Rudyard Kipling’s story, “The Man Who Would Be King” references British Imperialism. Kipling’s story includes two men, named Dravot and Carnehan, who have traveled from India to Karifistan in Afghanistan, these men have dreams of becoming kings of Karifistan and being free. Throughout the story there are references towards Kipling’s feelings in relation to the British Empire, regardless of the positivity that the British Empire may bring to a country that it conquers. It is clear that Kipling isn’t pleased with the conduct of the British Empire. Kipling expresses his feelings towards the British Empire in this story by using parallels and metaphors.
Kipling uses specific wording to reference the British Empire in his story. The two men, Dravot and Carnehan are exaggerated personas representing aspects of the British Empire. Kipling shows how he feels about being facing the British empire when both Carnehan and Dravot are with him in his office, Kipling stated, “I was not pleased, because I wished to go to sleep” Kipling assumed that these men were just beggars and didn’t want to be involved in their pursuits. In addition to the discomfort of the confrontation, Dravot and Carnehan expressed that they had been many places and done many things. Dravot and Carnehan lacked the connections and skillsets they needed to embark their “idiotic adventure” of becoming kings. Dravot and Carnehan were facing Kipling and proclaiming that they needed his help because they were meant to be kings, just as the British Empire who would take over land and announce itself as the new leader. It was clear that as being beggars, Dravot and Carnehan had no legal foundation to declare themselves kings in a foreign land. Kipling makes it clear that Dravot and Carnehan have the objective to power themselves into ruling a country for no clear reason other than they want to, just as the British Empire would have done. The British Empire was a constant force and constantly growing and would conquer more land once they had feasted and they were hungry again, Carnehan and Dravot stated that “India wasn’t big enough”. They had already done as much as they could in the country and moved on to strive for more. The British Empire had accomplished what it could in its homeland and once that had been accomplished decided to extend its branches to other countries. Who was to say that sustaining themselves internally was all that they could handle. Essentially the British Empire bit off more than it could chew and led to it foreseeable demise. Dravot and Carnehan were simply beggars and had aspirations to be kings, which was very outlandish and easily seen as an objective which wasn’t meant for them. Kipling expresses how the British Empire sought more and more with all of its focus being glued on the want for more, but never paying any attention to the creating a viable foundation to support these extensions to the Empire.
Kipling references the British Empire in another circumstance in, “The Man Who Would Be King.” Dravot was brutally murdered and Carnehan returned to Kipling, and told him the details of what exactly had happened. Dravot’s withered head was displayed on Kipling’s desk. Carnehan’s tale wasn’t limited to the death of Dravot, it continued to what had taken place after his death. Evident of the shrunken head of Dravot, Carnehan was clearly able to sustain the Empire him and Dravot had created for some time. While Carnehan and Dravot had left, the British Empire had equally shrunken in size, they had lost control of lots of land that they were once able to proudly call part of their Empire. Kipling is voicing his discontent with the British Empire in this scenario by showing how easily the British Empire had lost control of something that had taken all of its efforts to achieve, which was lost due to being incapable to provide proportional efforts to sustain them.
Throughout the entirety of the story, Kipling makes use of allegorical dialect and metaphorical references to express his dismay for the British Empire through the story of Dravot and Carnehan. Kipling states that he believes that the British Empire selfishly seeks to only improve itself in the quote, “But the Empires and the Kings continue to divert themselves as selfishly as before.”. The British Empire deceives its people into believing that they are working to improve itself in a matter that will benefit all, however in the process it was solely beneficial for the Empire, those within it suffered during its expeditions and afterwards. It is clear that Kipling believes that the British Empire states that is conquering land in order to help them is merely a smoke and mirror tactic that even fools the citizens. While it was expanding it was only plotting to spread itself thinner and thinner while barely sustaining what it had covered until it couldn’t sustain anyone anymore and those that it was helping were left in a worse state than they were prior to being under British rule. The story of Dravot and Carnehan is told in a derogatory tone with undeniable parallels to the British Empire, Kipling is able to express his feelings of the British Empire without directly referencing them a single time