questions chapters 1-15

What in your view are two or three of the more important insights of Edward Said’s introductory essay?
What does Said believe are some of the more important qualities of the book? What does he find aesthetically attractive about the novel? Ideologically limited?
Did Said’s essay affect the way in which you interpreted the opening chapters, and if so, how?
What do you learn from the accompanying map?
What significance is added by the epigraphs, if any?
This novel was written at a time when the British rule in India was under threat. To what extent does Kim reflect this situation? (demphasizes native resistence; presents an India fully under British control except on the periphery)
This novel is a series of episodic adventures; how does the narrator maintain the reader's desire to know what happens next?
What are some forms of humor throughout? How are proverbs employed? (179)

Chapter 1:

In what initial situation do we find Kim, and how is the reader’s attitude toward him affected by his initial context?
What seem some marked features of Kim’s Lahore, and how might the British reader have reacted to these?
What are some things we learn about Kim--his speech, his habits, his personality, his nickname, his race, ethnic background and social status?
Does Kim’s story (and/or his relationship with the lama) recall to mind any previous famous literary works? (for example, in the picaresque tradition)
Who were Kim’s parents? What is known about their lives, deaths and characters? What message and tokens does his father leave behind, and how is this conveyed to Kim?
Who actually tends to Kim? What seems Kim’s attitude toward her, and what role is she given in the narrative?
What do we know about the lama? On what is Kipling’s descriptions of the museum at Lahore based?
What does the lama find to interest him in the museum at Lahore? What characterizes the curator’s conversations with him and their relationship? What do you make of the incident of the exchanged glasses? How might Said have interpreted this scene?
What is the lama seeking, and why? What symbolism/mythic precedents inhere in the image of the unknown River of the Arrow?
What do we learn about Indian religions in this chapter? Which characters seem to exhibit the most prejudice? The most intolerance?
What traits does the narrator ascribe to “Orientals”? Are these labels strictly consistent with his plot?
Why does Kim lead the lama to seek out Mahbub Ali, and what seems to be Kim’s relationship with the latter?
What message does Mahbub Ali overtly entrust to Kim, and what is his ulterior purpose? What incident indicates to Kim the nature of Ali’s affairs? Is he correct?
What does Ali learn from the episode in which he is searched while drunk? What does the reader conclude about Ali and about Kim? Why doesn’t Kim wait for further instructions?
Why is Kim willing to aid in espionage? Does the novel imply that any moral issues are involved?
What are some features of this novel’s style? What are advantages in narrating this tale through the experiences of a colonial pre-adolescent?

Chapter 2:

What are some features of the Indian train system, as narrated by Kipling and experienced by Kim and the lama? In particular, how does the Lama react to trains?
What role does the practice of begging play in the story? Are we expected to disapprove of Kim’s behavior? Why or why not? Is Kim presented as fundamentally dishonest?
What do you make of Kim's taking of a commission? His tricks? (trickster figure)
What are some ways in which the contrasts in character between Kim and the lama add to the narration of their journey?
What forms of conversation occur on the train?
What is the lama's religion? What religions are practiced by their fellow travelers?
In what ways is the lama a considerate partner? How do the lama and his assistant fare in Umballah? Who hosts them? What prophecy is given to the two wanderers?
How does Kim find and identify the officer to whom he gives his message? What does he learn in return? Would his spying have been dangerous?
What reminders are given of Kim’s non-Indian ancestry, and what purpose do they serve in the text? (e. g. 84, 91)
How do you interpret the fact that everyone is identified by nationality? (84; e. g., Asiatics)

Chapter 3:

How does the lama respond to the discourteous farmer, and what is the result? What motive does the narrator give for the different responses of the lama and Kim to a snake?
To whom does Kim tell of the prophecy that he will be associated with war, and with what result? Why does he seek to convince his hearers that he can convey the details of a future military conflict?
From what does Kim save the lama as he sleeps in the temple? (theft)
What account does the soldier who accompanies them give of the British presence in India? (100) What treatment of British women and children were allegedly associated with the Mutiny, and why do you think this is mentioned here?
What has been the old soldier’s relationship with his British masters? Whom does he meet upon the road whose behavior confirms Kim’s prophecy of war?
Is the use of predictions and prophecies useful to the development of the plot? To its underlying themes?
What criticism does the lama make of the soldier and his activities? Do you think the narrator agrees?

