(Notes edited and amplified by George Engle. We have been grateful for critical comments and suggestions from Peter Havholm) )
|notes on the text|
There is little comfort here for those who would claim Kipling in his later years for orthodox Christianity. . . . Again and again Kipling uses the Christian texts and doctrines familiar to his readers, deeply imbued with his own family background, but they are seldom employed for purposes that cannot be explained either by humanist ethics or by spiritual search.Philip Mallett (pp. 23-24) suggests that:
the recollection . . . of the Christian language of redemption [in the Slave Girl’s call on her God that he should not die but live] is to make the power of human love appear as the deepest element in religious life. He adds, Perhaps a reader coming new to Kipling, or anxious to dislodge the familiar image of him as a crudely jingoistic writer, should begin here, with the figure of Peter, the greatest character in the story: a man who has been taken beyond his limit, so that he denied Christ, but also one who has been renewed, and can now find for others the path to renewal through forgiveness and compassion.Harry Ricketts (pp. 381-382) suggests that this story was at heart deeply anti-Semitic:
‘Never decide upon the evidence, when you’re dealing with Hebrews!’ declared the city’s Roman Chief of Police, whose nephew Valens was eventually murdered by a vengeful Jew whom, with Roman fair-mindedness, he had previously allowed to go free. Valens’s dying words explicitly echoed Christ’s on the cross, turning him into a sacrificial victim of the Jewish mob. The underlying theme of the story, as Kipling more bluntly put it in another context, was that ‘Israel is a race to leave alone. It abets disorder’.See also Susan Treggiari's article on "Kipling and the Classical World".