Study Guide

The Drummer-Boy in Kim

By Rudyard Kipling

The Drummer-Boy

The Irish Maverick officers quickly realize that Kim will run away from the regiment given half a chance, but they want to make sure that he goes to school since he is the orphan child of one of their own regiment veterans. So they put this fourteen-year-old drummer-boy who has arrived in India recently from a suburb of Liverpool, England in charge of making sure that Kim doesn't run away (not that the drummer-boy can stop Kim once he puts his mind to getting away).

This kid hates India. He is desperately homesick, and looks down on Kim for being too Indian and for not knowing anything about England. We don't see much of this kid except when he's bullying Kim, but in the brief flashes when we do see him, he quickly establishes himself as a completely loathsome character. The drummer-boy's obvious racism (like when he uses the N-word to refer to Mahbub Ali, or when he laughs at Kim for being able to speak Hindi to the bazaar letter-writer [6.85]) marks him as the kind of deliberately ignorant English person whom Creighton criticizes (7.32).

While Kipling may show his own racial bias as an author throughout this novel, the novel Kim still condemns people like this drummer-boy who are openly disrespectful and dismissive of people of other races. (FYI: If you're interested in Kipling's representations of race in Kim, we also talk about these issues in our "Quotes and Thoughts" section.)