An underlying theme in "The Man Who Would Be King" is a comparison between the imperialism of the British Empire and the motives and exploits of Dravot and Carnehan. In this sense, the story takes the role of a satirical allegory . Just the feelings of superiority that...
An underlying theme in "The Man Who Would Be King" is a comparison between the imperialism of the British Empire and the motives and exploits of Dravot and Carnehan. In this sense, the story takes the role of a satirical allegory. Just the feelings of superiority that the two protagonists have toward the native peoples that they encounter can be seen as a direct parallel to the general feelings of British imperialists of Kipling's time. Dravot and Carnehan expect to be treated as kings simply because of their feelings of racial superiority and their own perceived cunningness.
Like the British Empire, Dravot and Carnehan take advantage of tribal rivalries to put themselves in positions of influence and power. They also use modern weapons to win battles and give to loyal chieftains in order to secure political advantages. Once in control of land, they embark on ambitious building projects, such as the construction of the bridge. The British Empire also oversaw building and infrastructure projects throughout its empire.
The sense satire comes in when it comes to Dravot's ego and pride. By the end of the story, Dravot begins to believe that he is actually the god he is pretending to be. He truly feels that he superior to the people of Kafiristan. They are lesser beings and he is entitled to rule over them simply by the virtue of his existence. This was a common feeling of British imperialists. Kipling himself coined the phrase "the white man's burden" in order to refer to Europeans' sense of God-given obligation to rule over other races. In this story, Kipling may be implying that there are dangers to the pride and ego that this mentality engenders. In the end, this Dravot's conceit leads to his downfall. Maybe Kipling was sending a warning that overconfidence may be a danger to maintaining an empire.