Rikki Tikki Tavi Theme Essay Hook
Theme is a big idea we take away from a story after reading it. In the short story, “Rikki Tikki Tavi” by Rudyard Kipling, the primary theme of the story is the idea of good versus evil. Above all, Rikki’s character represents good, and the cobras in the story represent evil. In addition, another possible theme for this short story could be courage versus fear. By and large, the story contains action and dialogue that helps us determine what the author wanted to reveal about mankind.
Body Paragraph 1
Rikki = Good
Explain each characteristic of Rikki’s through summarizing and quotations.
Kipling develops the character of Rikki to represent the good in our world. Though Rikki is somewhat of an underdog, he demonstrates protectiveness, courage, and loyalty. Rikki’s protectiveness is evident at the beginning of the story when he went to bed with Teddy, the young boy. He was awake on the pillow as Teddy was sleeping. Teddy’s mother didn’t like it, because she thought Rikki might bite Teddy. But Teddy’s father explains, “He is safer with that little beast than if he had a bloodhound to watch him.” Rikki was motivated to protect the family because he wanted to live with them.
Courage was a trait Rikki showed several times throughout the story, but when Nag came into the house through the sluice, he became very frightened when seeing the size of the big cobra. At that point, Rikki began to reason and ask himself questions about what he should do. Then he says to himself, “It must be the head, the head above the hood; and, when I am once there, I must not let go.” Though he was afraid, he showed courage and never gave up even during the toughest battles. When Rikki interacted with Darzee, he discovered that the tailorbirds were miserable because one of their babies fell out of the nest and Nag ate him. Rikki demonstrated loyalty to his friends by standing up to Nag, the big black cobra, and asking him, “ Do you think it is right for you to eat fledglings out of a nest?” This loyalty helped him gain hero status with Darzee and his wife.
Body Paragraph 2
Nagaina = Evil
Body Paragraph 3
Courage vs. Fear
• Rikki = courage
• Chuchundra =
Kipling used the theme of good versus evil to help us think about what this means for mankind. When we demonstrate protectiveness, loyalty, and bravery we make life better for others not just ourselves. If we are selfish and threatening, and our only goal is survival, then we aren’t contributing and making the world a better place. In conclusion, we learn that our focus in life should be to think about others before we think of ourselves in order to make a difference in the world.
‘‘Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,’’ Rudyard Kipling’s famous children’s story about the battle between a mongoose and two cobras, seems to be a straightforward tale in which the hero and villains are clearly defined and good triumphs over evil. However, like most stories that deal with such themes, the methods by which good and evil are defined and represented can serve to make a greater ideological point. Kipling, who wrote during the height of British imperial power, was a well-known proponent of British imperialism, and his ideologies were not absent from his children’s stories. In the case of ‘‘Rikki- Tikki-Tavi,’’ Kipling uses the cobras, Nag and Nagaina, as a symbol of evil in order to demonize the Hindu culture and thereby promote the British agenda of rule over India.
When Nag is first introduced, he is described in simple adjectives that serve to clearly attribute an evil nature to him:
. . . from the thick grass at the foot of the bush there came a low hiss—a horrid cold sound that made Rikki-tikki jump back two clear feet. Then inch by inch out of the grass rose up the head and spread hood of Nag, the big black cobra. . . . and he looked at Rikki-tikki with the wicked snake’s eyes that never change their expression. . . .
Both objective and subjective adjectives are used to describe him: while an adjective like ‘‘black’’ reflects an objective observation, other adjectives, such as ‘‘horrid’’ ‘‘cold,’’ and ‘‘wicked’’ that do the most to cast Nag as evil, are descriptions based not on fact but on the narrator’s subjective bias.
Aside from these subjective descriptions, however, there is little else to indicate why Nag—and by extension, his wife Nagaina—merit the attribution of evil.
The concept of evil itself is, of course, also subjective. It is commonly applied to that which falls outside of the bounds of the laws and morals that govern a particular society. It might be construed that the snakes are evil because they kill—but killing, in the world of the bungalow garden, is not an act that deviates from its laws. The only governing law is the law of survival, by which all the characters, snakes included, are primarily motivated.
The big man who lives in the bungalow does not hesitate to keep a mongoose to kill snakes or to use his shotgun against the snakes as well (as he does twice in the story) in order to protect himself and his family from death. At the same time, Nag and Nagaina would not hesitate to kill the humans in order to preserve their lives and the lives of their children: That survival is their sole motivation in attacking the humans and Rikki-tikki-tavi is evident when Nagaina explains the rationale of their ambush to Nag: ‘‘When the house is emptied of people . . . [Rikki-tikki-tavi] will have to go away, and then the garden will be our own again. . . . So long as the bungalow is empty, we are king and queen of the garden; and remember that as soon as our eggs in the melon-bed hatch . . . our children will need room and quiet.’’
Not only is killing for survival regarded as acceptable behavior, it is exalted as heroic. Rikkitikki- tavi is deemed a hero for bringing about the death of Nag and Nagaina. He even resorts to what would otherwise be considered less-than-scrupulous means to achieve his triumph when he fatally attacks a sleeping Nag. In fact, the only character who expresses any reluctance at killing—Darzee the tailorbird, who refuses to help Rikki destroy the cobras’ eggs—is called ‘‘a feather-brained little fellow’’ for not understanding that the act of taking life is vital to his own self-preservation.
The narrator’s choice of adjectives in describing the snakes, then, is not justified by any evidence of deviant behavior. The perception of the snakes as evil, therefore, is based solely on the snakes’ adversarial relationship to Rikki-tikki-tavi and especially to the human family.
Indeed, the narrative voice’s bias towards the human family’s point of view not only casts the snakes as evil, but it idealizes and, therefore, depicts as good the human family. Rikki-tikki considers himself to be a lucky mongoose for having been taken in by a human family because ‘‘every wellbrought- up mongoose always hopes to be a house mongoose.’’ The narrative goes further than simply idealizing all of humanity, however, in specifying that ‘‘Rikki-tikki’s mother . . . had carefully told Rikki what to do if ever he...
(The entire section is 1864 words.)