In “White Man’s Burden,” it is not clear the point of view of the author, Rudyard Kipling, on imperialism, but there are definite examples displaying broader attitudes toward it from throughout Europe. In the first stanza, the author speaks of leaving your sons and going off to complete the duty that you have been given, and catch the half-humans that roam about Africa. This could be seen as a glory thing, where imperialism and what it represents is an honor to participate in. In the second stanza it displays what is said to be the proper show of dignity when a man has to “check his show of pride.” This implies that those whom he is speaking to are not at the level of prowess as he, and he needs to be mindful of that. After the author states, “By open speech and simple,” which to me means that it is understood that the people that the Europeans made contact with in Africa are not educated, so they need to stoop down to their level of language to be understood. While not every stanza is going to be analyzed, there are a few selections that portray obvious European views of imperialism. In the third stanza, “and bid the sickness cease,” refers to what the Europeans thought of African life before they came to colonize them. Their lives were nothing but a sickness. This is a promoting view of imperialism. In conclusion at the end of the poem, “Take up the White Man’s burden! Have done with childish days- The lightly proffered laurel, The easy ungrudged praise.” In these final lines it is clearly shown that Europeans were for imperialism because it brought them praise back home, it was relatively easy, and it gave them status as men in the society.
Information and sources:
Class notes and analysis of the poem