Readers' Guide: Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Guide Created By: PatH
Discussion Leader(s): PatH & JoanK
Read our discussion of this book
Book Description You may have read "Kim" as a young adult, but it's a whole different book for grown-ups. Find out why "Kim" has been beloved by young and old for over 100 years.
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Books of Interest"The Great Game-The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia" by Peter Hopkirk, tells the fantastic but real history of the spy network that Kim is caught up in.
"Quest for Kim" by Peter Hopkirk, tracks down the characters in "Kim," most of whom were based wholly or partly on real persons, and locates the places described in the book.
Discussion QuestionsChapters 1-4
1. Kim is called "little friend of all the world." What in his circumstances enables him to play this role? What in his character?
2. We see Kim serving two very different masters: Mahbub Ali, the horse-trader and spy, and the unworldly lama. Which do you find more interesting. Which do you think will have more influence on Kim's future (don't answer if you've read the book)? What attracts Kim to each, and each to Kim?
3. The descriptions of India in this section are very vivid. Which scene made the biggest impression on you?
4. There are very few women in Kim's world. What do the few women we see tell us about Kipling's idea of the role of women in India?
5. If you have read some background material, what is the battle for which 8000 British soldiers will be needed?
6. Why do you think this book is so fascinating for children?
1. "It is no small thing to make a child" says the lama. In this section of the book, many people are struggling for control of Kim's future development. Looking at each one in turn, what is each trying to do? What would be the result if they have their way? Do you think any of them will get their way?
2. In these chapters, Kim's life changes dramatically. Does Kim also change? If so, how? What do you think of this turn of events?
3. In this section, Kipling portrays Englishmen (and boys) as well as Indians. What do you think of that portrayal? What attitudes do they show?
4. When Mahbub Ali and Kim meet Creighton, Ali makes fun of Kim's coming school experience and past message-carrying. What is he really doing here?
5. When Kim arrives at St. Xavier's School, he is met by the lama. What is the nature of the emotional conflict the lama is suffering here?
1. In this section, we meet more characters who "grow" Kim. What does Lurgan Sahib want with Kim? What is the relationship between Lurgan and his other disciple? How is it different from his relationship with Kim? Why is Lurgan pleased when Kim doesn't see the vase? Why doesn't he see it?
2. What does the scene with Kim, Mahbub Ali, Huneefa, and Huree Babu tell us about each of them? What kind of person is Hurree Babu? What is a Babu?
3. What has changed in the lama's idea of his search? How does the parable of the bound elephant affect his beliefs? Are there other changes in his attitude toward Kim? If so, why?
4. After Kim leaves school, he starts dreaming and thinking in Hindustani again. Have you ever thought in another language? Did it change the way you thought?
5. In Chapter 11, Kim again asks "Who is Kim?" What does the passing Hindu mean when he says "I also have lost it?"
6. Kim is thrust unexpectedly into "The Game". What does E23 tell us about the lives of those in The Game? Can you understand wanting to live such a life? What are Kim's mixed reactions? Can you understand them?
7. In the reshuffling after the war of 8000 men, Russian enemies are gaining a new foothold. What do you know about the role of Russia in British-ruled India at this time?
1."Who goes to the hills, goes to his mother". In this section, Kim and the lama are in the Himalayas. Which does Kipling describe more vividly: the crowded life of the plain, or the lonely rugged life of the hills. Which, if either, do you think will remain with you as a picture of India?
2. What are the Russian and Frenchmen up to?
3. What do you think of the Babu in action? How do the characters of each of the actors (Babu, the Russians, Kim, the lama, the hill people) contribute to the incident in the hills?
4. All of the characters seem to fall in love with Kim, each seeing him as the person they need (chela, assistant, etc). What in Kim do you think elicits this?
5. Two women characters play important roles in this section. What role does each play? What motivates each?
6. Both Kim and the lama have mystical experiences. The lama's experience enables him to find his river. What does Kim's experience enable him to find? What is your reaction to these passages? What do you think happened?
7. When the lama explains his experience to Ali, the devout Muslim, Ali is conflicted. Why?
8. Mahbub Ali is relieved, when he sees that Kim, even after Enlightenment, can still work for the government. Is this true? There are two very different threads in Kim's life. What do you think his future will be? Will he be able to integrate them, or be forced to choose one path or the other?