His Wedded Wife by Rudyard Kipling
In His Wedded Wife by Rudyard Kipling we have the theme of happiness, conformity, revenge, isolation, confidence, change, acceptance and respect. Taken from his Plain Tales from the Hills collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story it becomes clear to the reader that Kipling may be exploring the theme of happiness and conformity Henry (The Worm) does not enjoy his time in the army. He is not very good at the tasks that are asked of him and his other Shikarris’s frown upon Henry because he is unable to conform as they do. If anything Henry is abandoned by all except by the Senior Subaltern (Lionel). Though some critics might suggest that Lionel has an interest in Henry it is more a case that he has an interest in what Henry has got, his trap. Borrowing it on occasion and falsely writing a letter to thank Henry for allowing him use the trap. This may be important as Lionel is allowing himself to act with superiority over Henry. Something which may be the case in military rank. However it is not necessarily the case in life.
What is also interesting about the story is that Henry is the butt of other people’s jokes and it is for this reason he wagers with Lionel. There is an honour to be played for and Henry is making sure that he comes out on top when it comes to any engagement with Lionel. However he does have to bide his time and it is felt as though Lionel may have forgotten about his bet with Henry as life in the barracks continues on as normal for all concerned. Henry is isolated by his peers and Lionel is still taking advantage of him. It may also be important that during the periods that Henry is isolated from others he is nonetheless productive and remains in contact with his family by way of letters. This could be important as it suggests that Henry remains grounded. He knows who he is even if he may be disliked by others. In reality there is a sense that Henry is his own man. He does not need the company of others. He is secure enough within himself without having to worry about the opinion of others.
Which may be the reason as to why Henry laid out his challenge to Lionel. He knew that he was capable of embarrassing Lionel more than Lionel was capable of embarrassing him. All it would take is the right moment and the moment does arrive when Lionel’s ‘wife’ arrives in the barracks. There is no disputing that Lionel is on edge because he has a lot to lose should he have been previously ‘trapped.’ He would forgo his marriage to the woman who loves him and who remains nameless throughout the story. Which may symbolize the role of woman at the time the story was written. The lady who acts as Lionel’s wife also plays her role diligently nearly persuading others that Lionel is already a married man and that she is his wife. Should Lionel have been found to have already been married the consequences on his personal life and his career could have been dire. Thankfully the ‘wife’ ends her game and lets Lionel know that he has been beaten by Henry. In many ways Henry has achieved his revenge by embarrassing Lionel through farcical means. He has fooled everybody in the barracks. Just as Lionel had tried to fool and embarrass Henry.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is a sense of change within the regiment. With the men considering Henry to be okay after showing such dramatic abilities. It is as though Henry has been accepted by the other men in the regiment. They are aware of his unique talents and as such begin to be supportive of him. Something that is noticeable when Henry becomes President of the Regimental Dramatic Club. For the first time in the story Henry is able to play a productive role within the regiment and at the same time have the respect and acceptance of his peers. Throughout the story the most interesting character has been Henry as he has hidden his obvious abilities from others. He has been confined to what the regiment wants and it is only when the men in the regiment see how sweet Henry’s revenge was does the regiment have a place for him. He may have very well been a talent that could have been missed by the regiment due to the fact he was isolated by others for his non-conforming habits. However everything is settled at the end and Lionel bears no ill will towards Henry for embarrassing him. If anything he like the other men in the regiment respects Henry.