Figurative language


The most obvious metaphor in the poem “The White Man’s Burden” is that of the “White Man”. Since the poem was probably addressed to the United States in connection with colonising the Philippines, the “White Man” is a metaphor for Western colonial powers.

According to the poem, bringing civilisation to "savage" parts of the world is a metaphorical burden – a difficult task that must be carried out despite the many challenges it brings, such as waging wars in the name of peace, or being judged by the colonised peoples: “Take up the White Man’s burden-/The savage wars of peace” (p. 262, ll. 19-20); “The blame of those ye better,/The hate of those ye guard” (p. 263, ll. 3-4). The speaker emphasises the importance of the western powers doing the hard work of civilising others through the metaphor of the harness (p. 262, l. 5).

Metaphors of light and dark are use...

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