Rudyard Kipling gave much to English literature and wrote poetry, short stories, and novels.1 He was born in Bombay, India on December 30, 1865, and at the age of five, Kipling began to live in England for educational purposes. Being educated in Britain, Kipling was almost certainly influenced by Britain’s imperialistic views of the world. In England, Kipling lived with Madam Rosa and suffered physical abuse, resulting in major changes in Kipling’s perception of life. Kipling returned to India in 1882, where he worked as a journalist and editor, writing both about India and about the “Anglo-Indian society which presided over it.”2 In 1882, he married Caroline Balestier, an American, and went to America to live in his wife’s home in Vermont. There he remained until 1899, when he returned to England alone. Kipling wrote literature until his death on January 18, 1936, just after his seventieth birthday.3 However, much of Kipling’s poetry continues to be read today. One such poem is “The White Man’s Burden,” which was a response to the Americans conquering the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.4 One possible reason as to why Kipling wrote “The White Man’s Burden” could be that Kipling was expressing the imperialistic views he developed in Britain with respect to America’s actions. Essentially, Kipling’s poem may have been written because of Kipling’s paternalistic view of races other than the white race, a view he probably acquired in Britain.
the biography of Rudyard Kipling – life story. PoemHunter.Com. 26 Apr. 2009. < http://www.poemhunter.com/rudyard-kipling/biography/>. 2 Cody, David. Kipling: a Brief Biography. Victorian Web. 26 Apr. 2009 < http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/kipling/rkbio2.html>. 3 Ibid. 4 Modern History Sourcebook: Rudyard Kipling, The White Man's Burden, 1899. Fordham University. 26 Apr. 2009. < http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/Kipling.html>.
In “The White Man’s Burden,” Kipling expresses themes related to imperialism: the helping other peoples through imperialism, the depravation of the conquered peoples, and an encouragement to the reader to “take up the White Man’s Burden.” The sacrifices of imperialism, from Kipling’s point of view, include that of toiling to improve the conquered people and manage them. “Send forth the best ye breed –/Go, bind your sons to exile/ To serve your captives’ need” shows Kipling’s belief of sending the best of a country’s people into “exile,” that is, into the conquered country, for the purpose of satisfying the various needs of the conquered people e.g. food, work, law and order, etc. This theme of imperializing to help others continues throughout the poem: “To seek another’s profit,/ And work another’s gain…Fill full the mouth of Famine/ And bid the sickness cease/…No tawdry [showy and cheap, base] rule of kings,/ But toil of serf and sweeper.” Apparently, Kipling was trying to send the message that taking control of a nation was not to be done to serve oneself (“tawdry rule of kings”), but instead a duty to help the occupied nation’s people to have better standards of living and have civilized lives. Kipling also emphasizes the ingratitude and simplicity of the subjugated nations alongside his verse relating to the sacrificial nature of beneficent imperialism. Kipling called these nations, “Your new-caught, sullen peoples,/ Half-devil and half-child,” indicating that the peoples were not only “evil” by nature, but also incredibly devoid of understanding, a dangerous mix. Kipling expresses his concern and feelings about the “new caught, sullen peoples” thus: “And when your goal is nearest/ The end for others sought,/ Watch sloth and heathen Folly/ Bring all your hopes to nought./…Take up the White Man’s burden –/ And reap his old reward:/ The blame of those ye better,/...