In Error by Rudyard Kipling

In the story In Error by Rudyard Kipling we have the theme of alcoholism, dependency, respect, control, connection and jealousy. Taken from his Plain Tales from the Hills collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realizes that Kipling may be exploring the theme of alcoholism. Moriarty has a dependency on alcohol and lives to drink rather than to live his life in moderation. He is protected by his employers by way of situating him at an outpost far away from others. In reality his employers may have turned a blind eye to Moriarty’s ways. Finding it easier to deal with him from a distance rather than personally. It is also possible that Moriarty is so good at his job that this employers do not wish to fire or sack him.  If anything Moriarty may be a functional alcoholic. A person who manages to hold down a job during the day while drinking themselves into a sleep in the night.

The theme of connection is self-evident. Moriarty makes a connection with Mrs. Reiver throughout the story though it is difficult to say as to whether he is fond or her in the marrying way. He has the height of respect for her and considers her to be a proper woman (in his eyes) and cannot see any wrong in her. In fact so strong are Moriarty’s feelings for Mrs. Reiver that he attributes her presence as being the reason as to why he began to control his drinking. Though it was being controlled somewhat by Moriarty who was drinking on his own and only at night time.

There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. Mrs. Reiver stands to serve as a good character in the story regardless of what others might think of her. It is through her way of living and thinking that Moriarty begins to recover from his alcoholism. The several mentions of alcohol in the story also serves to symbolize the dependency that Moriarty has on alcohol.  In parts of the story he is unable to live his life without having a drink at night time. This however changes when Moriarty marries a woman considered by the narrator ‘to be ten thousand times better than Mrs. Reiver.’ This may be significant as for the first time in the story the reader realizes that the narrator has something at stake. They are possibly a former friend of Mrs. Reiver’s and even Moriarty’s.

The end of the story is interesting as the narrator takes hold of the story suggesting that only time will tell as to what benefits Mrs. Reiver was to Moriarty. If anything there is a hint of jealousy from the narrator. They do not seem to have accepted Moriarty’s friendship with Mrs. Reiver nor do they believe that Mrs. Reiver is a special kind of person. This is contrary to how Moriarty feels. He believes himself to be lucky to be Mrs. Reiver’s friend. So lucky in fact that the reader suspects that Moriarty may in fact idolize Mrs. Reiver. He may have always had a platonic relationship with Mrs. Reiver but he still nonetheless loves her in his own way. She did after all help Moriarty to control his drinking and as such allowed for the door to open for Moriarty to find a wife and get married. Something that the narrator accepts but does not necessarily contribute to being one of the benefits to being Mrs. Reiver’s friend.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "In Error by Rudyard Kipling." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 27 Jul. 2022. Web.

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