Kipling Vs. Woolf Essay, Research Paper
Rudyard Kipling and Virginia Woolf, although both English writers, write from completely different perspectives and with completely different intentions. Kipling s book Kim does not tackle any specific social issues, but instead uses fiction to promote general themes of tolerance and the importance of education. Woolf, on the other hand, has the specific intention of showing the inferior role that women are forced to play in society and the effect that this role has on the aspiring female writer. She uses fiction to combat female inferiority and to prove that women can write just as well as men. Both Kipling and Woolf used fiction to describe the society in which they lived: Kipling wrote about India under British control and influence, and Woolf wrote about England during a time of male dominance and the suppression of female creativity. Overall, Kipling gives a more effective picture of society because he gives a more general depiction (while maintaining accuracy), he includes different perspectives of the society, and he places a larger emphasis on the importance and power of knowledge.
Kipling s story starts out on the poor streets of an Indian city, where the reader encounters a wide range of personalities. As the book progresses, Kim comes in to contact with almost every different social class present in India. He sleeps in the stable of a horse trader, in the dorms of an English boarding school, in the house of a wealthy Indian widow, and even in a Hindu temple. Kipling does an excellent job of describing society on a large scale instead of focusing on a specific group, allowing the reader to gain a general understanding of different social groups and how they interact.
Woolf, on the other hand, focuses on society s elite, the small percentage of English men and women who can afford a college education. She believes that one of the pre-requisites to becoming a writer is having money. To have a room of her own was out of the question, unless her parents were exceptionally rich or very noble. (Woolf 52) So while Kipling includes the interactions of many different social classes, Woolf only writes about the relationship between men and women of the upper class. This doesn t take away from the importance or brilliance of Woolf s writings, but it does limit her ability to give an effective picture of England during that time period.
Kipling also does a good job of giving different perspectives of society. By including characters from all walks of life, the reader encounters all the different sides to the story. Kipling lets the reader experience the train from the perspective of an experienced and clever young man, a scared lama, an ignorant Kamboh, and several other characters. By doing this Kipling conveys a theme of toleration. He gives a positive image to those with an attitude of live and let live, while giving a negative image to anyone who tries to impose their lifestyle on others. Mr. Bennett is given a negative image because he curses what he does not understand. When Kim tells him that he doesn t want to be a soldier, Bennett says, You will be what you re told to be, and you should be grateful that we re going to help you. (Kipling 141) He thinks that his way of life is the right way of life without exceptions, and Kipling portrays this as a great weakness to Bennett.
Woolf does not include many different perspectives, but instead focuses on the women s side of the story. While Kipling includes both a white man s and a native Indian s opinions about British rule, Woolf only gives her personal opinion on the position of women in society. A Room of One s Own is more of a one-sided editorial, while Kim gives a well-rounded depiction of society.
The most prominent theme in Kim is the importance and power of knowledge. Kipling portrays the antagonists in this story as being more ignorant than the protagonists, allowing them to be frequently outsmarted to the protagonist s advantage. The book follows Kim as he gains knowledge from his surroundings, and it shows how he progresses, becoming stronger and more powerful as a result of his newfound knowledge. Kim s ability to read and write, to speak both English and the vernacular, and his knowledge of local customs allows him to blend in wherever he goes, moving up and down the social ladder whenever it is to his advantage.
Woolf also puts a stress upon the importance of education and how the inferiority and lack of funding in female colleges is a hindrance to aspiring woman writers. She writes about the painful process of raising money and the luxuries that women cannot enjoy as a result. We cannot have wine and partridges and servants carrying tin dishes on their heads The amenities will have to wait . (Woolf 20) However, Woolf does not believe that education is the main problem, because she believes that even well educated women are discouraged from writing due to the other circumstances of their environment. Because of this, Woolf spends less time talking about the power of knowledge and more time talking about the power of money.
Kipling does an amazing job of providing an effective and vivid image of life in India under British rule. His use of the Indian language and the incorporation of all different rungs of the social ladder in this story gives the reader a great understanding of the world that Kim is living in. The picture of society that Woolf gives is not as extensive or as colorful, but that is because her book did not serve the same purpose. Woolf concentrates on one aspect of society: the inferior role of women and its effect on female writers. By doing this, she limits the scope of her work, but increases the intensity of her message, and so A Room of One s Own is not a lesser work than Kim, but it does attack a different and more specific social situation.