Analysing The Romantic Concept Of Travel English Literature Essay

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Travel as a Childlike State in Kim and Don Juan

As the "Friend of all the World," Kim crosses not just geography but separate social spaces, swaps castes and creeds, confuses categories and obscures distinctions. His life, at first glance, seems to challenge the adequacy of the ethnological science that the Lahore Museum displays and the Great Game puts into practice The presentation of Kim as the pivotal, organizing character of a wholly ethnographic fiction is by no means accidental. Indeed, the character of Kim recommends himself in various ways as facilitating figure for an imperial ethnography of British India. Kipling, in his narrative discourse, reiterates and reinforces an Orientalist view of India as both part of a timeless, eternal East and as a place that is metaphorically outside history. It is the aim of the Great Game, moreover, to protect India from the discords of history: unacceptable princely alliances must be cut off at source; Russian incursions must be stopped at the border. Unsurprisingly, a boy or young adult plays a salient role in the Great Game. Spaces such as the India of Kim, spaces external to history, seem to seek the figure of the boy, even as this figure seeks such spaces. The reader may recall, in this respect, the "Neverland" of J . M. Barrie's Peter Pan, or the island of the Crusoe legend, which is commandeered for boys in R. M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island. In the popular imagination of Britain at the end of the 19th Century, it would appear that the "boy" is located outside of history, at least as far as it is not in it yet. As Jacqueline Rose comments in The Case of Peter Pan, or, The Impossibility of Children's Fiction, the child of 19th century imagination is insistently portrayed as "a pure point of origin" in regard to language and the social. The child, or, as in the case of Kim, the boy of colonial narratives is accordingly presumed to have an unmediated, psychic and "natural" relation with his world.

Inhabiting a centre ground between the (white, masculine, Western) coloniser and the (black, masculine, Oriental) colonised, a boy like Kim, in his travels, has no fixed identity and gains little through the process of travel in itself; his subject position, always in motion, can not be reliably assigned. In turn, Kim is identified with both the coloniser and with the colonised. European by race, he is called on to symbolise imperial authority. Yet he is unavoidably a subject to that authority-as is his "other", the "colonial native," which the discourse of colonialism persistnetly represents as a "child." The symbol of the boy has a function similar to that of the "median category" suggested by Said in his Orientalism. The "median category," Said explains, "allows one to see new things as versions of a previously known thing." And yet, "such a . . . category is not so much a way of receiving new information as it is a method of controlling what seems to be a threat to some established view of things" (58-59). As a site of knowledge that is to a degree, charted and familiar, the "median category" permits the Orientalist, or the anthropologist, or the ethnographer, to recognise and to negotiate radical difference. It represents a familiarising displacement: the almost familiar "Near East" mediates the face off with the "Far East"; similarly, the familiar symbol of the boy mediates the face off between the imperial subject and the potentially sinister colonial "other". One establishes a putative control over this other by envisioning him as a kind of child. This supposed affinity, between the child and the colonial subject, begins to account for the atmosphere of mutually acknowledged peerage characterizing Kim' s relations with subcontinental adults-with fellow Great Gamesters, Mahbub and Hurree, and with the lama, who paradoxically is Kim' s master and his dependent. Wordsworth sought a regression to what he considered to be a childhood state of perception and genuine emotion. Paradoxically, Byron shows childhood to be a state in which we rely upon the teachings of our culture and imitate our peers. It is in adulthood that Juan is able to live by his own sensations and allow his identity to progress beyond the parameters of 'civilised' perceptions of decency and vulgarity. Juan is "unmanned" by the receding sight of home and, as the voyage begins, stands "bewildered on the deck" (u. 12-13). Elledge argues that this unmanning describes the "infantilization of Juan", that is, his departure "desexualizes" him in readiness for Haidee's"maternal embrace". It can also be interpreted as his emotional confusion as symptomatic of his awkward position between childhood and adulthood.

Travel as Character Metaphor in Don Juan

It is worth commenting, in Don Juan, upon the relatively small use made of the sighting of land, compared to the large emphasis upon voyaging. Centralising the labour of sailing and marginalising the sighting of land demystifies the journey and minimises the importance of destination. Byron argues that heroic progress is concerned with motion: to seize the day is to unleash the emotional soul which conversely, is suppressed when we worry about seizing tomorrow. This is substantiated by the text during a later appraisal of speed in Canto x. It is argued that a person's spirit (or soul) is regenerated by velocity, that "the great end of travel" is "driving" (x. 72). Arrival is potentially anti-climatic because it forces closure upon the journey, whereas emotional abandonment comes from sustained movement. The idea is perpetuated in the structure of the narrative. Don Juan page 177 (1819-24) is an exuberant, rambling tale of seemingly unrelated adventures and digressions: it realises Schlegel's identification of poetry with the eternal and with life's inexhaustible variety of experiences [1] . The poem is compared to a departure with no anticipated end, the verse apparently

