In Rudyard Kipling’s story “The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes” there are many aspects of the India’s traditions and customs. But one custom that is strongly present though out the story is the role of the Indian caste system. Within each character you are taken into the five levels of the caste system. The caste system has been present in Indian culture for as far back as their history can be traced. The five levels that are present with in the characters in the story are Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra, and Harijans (www. suchico. edu) According to Indianchild. com the India caste system is a hierarchical society. In the Indian caste system, no matter where you live or what religion you are everybody is ranked into one of the five levels. The caste system is respected and followed by all who live within the system. No matter where you live everyone knows their caste ranking, and they behave towards each other according to their ranking. We are first introduced to Morrowbie, who is a man that is placed in the caste system known as Vaishya.
According to Caste System, the Vaishya are known as the Krsi (who are the people for grow the food grains), the goraksha (who are the cow protection), the vanijyam (who do the trading), the Vaisya karma (people who work), and svabhavajam (are the people who are born of his own nature). The Vaisyas were known as the land-owners, money-lenders and influential traders. Morrowbie is known as a man with an education and career as a civil engineer. Due to his successful career he is known as a land-owner. It is evident though out the story that Morrowbie knows of his high class level and the caste level of the people around him.
When he first falls into the hole he finds himself in the middle of a crowd. He states that the people are scantily clothed and can be associated with the Hindu mendicants (p. 24). According to the Indian caste level the merchants are considered to be one level below Morrowbie Jukes. You can tell from the way that he speaks about them, that he believes them not to be worthy to be in his presence. Morrowbie goes on to say how the merchants should show him respect and give him recognition of his presence there. In the story, Morrowbie is shown to treat the lower caste levels as second class citizens to him.
While Morrowbie is trying to buy food and shelter from Gunga he once again refers to the lower class of merchants that surround him. He states “One does not protest against the doings of a den of wild beasts; and my companions were lower than any beasts (p. 28). We are then introduced to Gunga Dass as a man of power and status in the purgatory of the dead. Gunga Dass is considered to be the highest class of the Indian caste system. According to www. csuchico. edu, Gunga Dass is in the caste level of Brahmin. According to Gnome Research Brahmin are members of the priestly class in the Indian system, and belongs to the upper caste society.
The Brahmins as described by Indianchild. com is “Brahman is of the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity. Gunga Dass claimed that he no longer lived his life as a Deccanee Brahmin, but he does still maintained his status in the land of the living dead. Even though Dass states that he renounced the Brahmin life, he still is living the role of his caste system. Gunga becomes the guide to Morrowbie, showing him the ways of the new land and the laws that he must follow. Gunga takes the role of protector just as he was in his time on earth. Morrowbie states “Gunga Dass, whom I had begun to regard as my natural protector” (p. 7). It is Gunga who nourishes the people, protects the land, just as he was during his life as a Brahmin. He gave Morrowbie shelter and food when he was asked. He also had the knowledge of the land, giving Morrowbie the answers that were proper for his own caste level knowledge. When Dass is requested by Morrowbie to get the white boy’s body, he states to Morrowbie “But I am Brahmin, Sahib- a high caste Brahmin”. Even though it seems that Morrowbie has over stepped his caste position, it is Dass who is always in control. He is the protector, guide, nourishes, and all knowing of the land of the living dead.
We are then introduced to the white boy that is killed by Gunga. The unnamed boy is considered to be a Harijan in the Indian caste system. According to Caste System in India the Harijan or untouchables; was the lowest class of the Indian caste system. They were called the outsiders of the system, the people who were too low on the level to be considered part of the system. They were traditionally sweepers, washers of clothes, leatherworkers, and those whose occupation it was to kill animals (indianchild. com). The murdered white boy was described as wearing an olive-green hunting suit that was much stained and worn (p. 5). This description gives a clear indication that the murder boy is a hunter, this is thought by the Indian caste system as a person who deserves no ranking or rights. The boy is never given a name, which indicates the unimportance of his position. Also it is his body that is drowns in the quick sand for no clear reason. His soul and body are not given a second thought about, he is treated like a dried up piece of meat, just as he would have been treated during life on earth. We are finally introduced to Dunnoo, a boy that lives in the Indian caste system called Shudra.
The Shudra are traditionally people that work in service as slaves or practitioners of unskilled trades. Dunnoo is in unskilled tradesmen who work as Morrowbie’s dog boy. He is a worker at Morrowbie’s farm that tends to his collies. Even though Dunnoo is considered to be in the lower class of the caste system, he is thought to be above the untouchables. That is why he is used as the person who saves Morrowbie, but it is never mention of any gratitude from Morrowbie for saving his life. In “The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes” it is evident that the Indian caste system is used in each characters actions and manners.
The Indian Caste system is a system that till this day, has been the back bone of the Indian society. The characters of this story displayed not only the attitudes of each caste system, but also the beliefs of how each caste level associated with each other. Each character from Morrowbie to the white hunter established themselves in the undead world the same as they lived above ground. They did not care where their bodies were, for living in the caste system you live your full life even after death in the same caste system.
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