Study Guide

The Jungle Book Foreignness and "The Other"

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Foreignness and "The Other"

The Jungle Book was written by a white guy who lived in India while India was under British rule—and thought this was a pretty cool arrangement. As if that wasn't enough, he threw animals into the mix with this book. So we have British people, Indian people, Aleut people, even some Afghans, and almost all of them are viewed from the points of view of animals who think all these people are equally foreign. Just who, or what, is the "other" in these tales? It can be dizzying to think about, but let's power on.

Questions About Foreignness and "The Other"

  1. No, really, who would you consider the "other" in these stories? The Indians? The British? All men? The animals? Is it the same in all the stories? Get specific, please.
  2. "Rikki-tikki-tavi" is often viewed as an allegory for imperialism. Could you say the same for any of the other stories?
  3. Do the animals always act human, or do they sometimes act in ways you don't understand? How does this other—or not other—them?

Chew on This

To Mowgli, everything is foreign, both the world of animals and the world of man. But since he is raised by wolves (and a nice bear), the world of man is even more foreign to him.

"Rikki-tikki-tavi" aside, the story that most explores foreignness is "Her Majesty's Servants," although it's focused less on the difference between cultures, and more on why some people, and some animals, blindly follow orders, while others don't.

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