by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
...“On the City Wall,” the most ambitious and the longest, is an example of one of Kipling’s favourite devices, ‘the marginally involved spectator’ who recounts the events of the tale as they came to him at the time, when he did not always fully understand what was going on. This Narrator, the “I” person, is by no means always the historical Kipling, though no doubt he is someone Kipling would have liked to be thought to be...Michael Edwardes, in his Everyday Life in Early India [Batsford / Putnam’s Sons. 1969] pp.99-100, makes a point about the status of Lalun:
Kipling believes passionately that India will always be India; he thinks the old gods of India will always win in the end. It is with the old gods that Kipling’s heart really lies, though his head accepts the benefits of British rule. “On the City Wall “ can be looked on as a rehearsal for “The Bridge-Builders”, (The Day’s Work) published ten years later, a story reckoned by some critics as among Kipling’s most important because it exposes this conflict between head and heart over imperial rule.
… the courtesan - who supplied not only sexual satisfaction but artistic and intellectual accomplishment as well - was quite another matter. [from the common prostitute] Her education was wide. Apart from the techniques of her profession, she was – according to the authorities on erotics –adept at “the sixty-four arts”. This formidable list included such obvious arts as dancing, making music and singing, as well as the desirable qualifications of cooking, dressmaking, and embroidery…. Prostitutes of all ranks were often agents of the secret police…. brothels were excellent places for spies to collect information. (See page 328, lines 20 ff. and 329, lines 13ff. below)Philip Mallett (p.39) describes this as: the most successful of the stories in “In Black and White”. This is unusual in dealing with the Indian middle class, and with it a different kind of challenge to British supremacy than that faced in 1857.