The Real White Man's Burden

This study guide will help you analyze the poem “The Real White Man's Burden” by Ernest Howard Crosby. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on composition, characters and narrator, language and style, rhythm and rhyme, imagery and metaphors, theme and message.

Presentation of the poem

  • Title: “The Real White Man's Burden”
  • Author: Ernest Howard Crosby
  • Published in: "Swords and Plowshares" (book)
  • Date of Publication: 1902
  • Genre: Poem

American writer Ernest Howard Crosby is known mostly for his activities as a pacifist. He was against violence and war and a declared anti-imperialist.  “The Real White Man's Burden” was written as a reaction to Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The White Man's Burden” which praises the empire as a civilizing force.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

The speaker

The unknown speaker addresses ‘the white man’ directly and advises him regarding the actions he should take as a colonizer of less developed peoples. Of course, these pieces of advice are fully ironical, as they describe how empires actually act in their colonies, according to the speaker’s perspective.

This speaker can be associated with a lyrical identity of the poet, Ernest Crosby, who was known to be a pacifist and an anti-imperialist.

The speaker’s critical irony transpires throughout the entire poem. He never mentions anything good or moral about the colonizers’ acts. On the contrary, all they are supposed to do is plunder, destroy and take advantage of those colonized. Here are two examples:

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The Real White Man's Burden

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