YMMV / Rudyard Kipling

  • Alternate Character Interpretation: A common trick of Kipling's was to follow up a short story with a poem looking at it from the point of view of a secondary character or villain. The results can be startlingly different - compare 'The Knife and the Naked Chalk' to 'The Song of the Men's Side'.
    • Kipling's poems themselves are subject to alternative interpretations, especially noticeable when they are read aloud. For example, The White Man's Burden can be read as either a paean to imperialism or an ironic deconstruction of it.
    • "If any question why we died // Tell them, because our fathers lied." Considering it was pressure from himself that got his son into the service for World War I (and subsequently killed) despite lack of fitness, this may be self-reflection and personal regret.
  • Fair for Its Day:
    • "The White Man's Burden" is understandably read as a racist creed of white supremacy, but to some it's insistence on how there's no reward for it, and how the natives will hate you, can throw them off for its more nuanced take. The point of the poem, and that of Tory imperial propaganda which Kipling typified, is that it does not advocate for the cruel treatment of natives, and it insists that those who are espousing empire should not fool themselves into thinking they are bringing freedom or that the people will greet you as liberators. Rather imperialism should be seen as a quasi-chivalric quasi-monk like vocation (With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility if you will). Fundamentally, Kipling does not believe in the quality of all human beings regardless of race, religion or sex, nor does he disagree with imperialism, but rather he sees it as a job and calling for men, and not boys (as in America, to whom the poem is addressed to), and he sees the fact that the subject peoples will always be Ungrateful Bastard (because you know they complain about their lack of self-determination) as an inevitability.
    • Similarly, "We and They" mocks xenophobia by making the "expositor" himself hilariously immature.
    • If nothing else, Kipling's ability to write women and non-Western characters in more than one dimension (e.g. "The Ballad of East and West," "Cupid's Arrows," In Black and White, "The Head of the District," basically every story involving Mrs. Hauksbee) put him head and shoulders above other imperialist writers, and show that he is talented at writing scenes and dialogues. "The Enlightenments of Pagett, M.P." is a weaker example, but it still makes the point that the people(s) of India are human beings, rather than pawns on a board.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Some people thought that The Ballad of the Clampherdown was intended to be serious. Most people miss the irony of "If—" (namely, that if you can do all those things, then you are goddamn Superman), the point being the hideous pressure placed on younger generations by their elders.
  • Older Than They Think: Used at the top power as a polemical tool (The King, In the Neolithic Age). Proto-troll culture (Stalky). Also, Kipling wrote sci-fi. And sketched the lines of the Steam Punk (The King).
    • He may have been the first writer to use the concept of the Tractor Beam. In "As Easy as ABC," when a woman tried to commit suicide to make a political point, the "flying loop" yanked the knife out of her hand.
    • The Junk and the Dhow — "But before, and before, and ever so long before..."
  • True Art: In the Neolithic Age elaborately mocked style flamewars.
    • Lighter and Softer: The Light that Failed:
      Nilghai: It’s a chromo,’ said he,—’a chromo-litholeo-margarine fake!
    • Executive Meddling: The Light that Failed, the same incident.
      Dick: I did him just as well as I knew how, making allowance for the slickness of oils. Then the art-manager of that abandoned paper said that his subscribers wouldn’t like it. It was brutal and coarse and violent,—man being naturally gentle when he’s fighting for his life.They wanted something more restful, with a little more colour. I could have said a good deal, but you might as well talk to a sheep as an art-manager.
  • Values Dissonance: Kipling's frank imperialism may grate on some modern readers. Also, "The Female of the Species" praises women in its way, but on a close read stands in opposition to female suffrage and women holding office (the Edwardian equivalent of that old joke about how "we can't elect a female president because she might have her finger on the big red button at that time of the month").
  • Values Resonance: A Code of Morals was about the heliograph, but its principles are even stronger applied to the modern internet.
    • Not to mention:
    But there is neither East nor West,
    Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
    When two strong men stand face to face,
    Though they come from the ends of the earth.


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