According to "The White Man's Burden," what do the British do in the colonies? I need to find in the poem what they actually do in the colonies, not their attitude.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In “The White Man’s Burden,” Kipling says a great deal about what the English (or the Americans) do (or should do) in their colonies.  Much of it is fairly unspecific, but each of the first five stanzas mentions something that the British do.

In the first stanza, we are told that the British “serve (their) captives’ need” and that they “wait in heavy harness.”  This means that they work hard to help the people of the colonies.  In the second stanza, we are told that the “seek another’s profit/And work another’s gain.”  Once again, we see that they are helping the people of the colonies rather than working to make themselves rich or powerful.  In the third stanza, the English “Fill full the mouth of Famine/And bid the sickness cease.”  In other words, they prevent famines and they improve public health. They make sure that people will not go hungry and that they will not suffer from epidemics of sickness.

In the fourth stanza, we are told that they do the “toil of serf and sweeper,” again meaning that they do all the hard work.  We are also told that many of them will die working for the colonized people, which is why the British will “mark them with your dead.”  In the fifth stanza, we see that the British will bring their colonized people “toward the light,” and “from bondage.”  In other words, they will educate the people and civilize them. 

So, “The White Man’s Burden” clearly lays out things that imperial powers are expected to do for their colonized people.

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