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Thread: Rudyard Kipling: Characteristics of Victorian Literature(please help)

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    Rudyard Kipling: Characteristics of Victorian Literature(please help)

    I'm doing a research paper about Rudyard Kipling for my 12th grade English class. I want to write about why his writing is so Victorian and the life experiences that influenced his writing. The problem is that I can't find any good online sources that talk about the characteristics of Victorian Era writing.
    Any ideas?

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    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    I think that first you will have to determine what you mean by Victorian. Personally, I don't regard Kipling as a good Victorian. I think that Tennyson was the epitome of a Victorian, and his poetry helped open the way for the imperialistic Victorian era.

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    Cool I agree with PeterL .....

    Kipling lived well into the 20th century (1936); I wouldn't categorize him as a Victorian writer.

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    Perhaps you would do better to talk about the theme of imperialism in his writing. I think that whereas Victorian literature has more to do with Britain (and would more likely, for instance, be set in Britain, and draw comment on the country, its classes, the rural vs. the city) Kipling's writings have more to do with British empire, drawing comment on its colonies, their natives, the East India company, etc.

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    If you have access to BBC i Player, you may find Great Lives No. 19, where Sir John Major talks about Kipling.

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    I have no idea what you mean as Victorian. Every writer is its own person. Unless you are such a scholar that you understand the varieties of writing styles (and I doubt any 12th grader is such a scholar) then you are in way over your head with this subject.
    Last edited by Virgil; 05-08-2010 at 09:00 AM.
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    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    Virgil is correct in implying that attempting to define "the characteristics of Victorian Era writing" would be a difficult and possibly fruitless task, and it is true that half of Kipling's writing career was post-Victorian.

    However, Kipling can be classed correctly as a Victorian writer, since he was born in 1865, midway through the reign of Queen Victoria, and his best work was completed before Victoria died.

    Wikipedia provides a reasonable biography. Work which most directly arise out out of his life experiences include "Baa Baa Blacksheep,"* "Stalky & co." "Plain Tales from the Hills" and "Puck of Pook's Hill."
    "Baa Baa Blacksheep" is almost purely autobiographical, describing the most unpleasant part of his childhood when (as was typical for children of parents serving in the Empire) he was sent back to be brought up in England. Less usually, his eyesight began to fail in this period, compounding the misery.
    "Stalky & Co." a rosy-tinted view of his school years, from which much can be gleaned about life in a Victorian public school, and Victorian values. (If you can manage it, read also Farrar's book "Eric, or Little by Little" to see how far Kipling's attitudes differed from the mainstream. "No beastly Ericin'," says one of his characters..)
    "Plain Tales from the Hills" - stories about life in British India, into which Kipling was born and in which he spent his early career. Note that these stories are not a eulogy of empire; they are a critique. Some things or people are shown as very good, but also some institutions and aspects of society are heavily satirised.
    "Puck of Pook's Hill," written when Kipling had settled in Sussex, embodies every Englishman's dream of home.

    *"Baa Baa Blacksheep" - not "Wee Willie Winkie" as I wrote earlier

    ***

    "Personally, I don't regard Kipling as a good Victorian. I think that Tennyson was the epitome of a Victorian."
    That's as fair as any generalisation. Tennyson might represent the triumphalist self-satisfaction of one section of Victorian society. Kipling, even at his most institutional, was always a misfit.
    Last edited by Whifflingpin; 05-08-2010 at 06:43 AM. Reason: error correction
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    Registered User Sebas. Melmoth's Avatar
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    Kipling is certainly a later-Victorian; and his chief characteristic is that of promoting the virtues of the British Empire and the superiority of the British over not only far-flung regions and peoples of colour, but also over all other Europeans.

    The correlation of Victorianism with Empire, Industry and Capitalism is unequivocal.

    http://www.amazon.com/Breaker-Morant...3323031&sr=1-1
    Last edited by Sebas. Melmoth; 05-08-2010 at 08:50 AM.