Chapter 4:

How are the travellers able to avoid extortion on the Grand Trunk Road? Do you find this incident plausible? (Kim insults predator)
What parts of the journey does Kim enjoy, and why? What does he observe as the two travel along? (109-112)
What perspective is given the reader as we travel? (tourist's eye view, 111)
Why do you think the narrator includes the detail of the "well-fed" released prisoner? (defense of British rule, 109)
What is indicated by the fact that the old woman mistakes Kim for a Hindu? (112)
What are the conditions of the women he views? (113)
Why does Kim arrange for the travellers to accompany the widow’s cortege, and how does Kim engineer this?
What does the widow’s behavior suggest about labor relations in this context? About the observance of gender proprieties?
How do you interpret the widow's preference for English-Indian officials? (124)
What use does Kim make of native sayings and proverbs? (120) What attitude does he take toward native cultures? (borrows from all, 121; emphasis on liveliness of oral culture, 126)

Chapter 5:

What circumstances lead Kim to his father’s regiment? (sees men and flag, 128) What does he first notice about them?
What incident marks his first experience with a member of his father’s regiment? (accused of theft) Is this significant?
How are the Anglican chaplain and Roman Catholic priest presented? What is their reaction to native culture? (English clergyman's view of natives, 136) What are the reactions of the two clergyment to one another? (133)
What opinion of Kim’s father did these men seem to have had? How can you tell? (138)
How does the lama respond to the loss of his guide? (grief, 139, 140; asks for address to send money, a loving and responsible thought)
What warning does he give to Kim? (warns against becoming boastful soldier)
What seems to be the nature of Kim’s English language skills, and how is this indicated?
What seeems Kim’s reaction to his new environment/caretakers? (plans to leave soon)
What attitudes in general do the English exhibit toward natives? (154)

Chapter 6:

What news does Col. Creighton bring, and how do others react? (confirms imminence of war, others impressed, 146)
To what forms of scrutiny is Kim subjected? (kept under surveillance, 147)
What features of Kim’s story draw favorable attention in the regiment, and what does this reveal about the mentality of the army? Is this ironic?
Are Kim’s new benefactors presented positively? How does Kim respond to this transition? (escapes to write letter to Mahbub Ali seeking money and help; lonely, 151)
What experiences of Kipling’s own life may be reflected by the emotions and events of this chapter?
How do his old friends the lama and Mahbub Ali intervene in determining Kim’s fate at this point? (letter and money from lama, 300 rupees per year; Mabub Ali visits him but returns him to regiment, 155, 158)
How is the issue of religion dealt with in this book? (bigotry pervasive, 150) What is assumed will be Kim’s method of choosing a religion, and which clerics are presented most sympathetically?
What is made of the presence of an anthropologist (Col. Creighton; compare Kipling's own father)? Is the Indian anthropologist presented as an authority on native life?
What is the nature of Kim's first contacts with fellow students? (beaten)

Chapter 7:

Why is it significant that what Col. Creighton tells Kim turns out to be untrue, and why does this please Kim?

What plans do we learn later in the chapter Col. Creighton has for him? (escape to the road, is given vacation, joins Mahbub Ali, is becoming more independent) What is a "chain-man," and what is the British survey?

What thoughts does Kim have concerning his own identity? (one insignificant person in all the roaring whirl of India, 166) Why is it difficult for him to make a decision?

What is Kim's opinion of Lucknow? (beautiful, 168)

What does the Lama give as his reasons for having joined Kim in Lucknow? (170) Where will he stay while Kim finishes school? How distant is Benares?

What does Kim learn at school? (learns to write)

What motivates his escape to the road? How does Col. Creighton react to this? Mahbub Ali?

Chapter 8:

What purposes does Sahib/Col. Crighton seem to have in mind? (180)

How does the relationship of Mahbub Ali and Kim seem to have changed? What are some of its elements? (affection, suspicion, shared respect for intrigue) What service does Kim render him? (discovers plot to kill Mahbub)

Who has tried to kill Mahbub Ali, and what may have been his/their motives?

What types of things does he "learn" from Mahbub Ali? What do we learn of Mahbub Ali's ethnicity? His views on religion? (relativist, tolerant, 191-92)

Where does Mahbub Ali indicate that Kim has been ordered to go?

What changes does Mahbub Ali predict for Kim when he leaves for the house of Lurgen Sahib?

Chapter 9:

What does Kim learn at Lurgan Sahib's house? (trained in memory exercises, behaviors of different castes) Which aspect of the "education" does Kim enjoy? (masks, disguises, changes of identity)

What are some traits of Huree Babu/R17? How seriously is he taken as an anthropologist and scholar?

