Modern age is characterized by a great number of free states which have their own government and are independent. However, thing were different even one hundred years ago. The world was divided between small number of states which ruled in the rest of countries which were called colonies. These states were great empires, which managed to colonize new lands at the Age of Discovery.
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Britain was one of them. Being a small island, it ruled over the biggest part of the world. However, this government was not always fair. Very often representatives of colonies were treated like people of second quality. They did not have equal rights and were usually taken as barbarians with dull and primitive culture and which are not able to survive without the help of a white man.
Such state of affairs existed during the life of Rudyard Kipling. Being born in Bombay, he knew about the situation firsthand. He was born in English family that is why he was not treated like an inhabitant of a colony, though he loved India and the East very much. That is why his poem The White Mans Burden was a great surprise for society and divided it into two camps.
The poem was written and devoted to Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, though American colonization of the Philippines changed its original purpose. Kipling used this poem to describe his reaction to this event. It this work, he describes a great mission of white men which have to colonize and rule the rest of the world, bringing civilization and culture to backward peoples.
It is not difficult to guess, that such provocative and chauvinist appeal could not be ignored. That is why a great number of discussions were connected with this issue. The problem is, that it was the end of the 19th century and people started thinking about humanism and tolerance. Taking this fact into account, Kiplings poem can be taken as racial and arrogant, as he elevates one nation while underlining secondary character of another. He calls representatives of colonies “new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child” (Kipling 7-8), underlining their necessity to be ruled as they are not able to create their own state.
He also underlines hatred towards colonists and white people “The hate of those ye guard The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?” (Kipling 36-40).
However, he explains it as a reaction of people which are shown their mistakes and which do not want to change traditional state of affairs, though it being uncivilized and barbaric. Nevertheless, he dissembles the fact that this hatred is quite reasonable as colonizers killed thousands of people and treated them like a good. He shows only one side of the conflict, calling white people to continue their march and conquer more and more territories and peoples.
However, there is another point of view to this poem. It is based on the fact that Kipling liked and understood people which inhabited colonies. He sympathized them. Taking it into account, it is possible to see another sense in his poem. The author wants to show the idea of moral obligation of white people to help other folks as white men are richer and have more power concentrated in their hands. Saying White Man the author also means governments of colonial empires. Their main duty the author sees in bringing peace, culture and civilization to newly conquered lands, even at the expense of white mens lives.
The lines “The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread, Go mark them with your living, And mark them with your dead.”(Kipling 29-32) prove this idea. Moreover, it is possible to see the sign of criticism towards existing model of government, as Kipling says “Take up the White Man’s burden, No tawdry rule of kings, But toil of serf and sweeper, The tale of common things” ()Kipling 25-28). Of course, the author knows about the hard labor of colonists and parasitizing of white people, that is why these lines can be taken as the appeal to change existing state of affairs.
Having two different interpretations, this poem divided society into two camps. Debates were so lively, that a great number of different poets wrote their own poems as a response to this one. There are The Poor Man’s Burden by Howard S. Taylor, The Burden of Profit by C. E. D. Phelps and a great number of different works which disingenuously derided Kiplings poem, underlining its racist, chauvinist and unfair character.
Having analyzed the poem The White Mens Burden by Rudyard Kipling, it is possible to make certain conclusions. The poem reflected moods and tendencies of its time. Being a reaction to American invasion to Philippines, it promoted further development of imperialism and colonization, underlining its healthy influence on development of colonized territories. In spite of existence of another point of view to this poem, which considers it to be philanthropic and caring, it still humiliates dignity of a great number of peoples.
Kipling, Rudyard. The White Mans Burden. 1899. Web.