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    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    "The correlation of Victorianism with Empire, Industry and Capitalism is unequivocal"

    It would be true to state that Queen Victoria ruled over a vast empire, made possible by the advanced state of British industry and capitalism. To imply that was the whole truth would be over simplistic, even for 12th grade. For one thing, the greatest expansion of the Empire and of industry was in the century prior to Queen Victoria's accession. Victoria's reign could be described as a time of trying to mitigate the bad effects of imperialism and industry and to promote the good effects.

    Kipling's voice is not to be heard in praising the glories of the Empire or proclaiming the God-given right of the English to rule over it. He is frequently reminding that the Empire is a responsibility, not a possession, and that the duty of the rulers is to benefit the ruled.

    "his chief characteristic is that of promoting the ... superiority of the British ... "
    Maybe it would be a good idea actually to read some Kipling. I've recommmended "Plain Tales form the Hills" Just read the first story in the colllection and see who is shown to be the superior. Read the rest, and you'll see far more about the weaknesses and foibles of the Britons in India, and the flaws in the Administration, than about any superiority of the the white man over the native. Look carefully at the people who are described sympathetically, and that will tell you what it was that Kipling was promoting.

    The chief characteristics of Kipling are probably his literary qualities - his total mastery of the short story, his staccato style, pithy paradoxes, shrewd observations - Oh, just read him and work it out for yourself.
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    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    Oh, I can't resist quoting some of this. Here is Kipling "promoting the virtues of the British Empire."

    "Once in every five years, as you know, we indent for a new Viceroy: and each Viceroy imports, with the rest of his baggage, a Private Secretary, who may or may not be the real Viceroy, just as Fate ordains. Fate looks after the Indian Empire because it is so big and so helpless."

    "But it is easier to see a Viceroy than to talk to him, unless you chance to be as important as Mellishe of Madras. He was a six-thousand-rupee man, so great that his daughters never 'married.' They 'contracted alliances.' He himself was not paid. He 'received emoluments,' and his journeys about the country were 'tours of observation.' His business was to stir up the people of Madras with a long pole - as you stir up tench in a pond - and the people had to come up out of their comfortable old ways and gasp - 'This is Enlightenment and Progress. Isn't it fine!' Then they gave Mellishe statues and jasmine garlands, in the hope of getting rid of him.
    ... The Viceroy knew nothing of Mellishe except that he was 'one of those middle-class deities who seem to be necessary to the spiritual comfort of this Paradise of the Middle-classes,' and that, in all probability, he had 'suggested, designed, founded, and endowed all the public institutions in Madras.' "
    Voices mysterious far and near,
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    Talking Thanks for all your help

    Everyone who posted was very helpful. After reading your comments I changed my topic a little bit.

    Here is my paper. If anyone wants to read over it and tell me what I need to fix, I would appreciate it. Keep in mind that this for a simple 12th grade English paper. (4 pages)

