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The Jungle Book and Imperialism
Transcript of The Jungle Book and Imperialism
The Jungle Book is not a statement on Imperialism, it is actually just a children's story about finding where you belong. This is evident by the fact that the story actually doesn't line up with Imperialism at all. European imperialism, in a quick summary, was when Europeans began to take over other countries with the intention of bettering them. The Jungle Book does not tell a story like that at all. The Jungle Book tells the story of Mowgli and his life, especially the stories about how he is adopted by wolves, threatened by a tiger, leaves his wolf family to live with humans, and then kills the tiger. This plot has very few connections to the plot of Imperialism. The only potential similarity is in the conflict between Mogwli and the tiger, Sheer Khan, but Sheer Khan has the upper hand in the beginning of the story and Mowgli does in the end. Therefore it is very unclear as to who would be who.
Who was Rudyard Kipling?
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India to white parents. He was raised in the Methodist religion and at the age of six he was sent to school in England, where he studied until he was 18. He then returned to India until he moved to Vermont, where he wrote many of his most famous works including "The Jungle Book."
Kipling was a rather famous author in his time. George Orwell referred to him as a "prophet of British imperialism."(footnote 1)
Kipling's work was influenced by his life in Imperial Society. He wrote poems about what it was to be white in imperialist society, as well as made many of his characters reflect themes of imperialism.
The Jungle Book is about Imperialism.
The Jungle Book is not about imperialism.
Is "The Jungle Book" about Imperialism?
The Jungle Book and Imperialism
BY: EMILY WHALEN
An investigation into the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and how it relates to Eurpean Imperialism
"But they are afraid of him too, because Tabaqui, more than anyone else in the jungle, is apt to go mad, and then he forgets that he was ever afraid of anyone, and runs through the forest biting everything in his way. Even the tiger runs and hides when little Tabaqui goes mad, for madness is the most disgraceful thing that can overtake a wild creature. We call it hydrophobia, but they call it dewanee the madness and run." (1)
This quote talks about the madness of the Jackal, Tabaqui, who is almost a peasant in the story but still mangages to terrorize the other characters with his potential to go mad. This story is very reminiscent of storied soliders told about the "natives" running wild and causing havoc.
"Who are we, the Gidur-log [the jackal people], to pick and choose?" (2)
This quote is spoken by Tabaqui when he is not mad and is instead seeing himself in the right place, lower than the wolves.
"Not even I can look thee between the eyes, and I was born among men, and I love thee, Little Brother. The others they hate thee because their eyes cannot meet thine; because thou art wise; because thou hast pulled out thorns from their feet because thou art a man."
This quote very strongly suggests a main theme of the Jungle Book: that Mowgli is superior because he is human. While all involved in Imperialism were human, Kipling would have been exposed to the British idea that Europeans had to civilize the natives. That is Kipling's limited perspective.
The Jungle Book Quotes
The Jungle Book is about Imperialism because some of its characters reflect the ideals of imperialism and Kipling's upbringing leads him to have a natural inclination to write his books with a bias towards imperialism.
Hunt, Lynn, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara H. Rosenwein, Bonnie G. Smith. The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012.
"Rudyard Kipling." Wikipedia. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudyard_Kipling.
World History: The Modern Era, s.v. "Rudyard Kipling," accessed May 4, 2015. http://worldhistory.abc-clio.com/.
World History: The Modern Era, s.v. "Rudyard Kipling: The Jungle Book (1894)," accessed May 4, 2015. http://worldhistory.abc-clio.com/.
In order to more clearly establish that The Jungle Book is not about Imperialism, here is a more detailed overview of European Imperialism:
During the Industrial Revolution, the increased demand for goods required to supply to industries fueled competition for land in Africa and Asia. (footnote 1) European countries began to take over not only a countries economic industry, but also its government. This perpetuated the idea of Europeans being superior to the peoples living in the countries overtaken. Europeans changed the export system to benefit themselves, and the education system was changed to that of Europeans schools in order to 'civilize' the people of Africa and Asia. (footnote 2)
(footnote 1) Lynn Hunt et al., The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012), 761
(footnote 2) Ibid, 761, 767
(footnote 1) Lynn Hunt et al., The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012), 768
(footnote 1) "Rudyard Kipling," Wikipedia, 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudyard_Kipling.
(1) World History: The Modern Era, s.v. "Rudyard Kipling," accessed May 4, 2015. http://worldhistory.abc-clio.com/.