What is the relationship between the poem "White Man's Burden" by Rudyard Kipling and the novel Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee?

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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"The White Man's Burden" (1899) was written as an invitation to the United States to take control of the Philippines over from Spain. The poem celebrates the civilizing mission of the more advanced nations towards the "new-caught, sullen people/half devil and half child". In Kipling's view, Imperialism benefits the less developed countries and should not provide Imperialists with economic gains. The Empire should merely be intended as a service to disadvantaged people who are unable to take care of themselves. Written eighty years later, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980) is a highly allegorical tale through which Coetzee began to challenge the apartheid system in South Africa. The novel also responds critically to texts like Kipling's poem that construct the subjects of the Empire as "barbarians", as radically other from the colonisers. The novel is set on the margins of an unnamed empire and shows the state's increasing use of force and torture to establish a more and more totalitarian regime. The main character is an aging white magistrate who understands the totalitarian and brutal regression of the state, but is unable to stop or resist it. Reading the novel after Kipling's poem, one cannot help questioning the supposedly civilizing mission of the Empire.

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