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Kipling the Trickster

Knowingness, Practical Jokes and the Use of Superior Knowledge in Kipling's Short Stories

John Coates

This book is an exploration of the way in which the characters in Rudyard Kipling’s short stories use superior knowledge, which often involves deception and the playing of practical jokes. There was early critical hostility to the stance adopted by Kipling’s characters, that of a superior knowledge acquired by friendship with a small male circle. This book engages with a long-standing critical tradition which treats the jokes as acts of vicarious revenge or symptoms of supposed defects in Kipling’s personality, instead setting his use of the practical joke in the wider social context of his time.

In this book Kipling’s writing is examined for what it reveals about a complex, self-conscious but powerful range of values rather than what it is supposed to disguise or conceal. Although he endorsed British colonial rule, Kipling was frank about the slackness, endemic rule-breaking and second-rate nature of British rule in India. He also criticised some of the widespread cultural, religious and moral phenomena of his time, which he thought harmful. Many of his short stories contain an implied but serious criticism of Victorian beliefs, from attitudes to death-beds, and schoolboys to Positivism.

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Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Coates, John (John D.), author.

Title: Kipling the trickster : knowingness, practical jokes and the use of superior knowledge in Kipling’s short stories / John Coates.

Description: Oxford ; New York : Peter Lang, [2021] | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2021010011 (print) | LCCN 2021010012 (ebook) | ISBN 9781800793415 (paperback) | ISBN 9781800793422 (ebook) | ISBN 9781800793439 (epub) | ISBN 9781800793446 (mobi)

Subjects: LCSH: Kipling, Rudyard, 1865-1936--Criticism and interpretation. | Practical jokes in literature. | Tricksters in literature. | Knowledge, Sociology of, in literature. | Literature and society--Great Britain. | LCGFT: Literary criticism.

Classification: LCC PR4858.P65 C63 2021 (print) | LCC PR4858.P65 (ebook) | DDC 823/.8--dc23

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