The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What does The Jungle Book teach us about the importance of rules?

    One of the first things that Baloo teaches Mowgli is the importance of adhering to Jungle Law. These laws and rules are for the good of everyone and not biased in favor of one group; furthermore, following these rules is imperative for one's personal safety. A good example of this is when Hathi the elephant declares a Water Truce during a time of severe drought. During a Water Truce, every creature may drink openly from the remaining source of flowing water without fear of being attacked or hunted. This unites everyone with a common cause (finding water) and makes sure that the available water site does not become a de facto hunting ground. Thus, in this way rules and laws are important for safety and survival.

  2. 2

    How is Mowgli able to earn the respect of the wolves who had turned against him?

    When some of the younger wolves and those new to the pack turn against Mowgli, it is not because of his actions but because they have heard stories and lies about him circulated by Shere Khan in an effort to get those wolves to help him catch Mowgli. When Mowgli leaves the jungle as a result, it is to protect Akela, the Lone Wolf, which demonstrates his noble character and loyalty to his family (and also adheres to Jungle Law which automatically keeps fate on his side). The highlighting of his good character as well as his skill in creating a strategy for killing Shere Khan makes the wolves who went against him realize that he is by far the strongest fighter and the one it would be better to be aligned with in a battle situation. Knowing that he has killed the mighty tiger also makes them fearful of him, which also brings them back in line.

  3. 3

    What does Mowgli learn from each of his teachers that makes him into the young man he becomes?

    From Mother and Father Wolf, Mowgli learns family loyalty and love. He also learns the importance of being prepared to fight to the death in defense of family.

    From Baloo, he learns the Jungle Law and specifically the things that will keep him alive, such as telling a potentially threatening creature that they are of the same blood (an animal way of saying that he comes in peace). He also learns to love and respect Jungle customs.

    Bagheera teaches him how to become a hunter and reminds him that hunting is for food, not for sport. He also teaches Mowgli how to be patient and not to rush into situations without proper consideration, holding him in good stead for his battle with Shere Khan.

    Kaa teaches Mowgli about standing up for those you love and the importance of teamwork, which they demonstrate during their fight with the red dogs.

    Akela is the pack elder to whom Mowgli owes his life and he teaches the man cub everything a wolf needs to know in order to be a leader. He also teaches him that one day he will return to Man. Mowgli does not believe this, but of course it turns out to be true.

  4. 4

    What does Kipling say about gender?

    To be blunt, not much. Kipling is not only a representative figure when it comes to his country and era’s views on imperialism and the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race, but also in regards to patriarchy. There are few female characters in the text. Raksha is the most significant in that she is fierce and feared, but her power comes from her maternal role. Messua is a classic mother figure, as are Matkah, Darzee’s wife, and Nagaina (albeit evil). There are no major female characters and certainly none who are fully developed and anywhere near being equal in intellect, power, wit, or influence with the male characters. Mowgli’s teachers are all male, as are his brothers. His great enemy Shere Khan is male, and the red dogs even seem as if they are all male (though clearly they are not). In Kipling’s world, women are important for mothering, but they are not capable of embodying the noble virtues of strength, moral rectitude, loyalty, courage, and physical prowess.

  5. 5

    How does the text support the idea of Social Darwinism?

    The American Museum of Natural History defines Social Darwinism thusly: "Based largely on notions of competition and natural selection, Social Darwinist theories generally hold that the powerful in society are innately better than the weak and that success is proof of their superiority." Kipling and other Westerners espoused this theory, which they found particularly useful in justifying colonialism. His book upholds it through its classification of different groups of animals as inherently more intelligent, noble, moral, and even cleaner than others. The monkeys, red dogs, and jackals are inferior; the wolves, bears, and elephants are superior. Critic Bill Delaney points to the numerous examples of bloodshed (the extermination of the red dogs, the crocodile's fiendish delight in those he has killed, the destruction of village at the orchestration of Mowgli, Mowgli's killing of Shere Khan, etc.) and concludes that "Kipling is telling his readers that nature is cruel and that only the strong survive. By implication he is preaching Social Darwinism..."