Kim's Search for Identity
During the first wave of immigration, the ethnic composition of the United States had been greatly altered. Millions of people from around the world with different religious and cultural beliefs poured into the nation. During this short time, there were numerous conflicts and tensions as ethnic groups competed for a place in the sun. In the long run, however, the ethnic groups learned to live together peacefully, intermarried, and assimilated. This movement became historically known as the "Melting Pot Era." Nearly a century later, members of society have begun to search for their cultural roots which were once forgotten. Much like present society's struggle to find one's identity, the main character of Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim is on a personal journey to realize his individuality. Kim is seeking to find his place in the country in which he was born, while at the same time struggling to find, or create, an identity for himself.
At several points of the novel Kim asks himself "'Who is Kim?'" and "What is Kim?" and although the plot has a flowing structure, supported by an exhilarating journey, the theme of Kim's need to find himself provides a backbone to the story.
By birth Kim is a white, Irish boy, Kimball O'Hara, whose father was a soldier in an Irish regiment. He has grown up as an orphan on the streets of Lahore, "a poor white of the very poorest," looked after by a half-cast woman with very little morals (Kipling 3). With his skin "burned black as any native" he looks and lives like a low-caste Hindu street-urchin, unable to read or write, or speak English very well, and known to all as "Little Friend of all the World" (3-5). Kim is neither wholly British nor wholly Indian,