Lalun and Lahore: Courtesan Culture and The Semi-Informed Narrator in Kipling’s ‘on the City Wall
Keywords:Lalun, Lahore, city, courtesan, darkness, semi-informed narrator, Kipling
This essay examines the image of darkness present in Kipling’s short story ‘On the City Wall’ and links it to various underlying themes in the story. One of the themes is the courtesan culture of Lahore. Lalun is a courtesan and is as much full of beauty, mystery and enigma as the city of Lahore where she dwells, or the quaint location of her house which is paradoxically situated on the city’s wall. The essay also explores the role of the semi-informed narrator in the story, who can be Kipling himself or someone who is narrating the story to the readers. This narrator-character is tricked by Lalun to help an escaped prisoner get out from the city under the very noses of the policemen who are trying the control the riots on the streets. The narrator’s gullibility and his lack of complete knowledge of his actions can also stand for the entire process of writing, where the narrated event remains partially shrouded in the haze of semi-visibility. Just as Lalun’s real motives remain unknown to the narrator and the readers till the end of the story, similarly the narrator’s use of authorial perspective entails a semi-reliability of the subjective point of view. Finally, the essay takes up the image of darkness and traces its presence in Kipling’s life and writings. The world of the night is an integral part of Kipling’s vision of an Indian self, and is further accentuated in the unfathomable person of the courtesan.
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