Ideas of Social Darwinism in White Man’s Burden by Rudyard Kipling

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 957 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

Words: 957|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

Social Darwinism is an ideology that occurred around 1865 to 1900 and was developed by Charles Darwin. Social Darwinism was used significantly to encourage human competition because doing so will help with evolution in the human society. Charles Darwin used Social Darwinism to justify his political, social and economic views. His popular saying “survival of the fittest” means that the strongest and fittest survive in society while the weak and unfit die was how he viewed life. He believed that the rich and the powerful are better suited and adapted to live in this world, and therefore it was their responsibility to exercise dominion over the inferior races because nature was the factor that brought them to where they are. He believed the weak ones are where the are because they are intellectual and morally inferior. Hence, Social Darwinism was used to justify different unfortunate behaviors that occurred in the past such as underpaying workers, colonialism, imperialism, social inequalities and racisms. This was because Charles Darwin believed that the use of Social Darwinism will prevent the inferior races or groups from producing offspring’s like them which can degrade the entire population. Social Darwinism has been highly criticized because a lot of people felt that it played a big part in Nazi’s and Soviets.

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The poem the “White Man’s Burden” written by Kipling in 1899 encourages colonization because of the benefits it brings such as civilization. Kipling urges the U.S. to take control and rule over the Philippians just like the British’s took over Indians and Africans. He believed that doing so will help empower the less fortunate and poor people, by helping them out and leading them to economic and social development. Kipling believed that the white man is superior, therefore it was their responsibility to help the weaker race and poorer nations. Kipling stresses the important of white supremacy and domination. He felt that it was important for the white man to colonize all the people of color because doing so will make them more civilized. Yet, he calls this responsibility a “burden” because it’s the white man’s duty to take care of the other races. In the poem Kipling belittled the people and represented them as “sullen peoples, Half-devil and half child” (Kipling, 2009, Para 1) because this was the perception of how the imperialist felt when they first saw the people. He also stated that after all the work the white man has done for them, the colonized people will go back to their old ways. He stated, “And when your goal is nearest, the end for others sought, watch sloth and heathen Folly bring all your hope to naught”. I believe that he felt that the colonized people will not appreciate what the “white man” has done for them. In one of his verses he stated, “The cry of host ye us from bondage our loved Egyptians night”. (Kipling, 2009, Para 5), he felt so because he viewed them as “sullen” and are resistance to colonization. However, with all of these, he still believes that the white man ought to take control because doing so will spread a more civilized behavior amongst the native and the white man will get the praise for the civilization.

There were a few ethnocentrisms that occurred in this poem. According to All about Philosophy (2019), “Ethnocentrism is the view that one particular ethnic group is somehow superior to all others”. In the poem there where a few times Kipling suggested that the white man were more superior, while the indigenous ones were belittled and degraded. In his first paragraph Kipling stated, “Take up the white man’s burden send forth the best yet breed” (Kipling, 2009, Para 1). What this verse means is pretty much saying that the white men are one of the best “breeds” on planet earth while in the same verse he was demonizing the other race by calling them “sullen peoples, Half-devil and half child”. The next verse he talked about the white men being “patient to abide”. This is him saying that all white people are patient and gentle while the other races are the opposite. In the third verse, he also called the indigenous people “sloth and heathen folly”, which means the are lazy and are not civilized. In the sixth verse he stated that the white people “ye dearie not stoop to less”. This means that they should not come down to the level of the indigenous ones because in his eyes the white man is top class and perfect. In addition to that throughout the poem he called the indigenous people “sullen people” which means being bad tempered.

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Kipling characterized the people of Philippines as “Half-devil and half child”. This is because he felt like the people were illiterates and were not civilized. The term was also used by Kipling because he perceived the Philippines as “Half-devil” this is because he saw them as rebellious and stubborn against colonization and “half child” because he felt they were little-witted and incapable of being civilized by themselves. In my opinion I don’t believe the people were uncivilized like the author is trying to portray them. However, I do feel like due to their limited resources and skills unlike the “white man” it is easy for the author to put them in the uncivilized category; also I am sure the white man coming to colonize them and rule them wasn’t a peasant thought and therefore it made them very unhappy and possibly aggressive. However, it does mean they are uncivilized. In Kipling’s eyes every other race was uncivilized except for the white man’s. I believe this was his way of promoting white supremacy by praising the white man while looking down on the other races.

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Ideas Of Social Darwinism In White Man’s Burden By Rudyard Kipling. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from
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Ideas Of Social Darwinism In White Man’s Burden By Rudyard Kipling. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Jun. 2024].
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