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Published by Clancy Ratliff

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Published by: Clancy Ratliff on Nov 26, 2010
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Clancy Ratliff 8 April 1998Dr. ThompsonThe Critically Praised and the Mainstream: Rudyard Kipling’s ProseThe reputations of many authors in history have declined, but some never lose their  popularity. Rudyard Kipling is among these enduring writers. One of the reasons for this is thathe was a man of unusual genius, another is the advantage he had of being exposed to what wasthen a new and exotic culture, and the strongest reason is that he wrote excellent stories for children. Some parents continue to read these stories to their children, and those who do not readthe stories at least show their children Walt Disney’s version of The Jungle Book. Either way,each new generation becomes introduced to Kipling. However, Kipling’s stories for children areonly a small part of his immense body of prose. Kipling is one of the few authors who attainedmainstream popularity and the recognition of critics. In this analysis of Kipling’s prose, I willdiscuss the works which make him popular, The Jungle Book and the Just So Stories; and I willdiscuss the novels and short stories most commended by scholars, The Light That Failed, “TheMan Who Would Be King,” “Without Benefit of Clergy,” and the novel considered to be hismasterpiece, Kim.Kipling had the physical appearance of what today would be called a “nerd.” He was asmall man with thick glasses that he had to wear all his life. But, as the many photographs of him show, his twinkling eyes, mustache, and teasing smile give his face tremendous character.His face shows the satisfaction of life experience, and that he had. Kipling, in his life, traveled toAmerica, Canada, India, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England, Brazil, France,and the West Indies. He was born in Bombay, India in 1865 to John Lockwood Kipling, author 
of Beasts and Men in India, and Alice Macdonald Kipling; and he spent the first six years of hislife there. After that, his parents sent him to Southsea in England, where he and his sister Alice(nicknamed “Trix”) stayed with guardians whom the children called “Uncle Harry” and “AuntyRosa.” Aunty Rosa wanted a daughter, and she favored Trix over young Ruddy (Miller 3). Thiswas a low point of Kipling’s childhood, and it is said that Mrs. Jennett, the cruel guardian of TheLight That Failed, was modeled after Aunty Rosa. After five years and three months with AuntyRosa, Kipling was sent to the United Services College (Carrington 10). When he was sixteen, hewent back to India and spent seven years working at a newspaper. During this time he workedten- to fifteen-hour days, but the knowledge that he acquired while an editor and reporter wouldinspire much of his later work, most of which centers on or alludes to India. At age twenty-six,Kipling married Caroline Balestier, sister of his friend Wolcott Balestier. Lucile RussellCarpenter writes, “She was not only an intellectual companion, but a competent and practicalhelpmate as well, and protected him from all distractions to which his sensitive nature wassusceptible, thus making possible the full exercise of his creative gift” (69). Their happymarriage produced three children: Josephine, Elsie, and John. Josephine died of pneumonia in1899, and Kipling himself almost died. He never recovered from the grief of losing his daughter,nor did he recover from the loss of his son, John, who was presumed dead at age eighteen whenhe went to France to fight in World War I. When Kipling was seventy years old, he died of a brain hemorrhage after a forty-four-year marriage and a prolific writing career.Certainly, in this prolific career, the work for which he is most famous is The JungleBook. The stories of Mowgli in particular are significant in Kipling’s prose. Mother Wolf andFather Wolf, of course, find the “man-cub” in the jungle being hunted by Shere Khan, the tiger.The wolves raise him and give him the name “Mowgli the Frog,” and eventually he returns to
humanity after his childhood in the jungle. The Mowgli stories are characterized by childlike,endearing language, such as this: “A wolf accustomed to moving his own cubs can, if necessary,mouth an egg without breaking it, and though Father Wolf’s jaws closed right on the child’s back not a tooth even scratched the skin, as he laid it down among the cubs” (Kipling, Jungle 7). Heattributes different human attributes to each animal, “making Baloo the bear a teacher and Kaathe serpent a friend” (Crofte-Cooke 56). As Crofte-Cooke also says of the animals, “They keeptheir terrible powers and their natural desires, being only gifted with certain extra qualities of logic and loyalty, being, like other characters in less imaginary stories, a little larger than life”(56). The Jungle Law is also a consideration of analysis by the adult reader. It is a simple,enduring set of rules to follow. In its simplicity, it is in some ways superior to human laws,especially because the only property disputes are the kill, which belongs to the wolf that did thekilling, and the lair, which not even the Lords of the Jungle can enter without the permission of the wolf who lives in the lair. The jungle has leaders and councils, but no red tape. The one lawthat all animals fall under is the need of water. During the drought in “How Fear Came,” all theanimals call a water truce, and predators do not attack prey. Also, as Kipling writes, “One of the beauties of Jungle Law is that punishment settles all scores. There is no nagging afterward”(Kipling, Jungle 64). All the originality and eloquence in The Jungle Book , as well as thedeeper meanings involved, such as Mowgli’s life lessons taught to him by Baloo, Bagheera, andMother and Father Wolf, make this collection of stories a classic.Kipling’s Just So Stories, also a collection for children, were another reason for his popularity. These stories include “How the Leopard Got His Spots” and “The Butterfly ThatStamped.” Some of these stories, set in South Africa and Australia, give funny explanations for animal characteristics: titles include “How the Whale Got His Throat,” “How the Camel Got His

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