Kim in India
Today I'm returning to a passage I loved from a few chapters back. It captures what Kim loves about India, and it's evocative to me sitting as I am in an English suburb listening to the April rain drum on the conservatory roof. Here's the passage:
The diamond-bright dawn woke men and crows and bullocks together. Kim sat up and yawned, shook himself, and thrilled with delight. This was seeing the world in real truth; this was life as he would have it—bustling and shouting, the buckling of belts, and beating of bullocks and creaking of wheels, lighting of fires and cooking of food, and new sights at every turn of the approving eye. The morning mist swept off in a whorl of silver, the parrots shot away to some distant river in shrieking green hosts: all the well-wheels within ear-shot went to work. India was awake, and Kim was in the middle of it, more awake and more excited than anyone, chewing on a twig that he would presently use as a toothbrush;
The narration in Kim is third-person, approaching omniscient. Kipling can say that 'India was awake with Kim in the middle of it' without us feeling compelled to believe that this is Kim's analysis. Kipling gives us such wonderful context in this passage. Could a close third person narration give us such a sense of where and what Kim is? Such a passage might be more vivid, more in the here-and-now, but the anthropological tone of Kim-the-novel is delightful and fascinating, and it is charming too: about India it is loving, evangelical, mystified.