The poem “The Law of the Jungle” by Rudyard Kipling instructs the readers on the crucial importance of cooperation and discipline in the society by detailing the rights and responsibilities of the wolf pack. The words “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack” (4) emphasize that an individual is inseparable from the community they live in and must obey its rules. It is interesting that the expression “the law of the jungle”, coined by Kipling, came to mean cruel and uncurbed competition, whereas the intention of the author was to extol cooperation and law-abidance.The author starts the poem with outlining the responsibilities that the wolves have in a pack and then goes over to the rights, contrary to the typical order of legal codes and constitutions. Perhaps, it implies that the responsibilities should be prioritized, and a person can only enjoy their rights when they perform their responsibilities. Among the rules that Kipling states for the wolves are keeping the proper regime, avoidance of danger and conflict, construction of safe shelters and killing for food only, not for pleasure. Kipling formulates the rights and responsibilities in the style that closely resembles legal documents and codes, thus making his postulations sound solemn and inviolable.
It is curious that the kill of the pack must be shared, but the kill of the wolf can be used at his own discretion. Projecting this on the human society, it means that people are not obliged to share with others when they have achieved large heights on their own, without anyone’s help. If the society lived according to the principles outlined by Rudyard Kipling, there would be no welfare system for the poor and unemployed because they would not be deemed as contributing to the society’s economy and thus would be denied any benefits. The author emphasizes that as soon as you become an adult individual, you have to “go forth and get food of thy own” (8), without any exceptions possible.
Another thing that I find controversial in the poem is the invocation to the wolves to obey the head wolf because of “his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw” (35). Here, Kipling obviously reveals his sympathy for strong monarchical rule, which is underpinned not only with the intellectual and moral merits of the ruler, but also with his force and ability to hold control over the subordinates. Thus, Kipling certainly would not share the democratic principles that we proclaim today, such as equality and liberty. As the author was a well-known advocate of British imperialism, his invocation to obey the leader can also be interpreted as an instruction for the conquered nations.
In general, the tone of the poem is very instructional and legalistic: it does not leave any place for imminently human values such as kindness and generosity. There is no denial that the laws have to be followed in any society for the order to exist, but quite often the laws are ambiguous and then humans have to follow their own moral principles, which, ideally, have to underpin the laws. Moreover, when the laws are unjust and cruel (which is often the case in totalitarian societies), people should confront and change them, instead of humbly obeying them.