‘It was your right to get him cashiered if you chose,’ I insisted.Being a ‘man’ in this sense means being strong enough both to despise the rule-book because you can fight your own corner and to take punishment whether deserved or not, without complaint. Such proudly self-respecting manhood implies the acceptance of social hierarchies. True, Ouless offers Private Ortheris the opportunity to avenge his injury by fighting it out man to man, outside of the Army’s boundaries; but of course it’s not the private who wins. ‘’E wasn’t so strong as me, but he knew more’, says Ortheris (Many Inventions p.151), proudly displaying the gap where an eye-tooth was knocked out by the officer’s left hook.
‘My right !’ Ortheris answered with deep scorn. ‘My right ! I ain’t a recruity to go whinin’ about my rights to this and my rights to that, just as if I couldn’t look after myself. My rights ! ‘Strewth Almighty ! I’m a man.’(Many Inventions pp.148-153).
‘Fried fish an’ whelks is about your sort. Blimey if they haven’t sent some pink-eyed Jews too. You chap with the greasy ‘ed, which o’ the Solomons was your father ?’The nickname defines this man whose Hebrew name (which would certainly not be ‘Samuelson’) we never learn, and who is not heard to speak again in the story, his role being simply to be victimised. When Ortheris takes out his shame and anger at having been hit in public by persecuting the Jew, it is not the victim but the bully for whom the narrator feels sympathy and anxiety: ‘Learoyd … must have been a great comfort to Ortheris – almost as great a comfort as Samuelson, whom Ortheris bullied disgracefully. If the Jew opened his mouth in the most casual remark Ortheris would plunge down it with all arms and accoutrements, while the barrack-room stared and wondered.’ (Many Inventions p.145).
‘My name’s Anderson,’ said a voice sullenly. ‘Oh, Samuelson ! All right, Samuelson ! An ‘ow many o’ the likes o’ you Sheenies are comin’ to spoil B Company ?’(Many Inventions p.130).
‘“I’m a private servin’ of the Queen, an’ as good a man as ‘e is,” I sez, “for all ‘is commission an’ is airs an’ ‘is money,” sez I.’Yet when Ortheris relates how: ‘ I give Samuelson a little more trouble with ’is kit… I give ’im one or two for ’imself, and arxed ’im very polite to ’it back,’(Many Inventions p.150), nobody tells him he’s a petty-minded brute for taking out his bad temper on a helpless man.. ‘Samuelson’ forfeits sympathy simply by being vulnerable and a Jew, his point of view remaining invisible. If he had fought back, Ortheris would presumably forgive his Jewishness, and Samuelson would then replicate Ortheris’ own happy ending by graduating from Other as victim to Self as a potential bully, happy to avenge his own grievances on the next lot of unfortunates .
‘What a fool you were,’ I interrupted. Ortheris, being neither a menial nor an American, but a free man, had no excuse for yelping.
‘That’s exactly what Terence said.’(Many Inventions p.152).
‘Do good to bird and beastHis jesting defiance wins the tribute ‘May I eat dirt if thou hast hurt of me in deed or breath’ from Kamal, and the Englishman responds in kind : ‘Take up the mare and keep her - by God, she has carried a man !’ But Kamal gives back the mare with the ‘lifter’s dower’ of his own jewelled accoutrements, and when the Colonel’s son in turn offers him the gift of his remaining pistol Kamal, not to be outdone in generosity, whistles up his ‘only son’ to be the companion and fellow soldier of the Englishman. The two young men return to ‘Fort Bukloh’, and the boy who was last night a ‘Border-thief’ is now ‘a man of the Guides.’ The poem ends as it began:
But count who come for the broken meats before thou makest a feast’.
Oh East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meetDespite that stirring proclamation of equality, it is noticeable that in this tale Kamal comes out the loser. In exchange for the Englishman’s pistol ( admittedly a heavily symbolic gift, but hardly a rare object to a Border bandit) he not only surrenders the mare and her trappings, but as a gesture of reciprocation – ‘Thy father has sent his son to me, I’ll send my son to him’ - gives up his son to the enemy British, his final words being the wry ‘Belike they will raise thee to Rissaldur [sergeant] when I am hanged at Peshawar !’. The recognition of one another by ‘two strong men’ means that Kamal’s tall wild boy who ‘trod the ling like a buck in spring and looked like a lance in rest’ must lose his wildness by becoming an anonymous member of a troop of military athletes . All of which shows with transparent clarity how the establishment of a masculinity recognised by the imperialist English implies the subjection of the colonised to the rulers’ own laws and customs.( Where the racial ‘Other’ is feminine she cannot be assimilated in the same way and is therefore likely to end up mutilated like Bisesa in ‘Beyond the Pale’ (Plain Tales from the Hills) dead like Ameera in ‘Without Benefit of Clergy’ (Life's Handicap), or at best rejected like ‘Lispeth’ and the Burmese mistress in ‘Georgie Porgie’ (Life's Handicap)..
