19th Century Literature and Culture
Racism as Depicted in Poetry
Gunga Din is a narrative poem that exploits the racial separation between the British colonization and rule of India. The poetic voice, a cockney British soldier that often uses bold colloquialisms, thinks lower of an Indian water bearer Gunga Din, until he saves his life. The poem's speaker describes Gunga Din in a very racist way: the native comes from a "blackfaced crew" and is a "squidgy-nosed old idol." Contrary to the harsh descriptions about Gunga Din, the water bearer saves his life, rendering all previous statements obsolete. The poem focuses on the British soldiers extreme racism.
The water carrier was described as a ‘’eathen" who is simple and stupid. In the same context, the BritishSoldiers were depicted as brash and coarse and equally unflattering. Though they mock Ginga Din, hthey rely heavily on his services. Kipling illustrates his writing very black and white, as he uses Din's portrayal of blackness to contrast with his inner virtue: "'E was white, clear white, inside," which can be taken as both an insult to the members of Din's race, whose blackness signifies evil, and the narrator's fellow men for the low behavior that negates their own whiteness.