The White Man's Burden by Rudyard Kipling

Start Your Free Trial

What, according to Kipling, is the "white man's burden"?

Expert Answers info

kmj23 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write2,256 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

According to Kipling, the white man's burden is the need for white, "civilized" nations to travel abroad and impart their values and culture to other nations. The poem, therefore, is a defense of imperialism. This is made clear in the first stanza of the poem when Kipling talks about white men sending their sons abroad to serve their "captives' need."

For Kipling, this burden is a necessary one because people living abroad are in urgent need of civilization. He calls them "half devil and half child," for example, and suggests that they are "wild." Moreover, they suffer from "famine" and "sickness" and, therefore, are in need of the white man's help.

Although this task is a necessary one, Kipling argues that it is a "burden" because people will not appreciate it. He talks about "ungrudged praise," for instance, and "thankless years." However, Kipling believes that imperialism is so necessary that it is worth suffering the judgment and criticism of white peers and colonized citizens alike....

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 524 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write9,148 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Johan Dickens eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write19 answers

starTop subject is Literature

check Approved by eNotes Editorial