Outer composition

“The White Man’s Burden” consists of seven stanzas, and each of the stanzas has eight lines, which we call an octet. This is a traditional form of poetry, and the poem stays within the boundaries of its form throughout.

The poem has a traditional rhyme scheme, with each stanza following the same rhythmical pattern. The rhyme scheme is ABCBDEFE and is followed very strictly. Together with the rhythmic scheme, which is also followed very strictly, the rhyme scheme ech…


Inner composition

In his poem, Rudyard Kipling enumerates and describes the challenges faced by the White Man as he attempts to civilise the native peoples of the lands he conquers. The “White Man” in Kipling’s poem refers to the colonial powers at the time; in particular, the “White Man” is probably intended to be the British people, who had a large empire at the time. Moreover, Kipling was a white British man who lived in India, which was ruled by the British. It is likely that the White Man is also intended to be a reference to the United States of America, as Kipling may have written the poem to encourage the US to take colonial control of the Philippine Islands, which were conquered in the Spanish-American War (1898).  

The title “The White Man’s Burden” suggests that Kipling believes the White Man has a moral obligation to be a civilising force. He believes this is a burden, however, because the White Man will have to make many sacrifices on the path to civilisation. Kipl…

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