by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
certain of the stories seem to touch on Freudian psychotherapy as it came to be popularly conceived: some traumatic experience which has been “repressed” is successfully restored to consciousness and confronted in a fashion from which a cure results. Kipling’s tentative explorations here are likely to suffer from our associating them with mediocre novels and films which make facile play with this kind of thing. Some of them are remarkable, nevertheless ... “In the Same Boat” ... is an example.Dr Tompkins, in her Chapter 6 – 'Healing' – devotes several pages (162-167) to this story and “The Dog Hervey” (later in the same collection):
These tales are about the burdens that are laid on men, without any fault of theirs and sometimes because they have been doing their best. The hauntings in themselves constitute an upper layer of meaning; below that there is the ultimate mystery of the general condition of man, of which they are examples or symbols. Kipling had a profound sense of this strange and, to human judgment, unjust dispensation as he had of the capacity of the human being for suffering and his loneliness in it. (p.165)She (page 205) also draws our attention to Brazilian Sketches where Kipling tells us that once in a child's dream he wandered into a Fifth Quarter of the world, and:
... 'found everything different from all previous knowledge'Dr Tompkins goes on to suggest that that the memory of that dream must have provided the groundwork for George Cottar's wanderings into 'a sixth quarter of the globe' in "The Brushwood Boy" (The Day's Work).
...a highly professional, but more artificial story which is associated by Tompkins with both “The House Surgeon” (Actions and Reactions) and “The Dog Hervey” (later in this volume) for its dwelling upon horrific experiences. But the horrors are not at all as well done here as in “The House Surgeon,” in the course of which is a truly profound account of a feeling of oppression; the interest lies in the dwelling at all upon them, and in the fact that they are found to originate in women.Edmund Wilson (page 164) comments:
In the stories of the early Kipling, the intervention of the supernatural has, as a rule, within the frame of the story itself, very little psychological interest; but already in “They” (Traffics and Discoveries) and “The Brushwood Boy” (The Day’s Work) the dream and the hallucination are taking on a more emphatic significance. With “The House Surgeon” and “In the Same Boat” they are in process of emerging from the fairy-tale: they become recognisable as psychiatric symptoms.Angus Wilson (p. 268) looks at this story and “The Dog Hervey” which he calls:
two very interesting stories of psychological healing ... But in both cases the psychic element is so irrelevant or so metamorphosed into an appearance of medical psychiatry that its use as a solution or a means of identification of the source of the ill obscures and weakens otherwise interesting situations. Both stories have the excellent late Kipling quality of introducing unexpected characters, little known in most serious fiction ... I know of no other English fiction of value where I could find such people so well understood.Alan Sandison (p. 98) comments:
the strength of the non-actual is to be found acknowledged in one way or another throughout Kipling’s work. In the later as well as the earlier stories we find him repeatedly coming back to supernatural themes or to dealing with men in some way obsessed - men who are literally taken possession of by something larger and more powerful than themselves ... Kipling’s 'Ghost' stories are always symptomatic of something deeper than a mere momentary fancy for the trivial fashionable ideas of the nineties which people express by saying “Wouldn’t it be fun if…”See also KJ 111/13, 130/20, 233/39 and 177/08.
What we have presented to us is self-possession versus possession – or the threat of possession – by the non-self ... an ever-present menace for Kipling:
A stone’s throw out on either hand
From that well-ordered road we tread
And all the world is wide and strange.
[Lines over “In the House of Suddhoo” in Plain Tales from the Hills.]