"The Pit That They Digged" by Rudyard Kipling

In: Novels

Submitted By Valar320
Words 1247
Pages 5
This is a short story, by Rudyard Kipling, about a man and his fight against the administration. The author deals with the topic in an ironic manner. We will try and show the irony in the short story, and find out why the author chose to tell us this story using that particular literary device.

Irony is connected to double meaning: the narrator states something while actually meaning something else, which the reader has to figure out*. In “The Pit that They Digged”, irony is found in several instances, and has several functions. The first few paragraphs show examples of situational irony. The main character, Hawkins Mumrath, is seen as about to die (‘lay down to die’), but actually does not (‘he rallied’), thus going against the expected (his friends and acquaintances ‘gave him up for lost’). This return to a state of good health does not bring a feeling of relief or happiness, on the contrary (he gets back to work ‘to the disgust of his juniors who had hoped promotion’). The situation turns into an administrative nightmare as well: the man is not dead, yet the Government makes arrangements for a grave to be dug for him, causing a zealous employee, Ahutosh Lal Deb, to try and get back the money spent on the grave. The situation is thus absurd: a man, quite alive, is asked to pay for his own grave. He writes letters (a sure sign of life) to put the situation to rights, but the administration is unwilling to see his point of view. The administration is presented as a caring entity, a maternal figure almost, full of ‘loving-kindness’. But this kindness does not translate into understanding or compassion, as Mumrath is at first denied his claim (to be given back the money taken away from his salary to pay for the grave). He has to play on ‘the Babu mind’ and bend the rules to get the results he wants. Mumrath uses the system to his own end, but this will backfire: it…...

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