    Though Rudyard Kipling lived and wrote during the reign of Queen Victoria of England, there are many critics who do not consider him a “Victorian” author. Whether Kipling’s work is characteristically Victorian or not is a matter of opinion, but it is clear that his work was influenced by the conditions and ideas of the Victorian Period. Like most other writers, Kipling drew upon experiences from his own life when writing. These experiences, some of them unique to Kipling and some of them typical of the Victorian Period, were major influences on Kipling’s work.
    The Victorian Period can be loosely defined as the years of 1837 through 1901 in which Queen Victoria ruled over England. Kipling was born in 1865 and died 71 years later in 1936, which means that Kipling grew up during the second half of the Victorian Period. The years of Kipling’s childhood can be divided into two categories, those he spent in India and those he spent In England. Both of these settings had a profound influence on Kipling’s later writing.
    The first five years of Kipling’s life were spent in Bombay, India, a tropical paradise where he lived some of the happiest days of his life. Kipling later wrote about India in his autobiography, saying “I have always felt the menacing darkness of tropical eventides, as I have loved the voices of night-winds through palm or banana leaves, and the song of the tree-frogs…” (from “something of myself” online-literature.com) The experience of growing up in India set Kipling’s childhood apart from that of the other Victorian Era authors, and as a result, made his writing unique. India provided the setting for many of Kipling’s short stories, including many that he wrote for children, such as “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” and “The Jungle Book”. These stories, especially “The Jungle Book”, paint a romantic picture of the jungle, where animals live under a set of natural laws in a society that works better than that of the civilized humans.
    Fascination with children’s literature is characteristic of the Victorian Era. According to Dr. Tom Furness, “The Victorian period was in some ways a golden age of children's literature…” (strath.ac.uk) Perhaps due to the harsh conditions placed on children during England’s industrial revolution, the Victorian Age saw an increase in the concern for the welfare of children and the amount of children’s literature produced. This type of children’s literature often had a strong moralistic tone. (enotes.com) Kipling’s “Jungle Book” is an example of this type of story and is one of the reasons why Kipling is Victorian. However, Kiplin’s “Jungle Book” is in some ways not Victorian. The themes of nature and an ideal society in “The Jungle Book” belong more to the Romantic Literature than the Victorian, which was more likely to focus on the daily struggles of real-life England.
    At the age of five Kipling was sent to England to live with a Captain Holloway and his Wife and a few years later he was sent to the United Services College in Westward Ho!, Devon. The years that Kipling spent in England were tough on Rudyard, as he writes in the story “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, but it was at the United Services College where he developed his interest and talent for writing. Captain Holloway and Kipling’s military education influenced Kipling’s work in a big way. Many of Kipling’s short stories and poems that he is known for are actually about military life. Stories such as “Barrack-room Ballads” and his best known novel “Kim” follow the adventures of soldiers in the army.
    Kipling’s Military education and his early years in British-ruled India combined to create a strong imperialistic tone in much of his writing. Kipling grew up during a period in England where colonization and expansion of the empire was driving politics in England. Undertones of Imperialism can be seen in much of Kipling’s work, but his Imperialists beliefs are the most obvious in his poem “The White Man’s Burden”, an appeal to the United States to assume the task of developing the Philippines. In “The White Man’s Burden”, Kipling writes that it is the duty of the civilized culture to civilize the rest of the world, as seen in the first stanza,
    “Take up the White Man's burden--
    Send forth the best ye breed--
    Go bind your sons to exile
    To serve your captives' need;
    To wait in heavy harness,
    On fluttered folk and wild--
    Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
    Half-devil and half-child.” (from “the White Man’s Burden” wsu.edu)
    Imperialism is not necessarily characteristic of Victorian literature, but ideas such as social progress and the idea of the English gentleman that are characteristic of Victorian literature can be traced back to the Imperialistic attitude that was a fundamental part of Victorian England.
    Victorian or not, Rudyard Kipling is known today as one of the greatest authors of his time. Drawing inspiration from his life experiences and the culture of Victorian England, Kipling became a master of the short-story as well as an accomplished poet and novelist.

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    Wink Also, I'llbe sure to thank you guys in my paer

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sebas. Melmoth View Post
    Kipling is certainly a later-Victorian; and his chief characteristic is that of promoting the virtues of the British Empire and the superiority of the British over not only far-flung regions and peoples of colour, but also over all other Europeans.

    The correlation of Victorianism with Empire, Industry and Capitalism is unequivocal.

    http://www.amazon.com/Breaker-Morant...3323031&sr=1-1
    That is such a superficial reading of Kipling. Sure there may be a poem or two where superiority is expressed, but if you've read anything more than just a handful of Kipling's works, you would have seen his real love for India and its people and in many cases the superiority of the Indians to the British.
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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GungaDin View Post
    "Dedicated to those highly intellegent literature nuts from the Lit. Network"
    Not a bad essay for a 12th grader. Kudos. Hope you get a good grade.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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    It's too bad that you used “The White Man’s Burden” that way, because it is pouring with sarcasm. It is completely opposed to the idea that the English should think themselves better than the brown people they met around the world. Actually, that use of the poem might give the teacher a good laugh, and that might help.

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