running free from any formal plan. "i meant to make this poem very short" is not apologetic, it is announced with pride because the poem has discovered its own soul; it is infused with an independent life-spirit and defies restrictive orthodox literary conventions (xv. 22.3), just as it challenges conventional Romantic culture. Moreover, the method of writing and narrating is equated with the idea of walking and talking (xv. 19.6-8). Travel is conducive to conversational ease and the poetry follows the same casual flow. The narrator cannot predict the direction of his tale, he merely continues to narrate then reflect--a process of movement then rest (i x. 41.7-8,42.1-2). Such a moment of rest follows the description of the power of travel during the shipwreck, in the form of the Haidee episode. Juan's journey halts when he reaches shore and the text transforms into a description of the pleasure of destination. Syed Manzurul Islam () observes that travel accounts try to capture places in representation and therefore repress the speed of travel and "turn sedentary to represent the spectacle of the world" [2] . However, unlike Wordsworth who demonstrated a concern for destination, Byron is more keen to comment upon the processes of movement. Juan's sojourns are never intended to be permanent; rather they yield opportunities for superficial integration into new cultures, and invariably provide Juan with the excuses he needs to move on. Destinations also provide a mechanism for narrative control. The narrator's tale may appear to run away from him, but he can momentarily slow

the pace before launching into the next exuberant description of travel.

Kim, Don Juan and the Participant-Observer of Colonialism

In specifically ethnographic terms, Kim is the fieldworker who both participates and observes, Kim clearly is aligned with British imperial authority, that is, with the power that represents. As the native informant, however, Kim tacitly or implicitly is aligned with the objects of power, with those who are represented. Situated on both sides of imperialism's power divide, Kim is an ambivalent figure, a site where imperial power is deployed, but also, at least potentially, a site of resistance. Certainly, the process of Kim's initiation to imperialism's Great Game reveals the boy's capacity to resist, at least partially, the power that plays upon him. During his inaugural mission, Kim dutifully delivers Mahbub Ali's message to Colonel Creighton, then proceeds to spy upon the Colonel and to eavesdrop upon his highly confidential conversation with the Commander in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. The impetuous boy subsequently relates what he has seen and heard to a crowd of eager Indian listeners. Still later, the schoolboy Kim periodically slips

out of the confines of St. Xavier's, to visit his lama or simply to indulge in the pleasures of the town. Disregarding the plans Creighton has made for him, the fledgling agent disappears without a trace during his first three-month school holiday. Kim's accession to the status of full-fledged agent is marked by an

esoteric and unauthorized Indian rite of passage: the boy becomes a "Son of the Charm," a member of a secret organization within the secret organization of the Great Game. This exclusively Indian clan, invented by Hurree Babu, is "strictly unoffeecial" and, if one can trust Hurree's word, Creighton is entirely unaware of it (182). Kim's insider status, his intimate knowledge of the Indian scene, makes him both a valuable and an uncertain imperial agent. His insider knowledge provides him, moreover, with the means to ensure that his terms are respected; as he warns Mahbub Ali , "a most beautiful land is this of Hind Into it I will

go again if Mahbub Ali or the Colonel lift hand or foot against me. Once gone, who shall find me?" (146).

One must acknowledge nonetheless that neither Mahbub nor the Colonel are greatly worried by Kim's errant escapades (insofar as they are aware of them). The Pathan horse dealer concludes that the colt has spirit; the colonial administrator that the insolent boy has "some resource and nerve"( 142). In the end, as both of these senior players correctly surmise, Kim will play the Great Imperial Game and play it well-even if it means endangering Teshoo-lama and compromising the holy man's quest for salvation and enlightenment. Similarly, Kim, as I have suggested, proves to be a very serviceable ethnographic agent, processing ethnological data ever more thoroughly and efficiently, staging "in person" various Indian cultural "identities," generally enabling imperial power to manoeuvre within and to manipulate the cultural contingencies of British-Indian colonial encounter

The narrator and Kim, at least upon cursory examination, seem to enjoy a fairly workable, complementary relationship. The two together reproduce the two faces of the ethnographer as participant-observer. The first face, as outlined bv Clifford, is that of the child in the process of discovering and learning; the second is that of the knowing adult-initiate who later writes the experience. Clifford, however, characterizes this dyadic paradigm as a "fable of rapport," observing that the crucial transition, the progress from the child's often intense experience to the adult's "confident, disabused knowledge" is generally an achievement of style, a ruse of the finished text (40-41). The question to be asked of Kipling's narrator, then, is the same as that which Clifford asks of the ethnographer who involves himself in the culture he studies:

"If ethnography produces cultural experiences through intense research experiences, how is unruly experience transformed into an authoritative written account?" [3] . Clifford finds that intensive involvement with the culture of study invariably undermines the ethnographer's capacity to maintain stable, coherent positionality as a subject of discourse: the ethnography of involvement tends to be composed, as is Kim, from "a series of discontinuous discursive positions". [4] 

