Last updated: April 15, 2019
Topic: SocietyWar
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Kipling’s views on race

Rudyard Kipling ( 1865-1936 ) was born in India in the city of Bombay, the city which he remembers in his verse as:

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Mother of cities to me

For I was born in her gate,

Between the palms & the sea

Where the world-end steamers wait .

Henry James describes  Kipling as ,The most complete man of genius and no doubt Kipling was the most popular writer of prose and verse of his time In  the year 1907 Kipling became  the first writer  in English language to get a Nobel Prize, the first and the youngest.

Since he was a prolific writer he wrote on all aspects of life around him. Enumerating  his great poetic assets the Nobel  Prize citation justly said, “In consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration. Such a person  , however justified in his descriptions, is most likely to be branded a pro-system man, a champion of whatever virtues or vices that particular system represents. This is how Kipling came to be branded as the leading literary exponent of the Empire and virtues of colonialism No doubt a few of his works, if viewed in isolation, support this view :-

Take up the white man’s burden

Send forth the best ye breed

Go bind  your sons to exile

To serve your captive’s need

The lines above have been quoted from the poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’, the poem branded by Kipling’s critics as the most racist of them all. But the truth lies elsewhere. In the  powerful and mighty social and cultural revolt that occurred in the post war days, increasingly branded  Kipling as a racist. But all such views and charges have undergone a thorough revision in recent years. Kiplng has been absolved of the charge  because a new understanding has developed that says, He ( kipling) lived in a sort of closed society and although he tried to break out of it, there was not enough sort of fluid contact as it is today. Moreover his poem ‘IF’, regularly voted as nation’s favorite, is regarded as an  ‘espousal of traditional stoic of The British character values rather than an  anthem in praise of imperialism.

Therefore even if  Kipling was a racist, he was a racist only in terms of his time.” Kipling was a great writer like Shakespeare and Dickens- a prolific, profound, far-reaching creature of his time,” says Farruk Dhondy “and to label him a racist is extremely simplisti nonsense.