by John McGivering)
notes on the text
The most successful story about an officer ... in which a somewhat self-satisfied , extremely dandyish officer falls from his horse in a rainstorm coming down from leave in the hills. Filthy and unrecognisable he is arrested, despite all his protests, as a deserter from the ranks and treated accordingly. Perhaps it is natural that, as in “The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes”, (Wee Willie Winkie) Kipling seems most in his stride when the Sahib’s role is grimly and comically reversed. His sense of life’s insecurity is fully satisfied.Elliot L. Gilbert in the Kipling Journal of June 1965 (154/11) comments that:
...there is never really as much disparity between an author's early efforts and his late works as may appear on the surface, and indeed, what is so striking about many of Kipling's first stories is the way in which they mark him out as a serious artist, one quite capable of growing into the author of the mature tales... "The Arrest of Lieutenant Golightly" (is an) intriguing analysis of ‘a slight anecdote’ which turns out to be far richer and more meaningfully composed than might have been guessed from a cursory reading.Like so much of Kipling’s work, this is a deceptive and complex story: Golightly stresses the point that he is an officer and a gentleman (albeit with a curious taste in ‘plain clothes’) and then goes on to show that while he is an officer, he is certainly no gentleman – a fact that the commentators we have seen have missed.
For all its slightness, "The Arrest of Lieutenant Golightly" is a wonderfully artful piece of work. Analysis of it shows that Kipling had found not only the subject matter of his later fiction, but also the major themes; and that even at the beginning of his career he was already a quite conscious artist, enormously skilful at embodying an idea in action without sacrificing any of that action's ability to entertain...every good joke makes somewhere a point that is not wholly funny, and ... constructing a joke is quite as serious a business as contructing any other work of art...
His real point is that the universe, in its fortuitousness, is always able to come up with some unexpected challenge for which no amount of planning could have prepared.