The Man Who Would Be King

by

Rudyard Kipling

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The Narrator Character Analysis

The story’s narrator is a correspondent for the Backwoodsman, an English-language newspaper. As part of his job, he travels by train to various parts of India, interacting with everyone from the kings of minor states to the “loafers” who travel second-class. On one of his journeys, he meets Peachey Carnehan and Daniel Dravot, who ask for his help in planning their conquest of Kafiristan. The narrator thinks Carnehan and Dravot’s plan is foolish, but when they assure him they are serious, he provides them with books and maps of the region. Two years later, Carnehan returns, injured and haggard, and tells the narrator about his adventures in Kafiristan. The bulk of “The Man Who Would Be King” is a story within a story: in the framing narrative, the narrator talks of his interactions with Carnehan and Dravot, and it is within this context that Carnehan tells the story of what happened in Kafiristan. The narrator thus serves as an intermediary between the “respectable” world familiar to Kipling’s Victorian British readers and the exotic setting of Carnehan and Dravot’s adventure. Kipling was working as a newspaper correspondent in Lahore when he wrote “The Man Who Would Be King,” so it seems likely that the narrator is a stand-in for Kipling himself.

The Narrator Quotes in The Man Who Would Be King

The The Man Who Would Be King quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator or refer to The Narrator. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Morality and Colonialism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Knopf edition of The Man Who Would Be King published in 1994.
The Man Who Would Be King Quotes

There had been a Deficit in the Budget, which necessitated travelling, not Second-class, which is only half as dear as First-class, but by Intermediate, which is very awful indeed. There are no cushions in the Intermediate class, and the population are either Intermediate, which is Eurasian, or native, which for a long night journey is nasty, or Loafer, which is amusing though intoxicated.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:

They do not understand that nobody cares a straw for the internal administration of Native States so long as oppression and crime are kept within decent limits, and the ruler is not drugged, drunk, or diseased from one end of the year to the other. They are the dark places of the earth, full of unimaginable cruelty, touching the Railway and the Telegraph on one side, and, on the other, the days of Harun-al-Raschid.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Peachey Carnehan
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

A newspaper office seems to attract every conceivable sort of person, to the prejudice of discipline. Zenana-mission ladies arrive, and beg that the Editor will instantly abandon all his duties to describe a Christian prize-giving in a back slum of a perfectly inaccessible village; Colonels who have been overpassed for command sit down and sketch the outline of a series of ten, twelve, or twenty-four leading articles on Seniority versus Selection; missionaries wish to know why they have not been permitted to escape from their regular vehicles of abuse and swear at a brother-missionary under special patronage of the editorial We; stranded theatrical companies troop up to explain that they cannot pay for their advertisements, but on their return from New Zealand or Tahiti will do so with interest; inventors of patent punkah-pulling machines, carriage couplings and unbreakable swords and axle-trees call with specifications in their pockets and hours at their disposal; tea-companies enter and elaborate their prospectuses with the office pens; secretaries of ball-committees clamour to have the glories of their last dance more fully described; strange ladies rustle in and say: “I want a hundred lady’s cards printed at once, please,” which is manifestly part of an Editor’s duty.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:

“Would two lunatics make a Contrack like that?” said Carnehan, with subdued pride, showing me a greasy half-sheet of notepaper on which was written the following. I copied it, then and there, as a curiosity—

This Contract between me and you persuing witnesseth in the name of God—Amen and so forth.

(One) That me and you will settle this matter together; i.e., to be Kings of Kafiristan.

(Two) That you and me will not, while this matter is being settled, look at any Liquor, nor any Woman black, white, or brown, so as to get mixed up with one or the other harmful.

(Three) That we conduct ourselves with Dignity and Discretion, and, if one of us gets into trouble the other will stay by him.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Peachey Carnehan (speaker), Daniel Dravot
Related Symbols: Contract
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

He fumbled in the mass of rags round his bent waist; brought out a black horsehair bag embroidered with silver thread; and shook therefrom on to my table—the dried, withered head of Daniel Dravot! The morning sun that had long been paling the lamps struck the red beard and blind, sunken eyes; struck, too, a heavy circlet of gold studded with raw turquoises, that Carnehan placed tenderly on the battered temples. “You be’old now,” said Carnehan, “the Emperor in his ’abit as he lived—the King of Kafiristan with his crown upon his head. Poor old Daniel that was a monarch once!”

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Peachey Carnehan (speaker), Daniel Dravot
Related Symbols: Golden Crown
Page Number: 253–254
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Narrator Character Timeline in The Man Who Would Be King

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator appears in The Man Who Would Be King. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Man Who Would Be King
Race and Racism Theme Icon
The narrator, a newspaper correspondent, is traveling by train from Mhow to Ajmir. He is in intermediate... (full context)
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
The narrator does not reveal that he actually does work for the Backwoodsman. Carnehan leaves the train,... (full context)
Morality and Colonialism Theme Icon
When the narrator arrives at Marwar Junction, he finds the train car of Carnehan’s friend, Daniel Dravot, another... (full context)
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Back at his office, the narrator gets on with his work, though he is often interrupted: “Zenana-mission ladies” ask him to... (full context)
Morality and Colonialism Theme Icon
One night, the narrator is working late when two men arrive at the newspaper office. He recognizes them as... (full context)
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
...the top right-hand corner of Afghanistan,” and set up a kingdom there. They want the narrator to provide books and maps so they can plan their journey. Reading from one of... (full context)
Morality and Colonialism Theme Icon
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
The narrator believes Carnehan and Dravot’s plan is foolish and says they will be “cut to pieces”... (full context)
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
At the market, it takes the narrator some time to recognize Dravot and Carnehan, as they have disguised themselves as a mad... (full context)
Morality and Colonialism Theme Icon
...shows up at the newspaper office once more. He has changed so much that the narrator doesn’t recognize him at first: “He was bent into a circle, his head was sunk... (full context)
Morality and Colonialism Theme Icon
...his story to an end, he opens a bag and shakes Dravot’s head onto the narrator’s desk. The crown also falls from the bag, and Carnehan places it on the dead... (full context)
Morality and Colonialism Theme Icon
Later in the day, the narrator finds Carnehan crawling through the street, singing to himself, “The Son of Man goes forth... (full context)