How are imperialized people viewed by the writer in the "White Man's Burden?"

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his poem, "The White Man's Burden," from 1899, Kipling makes a number of generalizations about imperialized people.

First of all, Kipling portrays imperialized people as having certain negative characteristics. In line seven, for example, they are described as being "sullen" and, in line 12, as prideful. These character attributes contrast with the imperialists who are uniformly praised for sending their sons to "exile" and for waiting "in heavy harness."

Secondly, Kipling portrays the imperialized people as being inferior. This is best supported by line eight: "half devil and half child." In this line, Kipling not only highlights the inferiority of local, native religions (compared to Christianity, the religion of the imperialists), but also a physical inferiority. He is suggesting that imperialized people are not as well formed (in the biological and physical sense) as those from imperial countries. 

Finally, Kipling portrays imperialized people as being incapable of supporting themselves economically. We see this in lines 15 and 16: "To seek another's profit/to work another's gain." In this understanding, Kipling suggests that native people have not fully utilised or capitalised upon their own skills and native resources. They, therefore, need the imperialists to set the appropriate example and lead them to productivity and profit. 

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