Till Earth and sky stand presently at God’s great judgment seat,
But there is neither East nor West nor Border nor breed nor birth
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth
(The Worls of Rudyard Kipling, Wordsworth Poetry Library 1994 p. 234)
‘When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack, ye must fight him alone and afarThis Law represents the ultimate social authority: ‘ But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is – Obey !’ (The Second Jungle Book pp. 30-2). The society of the animals, with its law, culture, unquestioned hierarchy (and even its own mythology in ‘How Fear Came’), is made to seem considerably superior to that of the cruelly superstitious mob of Hindu villagers. Thanks to his induction in the Jungle Law by Father Wolf, Mother Wolf, Baloo and Bagheera, Mowgli becomes a noble savage, superior not only in grace and strength but in forbearance to the villagers. He is patient when the children tease him for not playing games or fly kites, because‘luckily, the Law of the Jungle had taught him to keep his temper, for in the Jungle life and food depend on keeping your temper…but only the knowledge that it was unsportsmanlike [sic] to kill little naked cubs kept him from picking them up and breaking them in two’ (The Jungle Book p.95). As anyone who has watched a documentary film of carnivores in the wild will be aware, this ‘knowledge’ of decent behaviour clearly differentiates Kipling’s Jungle and its Law from zoological realities.
Lest others take part in the quarrel, and the Pack be diminished by war’.
‘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.’Man may be clever but is full of weaknesses. Thanks to his own early experience of captivity, the panther readily recognizes human weakness. Mowgli’s open inconsistency and furious ‘Am I to give reason for all that I choose to do ?’ later moves him to the comment ‘There speaks Man ! Even so did men talk round the king’s cages at Oodeypore’ and the muttered aside that for all Man’s wisdom he is ‘of all things the most the foolish’( The Second Jungle Book p. 66). In ‘The King’s Ankus’, Kipling’s brilliant re-writing of Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale, the six men who kill one another to possess a useless but precious object display a kind of greed and violence baffling alike to Mowgli and Bagheera who merely kill from hunger. Far worse is the mob-violence of the credulous villagers who stone the innocent Mowgli as a jungle-demon, and would also have burned Messua as a witch for being kind to him if she had not escaped to the protecting English (yes, colonial attitudes do persist even in the Jungle Books) who ‘do not suffer people to burn or beat each other without witnesses’ (The Second Jungle Book p. 81). Yet Mowgli the hero is Indian, not English, and will ultimately return to Messua and her domestic shrine. Moreover, it is partly Mowgli’s human fallibility that makes him lovable. There is a telling episode in ‘Mowgli’s Brothers’ when, after his intelligence, courage and Promethean ability to steal fire and handle it have enabled him to outwit and master Shere Khan the tiger and the Wolf-Pack, Mowgli is overcome by mortal grief:
‘I did not know these things,’ said Mowgli sullenly; and he frowned under his heavy black eyebrows.
‘What is the Law of the Jungle ? Strike first and then give tongue. By thy very carelessness they know thou art a man.’(The Jungle Book p.31)
‘Am I dying, Bagheera?’:Since the Jungle where no one weeps here represents the enchanted world of childhood, the implication of Mowgli’s tears that prove him ‘a man-cub no longer’ is that to be an adult man includes both experiencing grief and giving it passionate expression. To be a man means, then, not only the capacity to pursue vengeance more terribly because more cleverly than any beast, but as Mowgli’s weeping shows, to be shaken by love and pain. This is very long way from the ideal of masculinity as the exercise of strength and self-control that enables Ortheris to boast ‘I’m a man !’ Viewed against Ortheris’ macho pride, this fantasy children’s book seems, strangely, to manifest the more adult and complex notion of ‘Man’.
‘“No. Those are only tears such as men use”, said Bagheera. “Now I know thou art a man, and a man’s cub no longer. The Jungle is shut indeed to thee henceforward. Let them fall, Mowgli. They are only tears.” So Mowgli sat and cried as though his heart would break; and he had never cried in his life before’ (The Jungle Book p.40).