Though the vast majority of Kipling’s South African writing is single-minded and exhortatory, the best of it is informed by a precarious tension between loyalty to em-pire and loyalty to race. In it, he considers the implications of the Boer and—more disturb-ingly, in his view—British failure to treat the Second Anglo-Boer War as a “white man’s war.” Taking 1900’s “A Burgher of the Free State” as an example, I argue that Kipling sought to explore the moral ambivalence that he felt but could not directly confront, as he tried, variously, to overlook, to justify, and ultimately to accept Britain’s arming of peo-ple of color. This unforthcoming narrative’s contradictory impulses to reveal and to oc-clude exactly mirror the contradictory impulses of its central character, and the narrative’s hermeneutic indeterminacy materially replicates the moral uncertainty that torments him.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Visual Arts and Performing Arts
- Sociology and Political Science
- Literature and Literary Theory