The Man Who Would Be King

by

Rudyard Kipling

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Martini-Henry Rifles Symbol Analysis

Martini-Henry Rifles Symbol Icon

When Daniel Dravot and Peachey Carnehan set out to conquer Kafiristan, they carry with them twenty Martinis along with ammunition. These Marini-Henry rifles, which were standard issue for the British army at the time, symbolize the technological sophistication of “civilized” Europeans. In the first encounter with the inhabitants of Kafiristan, Dravot uses one of the rifles to pick them off “at all ranges,” whereas the locals fire “a footy little arrow” in return, emphasizing the technological disparity between colonizer and colonized. In addition, Dravot and Carnehan use their technological advantage to divide and conquer, offering the rifles to local leaders as a way to destroy their enemies. As Dravot’s ambitions grow, he says that the people of Kafiristan “only want the rifles and a little drilling” to become a force capable of building an empire; in other words, he believes that technological advancement is the only thing that separates the people of Kafiristan from the supposedly superior Europeans. Ironically, it is the introduction of “civilization” in the form of the Martini-Henry rifles that gives the locals the power to rebel, as they ultimately turn the guns on their colonizers. Kipling may be suggesting that in order to maintain order, it is necessary to insist on a greater distinction than mere technological advancement between the “civilized” colonizers and the “uncivilized” colonized.

Martini-Henry Rifles Quotes in The Man Who Would Be King

The The Man Who Would Be King quotes below all refer to the symbol of Martini-Henry Rifles. 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

Then ten men with bows and arrows ran down that valley, chasing twenty men with bows and arrows, and the row was tremenjus. They was fair men—fairer than you or me—with yellow hair and remarkable well built. Says Dravot, unpacking the guns—“This is the beginning of the business. We’ll fight for the ten men,” and with that he fires two rifles at the twenty men, and drops one of them at two hundred yards from the rock where he was sitting. The other men began to run, but Carnehan and Dravot sits on the boxes picking them off at all ranges, up and down the valley. Then we goes up to the ten men that had run across the snow too, and they fires a footy little arrow at us. Dravot he shoots above their heads, and they all falls down flat. Then he walks over them and kicks them, and then he lifts them up and shakes hands all round to make them friendly like.

Related Characters: Peachey Carnehan (speaker), Daniel Dravot (speaker)
Related Symbols: Martini-Henry Rifles
Page Number: 235–236
Explanation and Analysis:

Dravot talked big about powder-shops and factories, walking up and down in the pine wood when the winter was coming on.

“I won’t make a Nation,” says he; “I’ll make an Empire! These men aren’t niggers; they’re English! Look at their eyes—look at their mouths. Look at the way they stand up. They sit on chairs in their own houses. They’re the Lost Tribes, or something like it, and they’ve grown to be English. I’ll take a census in the spring if the priests don’t get frightened. There must be a fair two million of ’em in these hills. The villages are full o’ little children. Two million people—two hundred and fifty thousand fighting men—and all English! They only want the rifles and a little drilling. Two hundred and fifty thousand men ready to cut in on Russia’s right flank when she tries for India! Peachey, man,” he says, chewing his beard in great hunks, “we shall be Emperors—Emperors of the Earth!”

Related Characters: Peachey Carnehan (speaker), Daniel Dravot (speaker)
Related Symbols: Martini-Henry Rifles
Page Number: 243–244
Explanation and Analysis:
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Martini-Henry Rifles Symbol Timeline in The Man Who Would Be King

The timeline below shows where the symbol Martini-Henry Rifles 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
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
...tells the narrator to feel under the camel bags. He feels the butt of a Martini rifle , and Dravot says they have twenty of them with ammunition. The narrator says farewell.... (full context)
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
One day, men from a nearby village attack. Again using their Martini rifles, Carnehan and Dravot defeat the attackers. They ask the villagers what has caused the conflict... (full context)
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
Carnehan and Dravot train twenty men to use the Martini rifles, and they conquer another village. As they press onward Dravot’s men become afraid, but when... (full context)
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
...the local chiefs (including Billy Fish), and he sends Carnehan to Ghorband to acquire more rifles, handmade knock-offs of the Martinis. When they return, Carnehan trains more soldiers, noting that “Even... (full context)
Ambition and Hubris Theme Icon
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...make an empire!” The soldiers aren’t black, he insists, but English, and “They only want rifles and a little drilling.” He continues, “we shall be Emperors—Emperors of the Earth!” While he... (full context)
Morality and Colonialism Theme Icon
Civilization and the Colonized Theme Icon
...shown the people how to stack their oats better; and I’ve brought in those tinware rifles from Ghorband—but I know what you’re driving at. I take it Kings always feel oppressed... (full context)