The White Man’s Burden

Author: It was written by Rudyard Kipling, a British imperialist.  He grew up in British India, thus he was able to experience imperialization first hand.

Context:  It was written in 1899 shortly after the United States too control of the Philippines.  During this time, many European nations were crambling to colonize as many territories to expand their markets.  The idea of the “White Man’s Burden” was a popular idea at the time and was sometimes used to justify a nation’s intercontinental expansion.

Language:  Kipling’s poem is written in the vernacular, full of contractions and slang terms. Being a poem, it also has a rhyme scheme.

Audience:  The poem was originally published in a magazine, thus Kipling’s intended audience was anyone who read the magazine.  This would most likely consists of all different types of classes.

Intent: Kipling is intending to spread word about the “White Man’s Burden”, whether it is a positive or negative one is up to the reader to decide.

Message: Kipling’s poem has two differing interpretations.  The poem’s message can be taken at face value, that the “White Man’s Burden” is a positive thing; however, one can also interpret it as a negative piece, as a form of satire on the ideology.

2 thoughts on “The White Man’s Burden

  1. I like that you distinguished the two differing interpretations of Kipling’s poem. Both sides were presented among the other readings assigned. I noted the “White Man’s Burden” as a positive action in Jules Ferry’s speech when he referred to the French as a superior race and their duty to civilize inferior races. The negative view was seen most clearly in Edward Morel’s response to Kipling in “The Black Man’s Burden.” Morel revealed the abuses of imperialism and the permanent, destructive effects it had on the Africans.

  2. Moreover, the split message was caused by split motives. Britain struggled between maintaining its empire and the dark injustices of imperialism.

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