Modernistic Aspects In Kipling

’s “A Wayside Comedy” Essay, Research Paper

Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India. He was sent to England to go to school and returned to India in 1882. He worked as a journalist in Lahore for the Civil and Military Gazette. He also worked on Pioneer in Allahabad later ( Kipling returned to England in 1889 and met his wife, Carrie Balestier. They moved to the United States in the mid-1890s where he wrote many of his poems. They returned to England in 1896 ( Kipling began to be regarded as ?the People?s Laureate,? but he refused most of the honors offered to him, including knighthood, Poet Laureateship, and the Order of Merit ( He did accept, however, the 1907 Nobel prize for literature (poetryloverspage).

Rudyard Kipling wrote many short stories and poems. One that is interesting is ?A Wayside Comedy.? Kipling?s short story ?A Wayside Comedy? has several modernistic aspects. It has no definitive ending, a straightforward sequential plot, allusion, and complex symbolism.

?A Wayside Comedy? has no definite ending because no one dies, gets married, or is exiled. Life in Kashima goes on as it normally would if the fact that Kurrell was sleeping with both Mrs. Boulte and Mrs. Vansuythen had not come out. Only Major Vansuythen did not know, and he was never told for his own protection. People?s feeling for each other changed when this secret came out, but since they were the only English in the town, they still had tea together, went hunting together, and sat together. Mr. Boulte even stated to Kurrell that ?We must let the old life go on? (Jarrell, 15).

?A Wayside Comedy? has a straightforward sequential plot in that the story progresses logically from one point to the next. The story begins with the arrival of the Vansuythens and their welcome to Kashima. Then it moves on to the Rains that come to India and what happens during those rains. Mrs. Boulte begins to suspect that Kurrell, who had been with her, is now with Mrs. Vansuythen. Mr. Boulte enters the house one day and asks his wife if she loves him. She says ?Immensely?(Jarrell, 11). Then he asks her again and she tells him exactly what has been going on between her and Kurrell. Mr. Boulte then goes next door to Mrs. Vansuythen and tells her about it. She tells him that Kurrell swore to her that he had no interest in Mrs. Boulte. Mrs. Boulte happens to walk in on this part of the conversation and asks Mrs. Vansuythen if this is true. When she is told that it is she faints. Mr. Boulte goes home and passes Kurrell on the road. They have a conversation about what has happened in which Boulte insults Kurrell and tells him what has happened at the Vansuythen?s. Boulte then rides on home and leaves Kurrell there, ?gazing blankly after him? (Jarrell, 15). Mrs. Boulte and Mrs. Vansuythen drive by and Mrs. Boulte asks Mrs. Vansuythen to stop so she can talk to Kurrell. Kurrell tells them that he has seen Mr. Boulte and knows what has happened. Mrs. Vansuythen begins to upbraid Kurrell and then they drive on. Later that night, Major Vansuythen cannot understand why no one has come to tea as they normally do. He knows nothing of the events of the day, and insists on dragging out the others. After that, everyone is civil to one another, but no one trusts anyone else. Mrs. Boulte hates Mrs. Vansuythen, Mrs. Vansuythen hates Kurrell, and Kurrell hates Mrs. Boulte. Mr. Boulte and Kurrell go out hunting together in friendship. Boulte told Kurrell that he did it because he ?can feel certain that [Kurrell is] not with Mrs. Vansuythen, or making [Mrs. Boulte] miserable? (Jarrell, 17). Each of these occurrences in the end of the story comes logically from the story.

?A Wayside Comedy? also contains allusion, another modernistic aspect. There are several allusions to the Bible. One of Kipling?s allusions to the Bible occurs when Mrs. Boulte tells her husband what has been happening between her and Kurrell. Kipling compares this to when Samson broke the pillars of Gaza. He says that what Samson did is ?not to be compared to the deliberate pulling down of a woman?s homestead about her own ears? (Jarrell, 12). According to Shahane, references to the Bible strengthen the idea that Kipling is ?recreating a parable ? of the Fall and the Redemption?(104).

The complex symbolism contained in ?A Wayside Comedy? is also a modernistic aspect of this story. One of the symbols that Kipling uses occurs at the beginning of the story and can be found in the Bible as well. Kipling compares Kashima to Hell in several different ways. In the first paragraph, there are ?souls who are now lying [in Kashima] in torment? (Jarrell, 9). Kashima is ?ablaze? in the spring, and ?hot winds? blow in the summer (Jarrell, 9). Another comparison to Hell occurs on page 10, where Kipling writes ?Kashima was as out of the world as Heaven or the Other Place, and the Dosehri hills kept their secret well.? The mention of the hills also implies a pit, which is a common perception of Hell. When Kipling states that ?Kashima never goes to Narkarra? (Jarrell, 10), that also implies that there is no escape from it, which is another idea people have of Hell.

There are many different modernistic aspects that can be found in many short stories. Kipling?s short story ?A Wayside Comedy? contains only a few of these, and is only one example of a short story.


Jarrell, Randall., ed. The Best Short Stories of Rudyard Kipling. Hanover House: New York, 1961: 9-17

?Rudyard Kipling.? Edward Bonver?s Poetry Lover?s Page. 8 November 2000 .

?Rudyard Kipling.? Kipling Society Homepage. 8 November 2000 .

Shahane, Vasant A. Rudyard Kipling: Activist and Artist. Southern Illinois University Press: Carbondale, 1973: 104-05


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