Imperialism and race are some of the most prominent themes in the poems, as well as in Achebe’s novel. Kipling’s poem was basically propaganda that supported the idea of Imperialism not only in America, but in other countries around the world. This topic heavily talks about race, which the other texts also cover. Johnson’s poem and Achebe’s novel take in the view of those being conquered. This allows us to see how the views were back in the late 1800s and early 1900s in accordance with feelings about imperialism.
I will later go in-depth about the opposing ideas of race in these texts.
Another theme that I saw, and showed up in both Things Fall Apart and “The White Man’s Burden” was masculinity. In Kipling’s poem it is obvious that he thinks that only men are capable of the difficult hardships he discusses in his text. And Kipling states that to him, the work of going overseas and forcing local people to act like Americans and Europeans was specifically made to “bind your sons to exile” (Kipling).
He basically says that colonization was meant for ‘sons” to become men.
Another theme that seems to connect well to Things Fall Apart is the idea of duty. In the title and throughout the poem through the phrase “the White Man’s burden”(Kipling), he insinuates that it is the white man’s job to civilize a colonized group of conquered people. The poem also has religious elements within the text.
Kipling alludes to the Biblical story of the Israelites in the Bible, who complained about God freeing them from the oppression of Egypt. He uses the word sloth, which is one of the seven deadly sins, and he also uses the word “heathen” to connect it to the colonized people.
This infers that the White Man has a religious responsibility, and that white men must honor the “burden” that was given to him. Apparently, the initial rewards the white man will get are “blame and hate”(Kipling). We also see several religious topics within an Achebe’s novel, although in more obvious ways. Achebe, to my knowledge, doesn’t reference religion like in the poem, I the book religion is a more directly discussed topic. Achebe’s book shows the struggles between Christianity and Ibo culture clashing and the impending colonization of Africa.
The books and the poems have differing purposes as to why they were written. The purpose of “The White Man’s Burden” was for Kipling to express his beliefs about imperialism. Kipling believed that imperialism was a form of humanitarianism, and a way to help the less fortunate people around the world. He was convinced that it was their responsibility to help the people who were non-Christians and non-white. He thought it was their job to civilize and Christianize what, at the time, they thought to be people who were naturally inferior. Kipling claimed it was for the benefit of the countries the white man colonizes.
On the other hand, the overall point of “The Black Man’s Burden” was to explain Johnson’s reaction and response to “The White Man’s Burden”. The Black Man’s Burden addressed how those who were not white were suffering at that time. I think Johnson also wanted to show that they don’t need the Europeans to spread their imperialistic thoughts to foreign countries, as that’s what the aim of Kipling’s poem seemed to be about. Why Johnson chose to write his poem is similar to why Achebe wrote his novel, they were both responding to another author, and they wished to show another side of the same story and provide an alternative narrative for people to base their thoughts and opinions on.
The racism in “The White Man’s Burden” is quite obvious to me. The native peoples are the “silent, sullen peoples” (Kipling) and the “Half-devil and half-child”(Kipling). From Kipling’s view, the native people were getting help, but were acting ungrateful for the aid they were getting. Of course, this attitude is understandable, no one would want to embrace the violent, depressing imperialist impulses of other nations. Kipling doesn’t seem to understand why these people would not jump up to thank their conquerors. The title alone of the poem has become a phrase for a kind of imperialist ideology where the indigenous people were viewed as “savages” in need of saving by the colonizers. This poem is problematic in today’s standards.
Something I found odd in my personal research was that Kipling has witnessed firsthand the number of British and Indian lives that were lost as a result of imperialism as he lived in India. Kipling had believed that the British had a right to control India, and that it was also their responsibility to do so.
Kipling pretty much sets up white males as the saviors of the rest of the world in his poem. To him, it seems like there is only the White Man and the rest of the world, a group of sullen peoples who are apparently in need of rescue.
In “The Black Man’s Burden” the white people are represented in this poem as take oppressors, and it shows how the colonizers negatively impact these nations of people, instead of being these saviors of the people like how they were portrayed in Kipling’s poem. As for Things Fall Apart we already know that Achebe wishes to portray an African society in a more intricate and detailed way to show that they are not uncivilized people, but have complicated rules and social systems. But Achebe doesn’t really billions all of the white people, as he doesn’t seem to shed a bad light on the current preacher, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something happened where the dynamic changed from uneasy peace to oppression.
Kipling’s poem states that as an advanced nation, the United States is responsible for educating and civilizing the native people it controlled. This is what Kipling believes to be the White Man’s burden. According to Kipling, the colonizing efforts of white men are not simply a duty, but a “burden.”
The black man’s burden simply shows what the conquered people have to go through and experience at the hands of their oppressors, which take form as the U.S. in the poem. It highlights what they have gone through, rather that the more physical or complicated side of what is happening.