Who is the intended audience of "The White Man's Burden?"

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are at least two possible ways to answer this question.

First, the intended audience of the poem is the people of the United States.  Rudyard Kipling wrote this poem when the US was taking control of the Philippines.  Britain (Kipling's home) had long had an empire and Kipling was trying to convey to Americans (who were new to imperialism) what obstacles and difficulties they would face in governing their new possessions.

Second, the poem is aimed at people who are interested in the debate over imperialism.  There were those who felt by this time that imperialism was unjust.  Kipling's poem is meant to contribute to this debate.  Kipling is arguing that imperialism is not a selfish action on the part of the imperial power.  Instead, he is saying that it entails selfless toil on the part of the imperial power; toil which is not appreciated by those who benefit from it.  Thus, Kipling is trying to argue in favor of imperialism by painting it as a noble and difficult effort on the part of the imperial powers.

In this way, the poem really has two intended audiences.


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