Studies such as Green' (1980), and Phillips Mapping 1997) have described the continued tradition of adventure novels from the Eighteenth Century onwards as charting and celebrating colonialism. A common observation is that such narratives project imperial fantasies onto real geographies and, although novels like Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Treasure Island (1883) achieve a degree of realism, it is recognised that the heroes of adventure narratives (certainly those belonging to the Eighteenth Century) nevertheless fail to engage with their new physical and social environments with any intimacy. (Aphra Behn's hero, Oroonoko, appears to adapt to plantation life and to know his colonial 'masters' intimately. However, this intimacy proves false when the white Europeans betray him, demonstrating that Oroonoko had been somewhere between assimilation into the landscape and remaining alienated from it. [5] 

Byron takes the opposite approach to the geography of empire. Rather than use Juan's adventures to approve imperialism, he sends him on a sketchy tour of imperialist Europe and its environs, but ensures that Juan experiences the consequences of empire from the inside in order to take an anti-imperialist stance. In the Haidee episode, Byron addresses the fact of the Ottoman Empire which maps, for the Romantic reader, an image of political space. Unlike the eighteenth-century writers, Byron describes the effect of empire upon culture, and upon individuals. Juan is intimately involved with Haidee, and with the physical landscape and consequently, Byron challenges colonialist perceptions of subject peoples and cultures. He gives foreign lands and people an identity and a humanity which earlier narratives of empire had largely denied. This is one way in which Byron achieves the purpose of epic, to address both the particular and the universal audience. The general historical reference speaks to the Romantic reader. Through Juan's personal experiences of empire, Byron is able to make an individual comment upon the European cultures of his time, and his observations may then be extended to the timeless issues of individual and national liberty. The rough journey restores Juan's sense of emotional self, and guides him back towards a love of humankind.

Narrator and Character in Kim and Don Juan

The ethnographic apparatus of Kim, however, clearly is not constituted by the hybrid boy alone, but by the relationship between the boy and the narrator. It is the narrator's indispensable function to document the boy's thoughts, feelings, and actions, to gaze upon the boy in the imperial "contact zone"-in "the space of colonial encounters" [6] -and to shape the reading both of the boy and of the India he experiences. The narrator of Kim is not disengaged from the actions he records. Although something less than an obstreperous presence, this narrator nonetheless manifests himself as a personality, as one who guides affective and imaginative responses and actively assists the sense-making process of his reader.The role of the narrator of Don Juan similarly occupies an observer-participant role as regards the theme of travel. Many eighteenth and nineteenth-century travel accounts page neglect to describe the travelling experience itself. The account of Juan's journey does not mention the landscape he passes through but it describes how, with every jolt, "He turned his eyes upon his little charge, I As if he wished that she should fare less ill / Than he, " (z x. 31.2-4). Moreover the language and theory behind landscape appreciation were borrowed from the principles of art. Tourists were encouraged to bring the natural world into a perception of artificial life. Not only is the immediate environment ignored in this episode, but the narrator scorns the "monuments, defiled / With gore" which victorious leaders commission to publicise their power and successes (i x. 33.3-4). Juan rests the horses and the narrator uses the pattern of Juan's journey as a metaphor for his narrative: "So on I ramble, now and then narrating, / Now pondering" (i x. 42.1-2). This alludes to the freedom offered both by the open road, and by an unplanned narrative. Just as Juan sets the pace of his journey, so too is the narrator answerable only to his own whims. They both choose to cover the remaining ground at speed, leading the reader quickly to St. Petersburg The description of Juan's journey to England signposts a transition in the narrative, which Will presently become more overtly political as Byron uses his narrator as a mouthpiece for criticising English society. In Canto x, Juan and the narrator ignore the prescribed sights of the Grand Tour. Instead, apparently innocent remarks about the character or industry of a place are loaded with suggestions of political bondage under autocratic systems, and of a sense of imprisonment. "They journeyed on through Poland and through Warsaw, / Famous for mines of salt and yokes of iron", "the castellated Rhine", "A grey waif', "the equinoctial line", "through Manheim, Bonn, / Which Drachenfels frowns over like a spectre", and "to Holland's Hague and Helvoetsluys, / That water land of Dutchmen and of ditches": the descriptions are innocuous enough until we read, in Canto 64, that England is "the island of the free" When Juan arrives in England, he is preoccupied with his misconception of liberty, and of Britain as a nation of freedom, and therefore fails to see beyond the open prospect. Previously, Juan has drifted but his journeys have ultimately been determined by other forces. In London, destination becomes Juan's downfall. In this state of stasis, he is no longer his own person; instead he becomes manipulated by Adeline and the other women vying for his attention.


In conclusion, at the broadest level, it can be suggested that although travel performs a central device in both Kim and Don Juan, the relation to character development is quite distinct. Travel is near synonymous with an entry into adulthood and sexuality in the character of Juan while, with the character of Kim, it appears to serve little developmental purpose and more an ethnographic device to analyse the peoples of the Indian subcontinent from a colonialist perspective. The narrator, in both works, adds a further interpretive layer to the travels of both characters, however, again with entirely apposite perspectives in relation to the concept of observer-participant. The narrator in Don Juan is complicit in Juan's relative obliviousness to his environment, often commenting from travel guides as Juan's journey, in relation to character development is rather more internal than external. Similarly, the narrator in Kim is also a participant, however Kim is not complicit in the narrator's colonialist viewpoint, presenting a more innocent view of his environment.