What advice/guidance does Hurree Babu give him? (211)

Why cannot Kim tell his schoolmates how he has spent his summer?

What does Kim assume will be his fate should he fail to be a good spy? (death, 210)

What do Col. Creighton and Mahbub Ali agree will be Kim's future? (spy, 215)

For how long is Kim educated?

Chapter 10:

At this stage of Kim’s life, what occupies much of his time? (mapping and surveying) What is unusual about the techniques he uses? (no measuring implements) Is it significant that the documents still exist? (218)

What gifts is he given by Mahbub Ali, and what do these symbolize? (revolver, elegant clothes) Will he use these often?

What is the reader supposed to think of the claim that the English (unlike natives) don’t kill lightly? (219-20)

Why is Kim permitted to leave school after three years, and who makes the decision? (Col. Creighton and Mahbub Ali, not the lama) What is Kim’s response?

What type of ceremony/transformation does Kim undergo on leaving school? (darkened, disguised) What secret code does Huree Babu teach him?

What will be Kim's first tasks? (will accompany Lama and make contact with Huree Babu)

What are some features of Babu’s speech? (unintentionally comic, imitates British slang, 232) What is Hurree Babu’s chief ambition?

Chapter 11:

What emotions does Kim experience on recognizing that he is alone? What actions allegedly show that he has matured? (doesn’t exploit or trick without a clear motive, 235)

How does he use his new medical skills? (237, cures child of fever with quinine tablets) What practical benefits will this act confer on the travelers?

What do we learn about the lama’s past? (239, had been an Abbot) Does this change our view of him somewhat?

What do we learn about the lama’s view of the need for literal religious observances? Are there other characters in the book who share his views?

What form of artwork does the lama begin to create? (Buddhist wheel of life, 240). What does the lama believe is needed to complete his search? (240, Kim as companion)

What adventure occurs to the travelers while on the train? How is Kim able to help the man identified as “E23”? (248)

What does this episode seem to indicate about the political situation of India at the time? 

What are features of the relationship of the men involved in the “Great Game”?  (form band of brothers, 257) Their loyalties and motives?

Does Kim explain his activities to the lama? Why is the latter not more suspicious?

Chapter 12:

How is E23 able to deliver his message?  What elements of the narration of this episode add to the sense of adventure and suspense?

Why do Kim and the lama turn northwards, and how do they occupy themselves en route?

On what occasion does Kim point out inconsistencies in the lama’s own actions? (264)

On their second visit to the hospitable widow, what seems to have changed?

Under what circumstances does Kim encounter Hurree Babu again, and what does the latter communicate to him? (268, has found letter; French and Russians are sending investigators to prepare for invasion)

What attitudes are revealed toward French and Russian interests in Afghanistan and the Kasmir?

What political opinions does Hurree Babu impart, and do you think these are shared by the narrator? (270, English government has been too cheap and pacific, has accepted promises of loyalty by border chieftains)

Why do you think the motif of Hurree Babu’s “fear” is introduced? Is he in fact a cowardly man?

What is Kim’s reaction to learning of the continuation of “the Game”? (excited, 272)

What opinion does the lama have of his hostess? What are Kim’s expressed views of women in general?

Is the lama confident that he and Kim will find the River of Healing? (277) Why may his confidence be growing?

Chapter 13

What dramatic incident occurs when  the French and Russian travelers encounter  the lama and Kim?

What has prompted a disagreement between the lama and Russian? (will not sell his drawing of the Wheel of Life, Russian strikes lama)

In the resultant melee, who seizes the foreigners’ horde of surveillance papers? By what means is Kim able to obtain them? (pretends unconcern to hill people, who have no use for it, and offers to extract its “magic,” 297)

What prevents further violence and counterattack? (lama forbits violence, 294) How do the lama’s views differ from those of others encountered in the story? (e. g., Mahbub Ali)

Chapter 14

What action causes the lama to feel repentance? (309) As a consequence, how do they change their plans? (decide to return to plains)

What other factors influence this decision?

What changes have occurred in the lama’s health? How does Kim seem to respond to his greater need for care?

What physical changes have occurred in Kim, and how do these affect the responses of others toward him?

What seems significant about the scene in which he rejects the advances of a handsome woman?

How does she respond to rejection? (hurt and jealous of a possible rival, but provides him and the lama generously with food and assistance)

Chapter 15

What symbolism is associated with the final journey into the mountains, its abrupt end, and the return to a homestead? What symbolism is associated with Kim's meeting of the mountain woman, his return to the compound, his "purgation" by drugs, and his reawakening to life? (331-32)

What contrasts are made between the plains and the mountains? How do the travellers respond to the mountains?

