How do the colonial subjects repay their masters in "The White Man's Burden?"

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Rudyard Kipling in his pro-imperialism poem “The White Man’s Burden,” the colonial subjects of imperial powers repay their “masters” by hating and resenting them and by destroying all of the things the masters are trying to create. Some of this they do on purpose, but other things they do because they are ignorant.

The first place we see the imperial masters being repaid poorly is in Stanza 3. There, Kipling says that when the masters have just about accomplished their goals, they will

Watch sloth and heathen Folly

Bring all your hopes to nought.

 In other words, they are being repaid by having everything they work for get destroyed. The subjects are so lazy and foolish that they destroy the masters’ work.

The other place where we see the masters being poorly repaid is in the 5th Stanza. There, Kipling tells us that the subjects will hate their masters for trying to improve their lives and make them more civilized.  He says that the masters will get

The blame of those ye better,

The hate of those ye guard—

 The reason for this is that they are trying to improve their subjects.  The problem is that their subjects do not want to be improved and civilized.  Instead, they will complain, saying

Why brought he us from bondage,

Our loved Egyptian night?"

 In other words, the subjects like being ignorant and uncivilized and will hate and resent those who try to change them.

 In these ways, Kipling  is saying that the imperial masters will be repaid poorly by their colonial subjects.

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