"The White Man's Burden" was written at an important time in the debate about imperialism in the United States. It was written in February of 1899, on February 4th the Philippine-American War began and on February 6th the U.S. Senate signed the Treaty of Paris that officially ended the Spanish-American War and gave the United States Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. It also gave the U.S. control over Cuba.
Kipling's approach to imperialism shaped his entire life. Kipling and his parents were both British and he grew up in a colonial country. He saw firsthand what imperial powers did in his colonial country. Kipling saw the purpose of an empire to bring civilization. This poem is written to white people about their "burden" which is the responsibility of imperialism. He feels that white men should be teaching about civilization. He is referring to India and some parts of Africa were described as backward and uncivilized nations. Many people believe he is a racist, because he speaks as if he feels that white people are the superior race. In the poem the white man (Europeans) are self sacrificing superior peoples and non-white people are illiterate slaves.
In the first two stanzas Kipling talks about the difficulties of bringing about civilization. He talks about the soldiers who wear heavy harnesses and whose purpose is to save slaves and modernize their countries. Kipling talks about the hardships of slave nations. He tells the white man what he should be doing like stopping famine and curing illnesses. In the fourth stanza he mentions some of the requirements of being civilized: no iron rules of king's only hard working non-whites can build new ports and roads. Kipling suggests how to treat slaves in the fifth stanza. He warns the white race against having slaves for their own benefit. In the sixth stanza religion is mentioned. To Kipling slaves will evaluate the white man's actions and the white man's God. The last stanza talks about the peace that can...
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