An empire of glass: Cracks in the foundations of Kipling's India


Rudyard Kipling's Kim is a novel that attempts to reconcile Kipling’s love for India, and his knowledge that his presence was undesired. It presents an ideal vision of colonial India, a seductive fantasy that portrays British control as solid and unshakeable, built on foundations of stone. But this empire of stone is an illusion, and the reality that haunts Kipling’s fantasy exposes its true fragile nature. This article examines the concept of the Great Game, as well as the players that partake in it, suggesting that these elements betray the unease that haunts Kipling’s fantasy—they expose the fact that all is not as it seems. The Game, for example, is concerned with knowledge, with knowing. The knowledge it seeks, however, is so concerned with the Indian people and terrain that it becomes apparent that the Great Game is not about keeping the Russians out, so much as it is about keeping the British in. In addition, the players of the Great Game (Kim and Hurree Babu in particular) are riddled with an ambivalence that makes their allegiances unclear, and a mimic nature that makes their identities even more uncertain. These two elements combine, creating a sense that while Kipling attempts to depict India as certain, unchanging and constant in Kim, the reality is rather different. As this article argues, Kim betrays the fact that the British did not build an empire of stone, but one of glass, and that the hold they had over India—one that seemed so unshakeable—was in fact incredibly tenuous.


Homi Bhabha, Postcolonialism, Kim, Rudyard Kipling, Great Game, Hurree Babu, Mimicry, Ambivalence

How to Cite

Raja, A., (2020) “An empire of glass: Cracks in the foundations of Kipling's India”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 6(1). doi:


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Aaisha Raja (University of Huddersfield)





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