said’s notes in brackets, p.  22-3, quoted in Edward Said’s introduction to Penguin Classic edition of Kim (1987).

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