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by Rudyard Kipling

Kim Appearances Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter. Paragraph)

Quote #1

If the woman had sent Kim up to the local Jadoo-Gher with those papers, he would, of course, have been taken over by the Provincial Lodge, and sent to the Masonic Orphanage in the Hills; but what she had heard of magic she distrusted. Kim, too, held views of his own. As he reached the years of indiscretion, he learned to avoid missionaries and white men of serious aspect who asked who he was, and what he did. (1.5)

Why do you think it is Kim's instinct to keep his origins hidden? Why is he so reluctant to be identified as anything in particular? Also, this whole first chapter reminds us that Kim's appearance, more than any other character in the book (though there are others that also go about in disguise), is completely deceptive.

Quote #2

They sought a River: a River of miraculous healing. Had any one knowledge of such a stream? Sometimes men laughed, but more often heard the story out to the end and offered them a place in the shade, a drink of milk, and a meal. The women were always kind, and the little children as children are the world over, alternately shy and venturesome. (3.32)

Over and over, as the lama and Kim travel across India, the narrator emphasizes what a warm and wonderful land it is. Kipling really wants to portray India as a kind place, despite all the secret spy shenanigans. Why might Kipling want India to appear warm and friendly in Kim? How might Kipling's portrayal of India in this novel imply a contrast with England and English manners?

Quote #3

They met a troop of long-haired, strong-scented Sansis with baskets of lizards and other unclean food on their backs, their lean dogs sniffing at their heels. These people kept their own side of the road', moving at a quick, furtive jog-trot, and all other castes gave them ample room; for the Sansi is deep pollution. Behind them, walking wide and stiffly across the strong shadows, the memory of his leg-irons still on him, strode one newly released from the jail; his full stomach and shiny skin to prove that the Government fed its prisoners better than most honest men could feed themselves. Kim knew that walk well, and made broad jest of it as they passed. Then an Akali, a wild-eyed, wild-haired Sikh devotee in the blue-checked clothes of his faith, with polished-steel quoits glistening on the cone of his tall blue turban, stalked past, returning from a visit to one of the independent Sikh States, where he had been singing the ancient glories of the Khalsa to College-trained princelings in top-boots and white-cord breeches. Kim was careful not to irritate that man; for the Akali's temper is short and his arm quick. (4.27)

We keep saying that appearances are deceptive in this book (up to a point, at least), but for every Mahratta who can suddenly turn into a Saddhu, Kim also includes scenes that contain nothing but external appearances. Kipling's portrayal of the train and the Grand Trunk Road often emphasize the spectacle of how people look in India. Which characters does Kipling choose to leave at face value, and which characters have deceiving appearances? How does Kipling's portrayal of people's appearances change depending on whether they show up in a large crowd scene or in a one-on-one encounter between individual characters?

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