For Kipling, the white man’s burden is the responsibility of Europe’s imperial adventurers to tread forth into the savage, untamed wilderness and bring its peoples and resources to submission (and I use these words (savage, untamed) in the sense that Kipling himself would have intended, not as a reflection of my own attitude). On the one hand, it is true that Kipling was an imperial apologist, and his poem reflected a general cultural superiority. This is evidenced, for example, when he calls upon the reader to take up the white man’s burden and flutter to the wild, where there will be
“Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.”
Many of Kipling’s critics have used his very articulation of a “white man’s” burden, and poetry such as the lines above, as evidence of his racist dispositions and European exceptionalism. This may very well be the case. However, the majority of his poem is not directed at degrading the indigenous inhabitants of Europe’s...
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