and the Country"
by Lisa Lewis)
|notes on the text|
is an obvious symbol of the psychic injury the American has received. … He bears his testimony in exile, beside the English road on which “I” has already been stopped that day by the “witch-doctoring” of a motor-licence control. It is not only in the States that the “Herd Impulse” and the “counter-balancing necessity for Individual Self-expression” are at odds.Bodelsen devoted a whole chapter to the story, suggesting that it:
This potentially serious material is treated for most of the tale as a comic extravaganza. Tarworth is an eccentric, and the amazing scenario of his projected anti-Prohibition film is in Kipling’s old style of cumulative, concrete, hyperbolic detail… I have had to worry at “The Prophet and the Country” and be ingenious; and I can readily believe that I may be quite wrong about it. [Tompkins, 1959, pp. 252-3.]
… is one of the late stories in which close study is likely to uncover more than one layer of meaning, and where one must be prepared to find a technique involving symbolism, indirectness of presentation, counterbalancing passages with a contrapuntal effect, and hints at recondite analogies between the themes of which the tale is built up…. I believe that, by means of certain clues carefully planted by the writer, the two main strands of the tale can be shown to belong together and to present fairly close parallels to each other, in fact that they are meant to be two variations on the same fundamental theme. [Bodelsen, 1964, pp. 29-30.]Bodelsen suggests that the symbol of the make-and-break “is meant to apply both to the American theme and to the theme of the transcendental Experience [i.e. communion with the Demon], and thus to link the two themes together.” An important part of his argument is the “key word”, a repeated or incongruous word that may convey a hidden meaning. “Presumption”, he posits: "is obviously meant to be a key word – it is repeated again and again, and the American nation is described as the Children of Presumption. What, then, is presumption meant to convey? It is the Sin of Pride, manifesting itself as an interference in the dictates of Nature, and a failure to understand that there are things that man cannot do with impunity, because of limits set by Nature. (Ibid., p. 35) The narrator and the American, Bodelsen argues, “are fellow-fugitives from conformity, who meet in a territory where its mandate does not run: in an open space where one can smell the trees and feel the morning breeze.” [Ibid., p. 37].