Rudyard Kipling Poem White Man's Burden analysis summary and meaning
Rudyard Kiplings Poem, White Man's Burden attempts to justify the colonization and rule of other nations to benefit the natives living in those nations or imperialism. It was written in 1899, soon after the Spanish American referring to the United States colonization of the Phillipines. However, it can refer to Britains long history of imperialization or any other nation for that matter. The Burden is that rich nations have the obligation to help poorer nations usually by colonizing whether those poorer nations want the help or not. It was the duty of the colonizing nations (most European countries and the US) to civilize and cultivate poorer nations. This meant imposing European civilization and its culture on those nations. The intent was to lift the poorer nations out of poverty and improve conditions as well as educating the natives. Those Europeans who served in Colonial posts risked their lives in doing so (Uprisings and Disease). Most natives in the colonies did not want outside rule. Natives were viewed as children. So, colonizing a 'uncivilized' natiion was done for its own good. After WWII, most colonies rebelled and won their independence. For example, Indonesia from the Dutch, Vietnam from the French and later, India from the British.
The poem started many heated debates over the righteousness of imperization. However, Kipling's intent when writing the poem could have been satirical. Kipling was British and grew up in India. It is often thought that the poem was writing of the good that came from the colonization of India.
Take up the White Man's burden, Send forth the best
Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man's burden, The savage wars of
Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought.
The British thought they were doing a noble act by bringing civilization to the uncivilized world, particulary India and South Africa. The British imposed their laws on the natives. For example, they forbade Indians to make their own cloth. This made Indians buy British cloth. Mahatma Gandhi pushed for nationalism in India and for an end to British rule. He protested by encouraging people to spin their own cloth. Homespun cloth became a symbol for the nationalist movement in India. He used passive resistance to obtain independence from Britain. In South Africa, the British outlawed slavery which caused problems for the Dutch Boers who had settled there. India and other colonies felt that they should be free of European rule.