Rudyard Kipling

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Rudyard Kipling was a controversial critic with his views regarding Imperialism. He had sent a poem to Theodore Roosevelt expressing the importance of it regarded as “The White Mans Burden” but when looking at his short story “The Man Who Would Be King” it tells a much different story. These works of his, among others, paints a picture of which he believes in “noblesse obliges” but is critical of the ways it is achieved, as seen with the British Empire.

First off, it is needed to define Imperialism. Imperialism is defined as “a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force.” Kipling represents this theme in his story of “The Man Who Would Be King” with the two main character being Daniel Dravot and Peachey Carnehan. These characters both decide to set off to a new land, “Kafiristan” because India is not “big enough” for them and “Therefore, we are going away to be Kings.” Kipling utilizes Dravot and Carnehan to represent and symbolize the British Empire and its embodiment it had and implemented in Imperializing.

Having been tired of their home in India, Dravot and Carnehan wanted more, to be more. “We have been all over India, mostly on foot. We have been boiler-fitters, engine-drivers, petty contractors, and all that, and we have decided that India isn’t big enough for such as us.” This is why they decided they wanted to leave India, to become kings. In doing so, they made a contrak to where it states, “to be Kings of Kafiristan,” they will not “look at any liquor, nor any woman” and behave “with Dignity and Discretion, and if one of us gets into trouble the other will stay by him.” This contrak they make is part for which pertains them being successful as kings. Dravot’s and Carnehan’s goals and aspiration to expand upon from India is a direct message symbolizing the British Empire.

The British Empire wanted to expand their rule for to reap the rewards of being rulers (wealth and power). However, these rewards though were not their sole reasoning or initial intentions as is seen with the later development of the two characters and their duality. Peachy and Dravot both symbolize different aspects of the British Empire. Peachy is a symbol of the righteous goals the British Empire set out to achieve. He stayed true to his word with his contrak and set about helping the people he and Dravot ruled over. “My work was to help the people plough, and now and again to go out with some of the Army and see what the other villages were doing and make ’em throw rope-bridges across the ravines which cut up the country horrid.” Peachy helped the people grow as a society, working together and learning new things, forming as individuals undivided. They both had agreed and set out upon to rule a land where “a man can become his own.” This, among the “civilizing” of the native inhabitants is a goal/benefit that the British Empire believed in and set out to do. But, as seen with Dravot, the greed/power corrupted their initial intentions.

So, Dravot was a symbol of the power that caused corruption. The corruption that seeped into the Empire at times that led death and destruction in its wake. Dravot set out with good intentions but in the end let his unchecked ambitions lead to his dismay. Peachy even foreshadows Dravot’s turn to sole power as he says, “…but when he walked up and down in the pine wood pulling that bloody red beard of his with both fists I knew he was thinking plans I could not advise him about.” It also sheds light on times when the British Empire would impose its own culturalization with no regard to the originating traditions and is seen in Dravot when he says, “I don’t want to interfere with your customs, but I’ll take my own wife.” He says he doesn’t want to interfere with their customs but that does not mean he won’t, as later on it is seen when he ruthlessly demands his wife. Actions, after-all, speak louder than words.

As seen with the characters of Dravot and Carnahen, Kipling utilizes them and their duality to symbolize the British Empire’s greed/power turned quest for Imperializing. This is what causes the controversy in what Kipling’s true stance on Imperialism and the British Empire, as he advocates for it when the rightful intentions are being taken place, but as seen in “The Man Who Would Be King” most cases many people such as the British Empire become corrupt due to greed/power. Kipling is all for “noblesse obliges” but is very critical of the inherent nature of man to fall victim to the power/greed that comes with.


Cite this paper

Rudyard Kipling. (2020, Sep 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/rudyard-kipling/

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