Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Rowlinson, Matthew

2nd Supervisor

Pennee, Donna


Unmade and Unmanned Men: Reading Traumatized Masculinity in Late Nineteenth-Century British Adventure Fiction through the Lens of the Indian “Mutiny” of 1857 examines the selected adventure fiction of George Alfred Henty, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad through the historico-political context of India’s First War of Independence, known in Victorian Britain as the Indian “Mutiny” of 1857. Examining masculine trauma in adventure fiction reveals how British men, who were themselves colonized by the Empire’s expectations of them, sought not only to recover from the scars inflicted by imperialism, but also to expose the Empire for inflicting the psychologically damaging expectations that produced their masculine trauma.

The Introduction explains the historical significance of the “Mutiny” and the gap in the scholarship on masculine trauma in relation to this event. Chapter one summarizes the history of masculinity and adventure fiction scholarship and argues that the Indian “Mutiny” of 1857 was responsible for the traumatization of British masculine identities. Chapter two analyses the use of shock in Henty’s Rujub, the Juggler (1893) to argue how inherited historical remembrances of the violent “Mutiny” gripped Henty, prompting his depiction of re-imagined imperial masculinity. Chapter three analyzes the use of psychic splitting in Kipling’s The Jungle Books (1894, 1895) to argue how internalized, racially fraught remembrances of the repressed “Mutiny” haunted Kipling, prompting his depiction of destabilized imperial masculinity. Chapter four analyzes the use of post-traumatic stress disorder in Conrad’s Lord Jim (1899-1900) to argue how psychologically damaging remembrances of the unspeakable “Mutiny” unsettled Conrad, prompting his depiction of shattered imperial masculinity.

Summary for Lay Audience

As countries with a history of colonization continue to uncover and speak more openly about their dark histories, it is imperative to regularly reflect on the traumatic aftermath of imperialism and genocide to ensure that such atrocities never happen again. On May 10, 2022, Britain and India will observe the 165th anniversary of India’s First War of Independence / Indian Rebellion of 1857. Known in nineteenth-century Victorian Britain as the “Indian Mutiny of 1857”, the “Mutiny” foreshadowed the eventual downfall of the British Empire and permanently scarred the British nation on account of the violence its soldiers committed and witnessed. To understand how this trauma was internalized by nineteenth-century Victorians, I examine depictions of masculine trauma in late nineteenth-century adventure fiction that are explicitly set in, allegorically recall, or imaginatively displace the events of the Indian “Mutiny” of 1857. Through my close reading of G.A. Henty’s Rujub, the Juggler (1893), Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books (1894, 1895), and Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim (1899-1900), I reveal how even the strongest proponents of British imperialism, men who were themselves colonized by the Empire’s unrealistic expectations, sought to recover from the scars inflicted by imperialism and to expose the Empire for inflicting the psychologically damaging expectations that produced their masculine trauma.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.