Characterization of English colonials
In Kipling's stories, the Englishman seems to be characterized as a racial superior. It is, to me, reminiscent of the way in which the Americans/English treated the black slaves in colonial America. It is assumed that the whites are by definition superior. It seems eerie to me that there is such an unquestioning subservience in almost all situations. However, this subservience is shown in the subtext to be based upon forced mastery, rather than an inherent respect.
This becomes most clear in the instances where the normal day-to-day system breaks down. For example, when our English protagonist finds himself at the land of the undead. Here, there is no social order save force. The protagonist holds some power over the indian who helps him, but it is likely only due to his state of relative health and strength. With teh governmental and societal influences absent, the protagonist suddenly finds himself on painfully even ground. With these constraints gone, his indian "friend" takes risks that he would otherwise not have taken. He kills one Englishman and attempts to kill another. This example show us once again the potential for "ironic backlash" of empire that underlies the indian colony.
Clearly, force is the main factor keeping the indian people in line. However, I think that the English were also able to manipulate circumstances to meet their own ends. In particular, colonial government was quick to take hold in India due to the previous existence of the caste system. I believe that the English manipulated the caste system to perpetuate their power. Not only did they place themselves at the top of the caste, but they used people of lower castes to help keep power and control over the territory. To this end, the English appointed or used indians as "sahibs" to help control the people. In so doing, they were able to give the sahibs a sense of power while still keeping them under their heel. In a sense they were forcing the natives to compete against each other like dogs fighting for a masters attention.
In so doing, the English were able to set themselves up in the role of "protectorage". To what degree they actually provided a service to the indians is unclear. However, this role was a successful one, and allowed them a certain subtle power over the indians that force could not maintain. There are several examples of this in the text.
Perhaps the most striking example of this subtle power is found in the character of Ameara. Not only is she an indian slave, bought by a white man, but she is also a sort of possession, to be locked away behind guarded gates. This overt power over her is not the only manifestation of the English character, however. Ameera falls in love with her "beautiful protector" and bears him a child. Is it normal for a slave to fall in love with her captor? Surely, force alone is not enough to bring about such strong emotion. It is only by viewing this situation within the context of the english father figure and benevolent protector that such a love seems plausible. It cannot be ignored that the Englishman in the story is very much her elder, and is perhaps old enough to be her father. He purchased her at a young ange and raised her (as a father might) to love and cherish him. Although the englishman in this particular instance is relatively benevolent, even he cannot avoid the ironic backlash of his exertions. In the end, he loses all that he has created - his family.
In the story of the men who would be king, we see the most obvious example of English manipulation. By carful design, the Englishmen set themselves up as gods and kinds of the hill people. They are able to do this due to some ancient kinship thought to exist between the English and the hill people. Daniel exploits this to it's fullest in the same way that the English manipulated the indian colonies. First, he sets himself up as king (the highest caste.) He then begins to delegat authority to other chieftans who follow him (the sahib caste). With this sytem in place, he is able to rally forces far larger than he could personally command. Of course, he is no exeption to the law of backlash. When it is discovered that he is no king, but rather of a lower caste, the world as he knows it turns upon him to exact it's revenge.
In all, there are numerous examples of the subtle power the English hold over the indians. For example, the way many indians ingratiate themselves to their master, even to the point of calling and Englishman father. Take the example of Ameera, or Daniel the king. These cases all share the same element of paternal control adn characterize the Englishmen as being above the indian people both in force and in social class. That stature is maintained by the careful manipulation fo the people and the social system.