What is implied in the prophecy that Kim will become a "scribe"? Will he return to the world of spying?

What is the significance of the scene in which Mahbub Ali converses with the lama? What do we learn about Ali's emotions towards Kim? (feels some jealousy) Is this conversation symbolic in some way?

What symbolism is associated with the lama's journey toward his homeland, his increasing and diminishing strength, and the circumstances of his final vision?

What teachings does the lama strive to impart to Kim? What does he believe about the morality of anger and killing? Do you think the narrative supports his ethical viewpoints?

How do you interpret the lama's final vision of the great river beyond the arrow? Does this vision share aspects of mystical experience?

Why must the lama return to earth to share his spiritual power with Kim? What does the reader assume will happen next to the lama? To Kim?

Does the closing scene form a fitting conclusion for the book? What do you make of the fact that the last paragraph describes the lama rather than Kim?

Is the lama correct that he has gained knowledge for his "beloved" as well as himself? If so, why do we not see Kim affirming this?

Does the conclusion resolve the latent tensions between Kim's allegiance to the lama's holiness and the imperatives of "the great Game"?


What is the sequence of Kim's adventures in "the Great Game"? Are these progressive?

Which aspects of this book do you think may be autobiographical?

What are some experiences of Kim and the lama that Kipling himself did not share?

What are some humorous scenes or aspects to the narration?

Is there a pattern to Kim's relationship with older men or protectors? What are their respective motives in helping or educating him?

What is added by the character Hurree Babu? What is made of his desire to collect ethnographic information, his mixture of cowardice and courage, and his affection for Kim?

What is added by Kim's encounter with E23? With Lurgan Sahib?

What use is made of Indian customs throughout the book? What seems Kim's/the author's attitudes toward these?

Is there any sign of native discontent with British rule within the book?

Are there limitations in Kim’s viewpoint, and if so, what purpose do they serve in the narrative?

How do the lama and Kim balance each other in outlook and skills? Does the balance of authority between them shift?

Do Kim's limitations diminish--that is, does the protagonist develop as the book progresses?

Said claims that women are marginal characters or are presented unfavorably throughout the book. Is this the case, and if so, what effect does this have on the story’s tone or plot?

Are there differences in tone between the opening and final portions of the book? What drives the final portions of the plot?

Do aspects of this book resemble a travel narrative?

Edward Said has remarked that some of the plot elements of this book parallel the novelist's preoccupations in shaping scenes and characters. Which aspects of this novel, if any, do you think may bear out his view?

Are there sad elements to this book? What are some moments of pathos?

To what extent is this a book about the processes of aging and youth?

What serious political issues underlie this book? What do you make of the fact that the older men mention the increasing need for men in the "great Game"?

How far northwards do Kim and the lama reach? Overall, how much of India is represented in this novel?

Do you find the ending of the book consistent with the earlier adventures? What seems to have happened to the motif of "the Great Game"?

Are portions of the novel poetic? What is added to the book by the use of metaphorical speech?

What are some ways in which religion is represented in this book? How seriously are we expected to take Kim's brushes with Christianity, with Mohammedism, and with Buddhism?

What attitude toward religion do you find represented throughout the book, especially in its later sections? Does Kim's sense of morality grow as he otherwise develops?

What is implied in the prophecy that Kim will become a "scribe"? Will he return to the world of spying?

Is this a coming-of-age narrative? What aspects of the book might be instructive for young people? Which might be questionable?

Are any moral issues raised by Kim’s behavior during the book, and if so, what causes them to seem less important?

What is meant in other contexts by a “trickster narrative,” and is this one? Can you see parallels with African-American novels on “passing,” and if so, what are also some differences?

The nineteenth-century saw the rise of the detective novel; are there elements of a detection plot in Kim?

What meanings are attached to the decriptions of food purchase, preparation, or consumption which occur throughout Kim?

What are some reasons why Victorian British readers may have enjoyed this book?

Which aspects of Kipling’s account do you think are romanticized? Are there paradoxes inherent in the plot or presentation of Kim’s adventures?

Would you describe this book as sentimental? a fantasy? a book about realpolitik and the empire?

Is this essentially a children’s book? A book for those of several ages?

Which aspects of the book do you find most redeeming? Most troubling?

Page numbers are from the Penguin edition, 1987 and reprinted.