The White Man's Burden

Historic events are always reflected in literature and poems. The same is about a world-known Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden”. This masterpiece is considered to be a symbol of imperialism; though in reality, it provides a dubious message about attitude to this system.  Many critics wonder what Kipling’s message is in his poem and whether he apologizes for imperialism or defends it.

Being born in India, Kipling was, of course, against policy of imperialism as well as against any other kind of interference. He was sure that empires come to other territories to find slaves, impose their own traditions, and make local people dependent. Kipling’s poems depict the desire of white men to gain control over others as well as money. In “The White Man’s Burden”, Kipling is sure that white men came, because they wanted to use black labor and blood. He describes very pessimistic future for conquered nations if they stay under control of “white men”. Kipling describes white men’s desire in the same way as Fakrul Alam (2008) who says that “the colonizer, for his part, knows that his empire depends on his utilization of the colonized in setting up his empire” (p.3).

On the other hand, lines “nor call nor loud freedom”, “come to search your manhood” (Kipling, 1899) indicate rather neutral or even positive attitude to imperialism. It is possible to say that Kipling treats imperialism not as the white colonizers who believed that they had the right to impose their civilization on the black population of their colonies. On the contrary, he depicts it as a very positive trend implying that when empire gets more territories and takes care about these territories, it provides people of these areas with more opportunities to develop, creates their values, and leads to some achievements. Numerous developments come from white people not because they are better or their skin is better, but because they are traditionally more developed. Furthermore, when whites come to new colonies, they want to give something new to people who live in those places and territories.

Certainly, writers exaggerate or emphasize those points which are interesting and important to them. That is why, if writers come from colonial country, they reflect such problems; but at the same time, such personalities always try to move from colonies. 

If I could say or advise anything to Kipling, I would say that writers and philosophers sometimes are one-sided and write only from one point of view. Although, if to look at historical events, it is vivid that stronger nations always absorb weaker ones and become even stronger. Thus, I think there are positive aspects in imperialism as well.

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