What warnings does "The White Man's Burden" give?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The White Man's Burden" gives many specific warnings.  Overall, they amount to one overall warning.  They add up to a warning that governing an empire is a very difficult undertaking.

There are many specific warnings in the poem.  For example, Kipling warns that:

  • Governing will be hard work ("wait in heavy harness").
  • The people being governed will destroy, by being lazy and foolish, everything the governing people work for.  (Third stanza)
  • Many people from the imperial power will die.  (End of 4th stanza)
  • The people being governed will hate those who rule them no matter what.  (5th stanza)

All of these warnings and others add up to one overall warning.  Kipling is warning that governing an empire is a very difficult and unrewarding thing to do.

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