The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book Literary Elements


Adventure, Children's Fiction

Setting and Context

India during British colonial rule; predominantly in the jungle but also in villages and a small town

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person narrator who reflects the point of view of many characters

Tone and Mood

Ranges from loving, fun, and happy to threatening, ominous, and murderous

Protagonist and Antagonist

Mowgli, and the Pack including Baloo, Bagheera, and Kaa, are the protagonists; Shere Khan, the red dogs, and Man are the antagonists. Rikki-tiki-tavi is the protagonist, Nag and Nagaina the cobras the antagonists. Other stories feature their own protagonists and antagonists.

Major Conflict

Mowgli's battle with Shere Khan, the Pack's battle with the red dogs, the Jungle's conflict with Man the hunter, Mowgli's conflict with himself regarding returning to man, Rikki-tikki-tavi's conflict with the cobras.


Killing of Shere Khan, destruction of the village, victory over the red dogs


1. The White Cobra's warning to Mowgli that death will follow the elephant head-dress he removes from the underground palace foreshadows six deaths amongst the people hunting for it.
2. Peterson Sahib tells Little Toomai knowingly that when he sees the elephants dance, he can go into all the Keddahs he wants, foreshadowing what the boy is about the observe.
3. Sahi the porcupine tells Mowgli the yams are dying up, foreshadowing the drought that is to come.


1. Rikki-tikki-tavi is told that to follow a snake into a burrow can be "dangerous," which understates the life-threatening nature of this action.
2. Kaa's strength "lay in his hug" (33).


1. The entire structure of the Jungle with its rules, laws, and councils is an allusion to the human world. The council has a leader, and all members of the community get a vote when they are old enough. They enter conflict when it is necessary to keep out an invading army (such as the red dogs) and they engage everyone in the battle in some way. They have rules, laws, and traditions passed down the generations and if anyone breaks these laws they are made to pay. There are characters who are obviously generals and others who are foot soldiers, but the Jungle lives basically as a democratic state with benevolent rule. This reflects Kipling's view of India, in that the British leaders maintain safety and democracy that keeps the Indians safe and in line.
2. Emperor Theodore, otherwise known as Tewodros II, leader of Ethiopia (1855-1868), committed suicide after failing to triumph in a clash with the English at Magdala.
3. Magellan, the great explorer, is also alluded to.


See Imagery


1. Mowgli believes that if he ever has to leave the jungle, it will be the jungle that makes him go, but as both Akela and Baloo tell him, it is Mowgli who makes Mowgli return to man.


1. Kipling parallels the way in which Akela inspires his pack to follow his lead and the way Shere Khan has collected followers to illustrate the difference between Akela's benevolent leadership and Shere Khan's dishonesty and bullying. This also shows the difference between Akela's intentions, which are for the good of the future of the Pack, and Shere Khan's, which are to get the kill he wants regardless of whether it is good for anyone else or outside of the boundaries of Jungle Law.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

1. There is metonymy throughout the book when it comes to the Jungle. The Jungle decides what happens to a character, but by this Kipling actually means the characters within it, not the jungle itself. Jungle Law is also law that has been passed down through generations of jungle dwellers.
2. Akela assures the Pack that if they let Mowgli go, he will not "bare one tooth against ye" (20). While this could be literal, it is more synecdochal in that the tooth is a stand in for his entire body.
3. In the sentence, "Never a cobra dared show its head inside the walls" (106), the head is a synecdoche of the entire creature.


1. "The Ankus will do my work! It is death! It is death! It is death!" ("The King's Ankus")
2. "I am an evil man-cub, and stomach is sad in me" (Mowgli, 47)
3. "The sun makes the rocks dance in heat..." (57)
4. "A small crack might let in some wisdom" (Sahi to Mowgli, 150)