One for All, and All for One: Animal Communication and Unity in “The Story of the White Pet”

“The Story of the White Pet, Performed by Mrs. MacTavish” was one tale collected by John Francis Campbell to document Scottish oral traditions. This tale follows the genre elements of many fairy tales: the action progresses quickly, the story ends optimistically, certain lines are repeated, and an omniscient, third-person narrator tells the story.

John Francis Campbell

Although this tale does follow some traits of a fairy tale, it also differs from the genre. Fairy tale characters are often not developed; however, in this tale, the humans are the flat characters, while the more complicated characters are the farm animals. By portraying the animals as both peaceful creatures and violent protectors, MacTavish brings two conflicting modes of description alongside one another. Therefore, this paradoxical portrayal suggests that the animals are more developed characters because they communicate effectively, therefore outsmarting the humans by uniting together.

The animals are sometimes peaceful or violent, which reveals the importance of both traits when protecting the group. To save their lives, the animals run away from the farmer who wants to “kill [them] for Christmas” (303) rather than attacking him. Also, instead of fighting each other, they are peaceful and “went forward” (304) as a group, since the cat does not try to eat the birds, and the dog does not attack the cat.

Although the animals are sometimes peaceful, we also discover that they can be violent protectors. When one of the thieves “returned to look in to see if he could perceive if anyone at all was in the house” (305), the animals attack him to protect their home and themselves. Therefore, the animals are peaceful, in order to unite when escaping from the farmer, or violent, in order to protect their group and safe location.

The paradox—the animals being both peaceable and violent—is shown by the before and after events of the thief returning for the money. The animals act violently towards the thief who returns, but he is not harmed seriously. Although he is neither wounded nor killed, the worst damage is psychological because the thief believes that the animals were humans, vaguely describing each as “a man,” “a big black man,” or “a big man” (305).

However, the readers know that these fierce warriors were just animals all along because we first learn how the animals protect the group and then read the thief’s explanation of what happened. The tale ends, “[The thieves] did not return to seek their lot of money; and the White Pet and his comrades got it to themselves; and it kept them peaceably as long as they lived” (305). The word it seems to refer to the money. The animals keep the money among themselves amiably, perhaps because this newly-acquired money would have no value to any of the animals, since they would not use it anyways.

Because MacTavish emphasizes the word peaceably in the concluding line, it is possible that the thieves, unlike the animals, would not have kept the money peaceably among themselves. Therefore, the animals are more developed characters because we learn what was of true importance to these creatures: communicating with each other in order to stay alive and to protect the group.

Since the animals communicate effectively with one another, they are able to outwit the humans. The animals’ repetitious dialogue (e.g., “Where art thou going” [303–304] is repeated five times) follows the fairy tale tradition. However, the repetitious dialogue also emphasizes the fact that the animals are able to outwit the humans. Leaving separately would have been more advantageous to each animal because if the farmer caught and killed one, perhaps the farmer, having satisfied his appetite, would not chase the others. Additionally, the animals speak honestly, such as when each animal straightforwardly explains that “they were going to kill me” (304). In contrast, the thief exaggerates, saying that a man “thrust ten knives into my hand” (305).

In actuality, the cat struck the man with her claws, but if the claws had been knives, the thief would have been more seriously injured. Furthermore, the thief describes the sounds, such as “GREE-AS-ICH-E” (305), that he hears to the thieves. Although humans do not understand animal language, the animals are able to communicate so they understand each other, regardless of being different species. Since the animals communicate well as a group, they outsmart the thieves who do not support each other.

Because of effective communication, these seemingly simple animals are able to unite together, unlike the humans. The animals speak respectfully to each other; for example, they use the words hail, art, and thou (304). Since these sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent animals elevate each other by their language use, they recognize the significance of all creatures, thus creating a stronger, more cohesive unit. One animal is not better than the other, even if the bull is larger than the cat, or the goose can fly while the dog can only run. By using respectful language, the animals are able to unite their abilities to protect their camaraderie. Another example of the animals using language to band together occurs when the animals come to the house, they say in one shout “GAIRE” (304)—meaning laughter in Gaelic—to scare and defeat the group of thieves. Only one thief, instead of the entire group of thieves, returns to the house later to retrieve the money. If all the thieves had gone, perhaps the animals would have lost. However, the animals are united from start to finish because they use respectful and unified language to create a cohesive group.

The animals, paradoxically peaceful and violent, are better communicators and more developed characters than the humans. Since these animals are able to communicate effectively with one another, they are able to outmaneuver the humans.

Additionally, by uniting as a team of animals that supports and protects each other, they create their own happily ever after, free from human domination. When we see animals consolidate over humans, we as the readers understand that we do not have to be like the human characters but that we should strive to be like the animals, who establish a cordial group because of their communication.

A Conscious Decision: Justifying Racism in Seventeenth Century Virginia

During the early 1600s, whites and free blacks coexisted somewhat peacefully on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Liberty and freedom for white and free black colonists in this era were based on the ownership of property. A free black man’s economic status included his possession of land, livestock, and slaves and determined his interactions with white neighbors and businessmen.

Other than the problem of runaway slaves and indentured servants, whites and free blacks interacted without discrimination through trading, selling land, and appealing to the courts. For a brief period of early colonial-American history, friendships, business associations, and consensual sexual relationships provide evidence of the relatively amiable reciprocities and expected egalitarianism among whites and free blacks.

Nevertheless, white colonists changed their perspective of African Americans after the decreased use of indentured servants, the dramatic influx of slave importation, the illegal use of black headrights, and Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion. Unlike most Anglo-Americans, seventeenth-century Virginians did not adopt slavery because they were fundamentally racist; however, they invented a ideology of racism as a means of justifying hierarchical societies and slavery.


Before racism became widely accepted among white colonists, free blacks were often respected members of Virginian society due to their ownership of land.

Because free blacks created their own communities on their own land, the family was necessary for providing “an opportunity to become fully human”; as a result, free black families and communities were allowed greater safety and dreams of the future.[1] Property made all the difference. If a man controlled his own land, then he could govern himself, thus confirming his individuality and providing legal and social identity.[2] Owning private property showed that a man was a citizen who could participate in voting and trading.

In Virginia, an individual’s social status and personal wealth were interconnected, since economic success became possible through land ownership,[3] and over time, competing against the elite planters became more difficult for both poor whites and free blacks.[4] Land ownership equaled liberty, and when African Americans lost the accessibility to owning land, they also lost the rights of free citizens. Free blacks during the early 1600s, nonetheless, could never have imagined an inimical future where their great-grandchildren would become slaves and the buying land would be prevented.


The dire need for labor in the New World, which evolved from the widespread use of indentured servants to the enslavement of Africans, helped lead the eventual acceptance of racism. Flattered away by great promises, many English citizens were recruited by propagandists who erroneously depicted the colonies as “a land of milk and honey” where “food shall drop into their mouths.”[5] The property owner would pay for the passage of an English colonizer to come to the New World. In return, the indentured servants would work voluntarily between five and seven years for their new masters. Since indentured servants were considered valuable property, they lacked many personal rights or freedoms, and they suffered similar experiences to slaves, such as being bought, sold, beaten, or subjected to sexual exploitation.[6]

However, indentured servants could look forward to their freedom at the end of their term of service, unlike slaves whose “condition became perpetual.”[7] Because of the great demand for labor, the colonists were more than willing to hand their money over, even if that meant paying for the passage of indentured servants and eventually, the purchase of slaves.[8] Ultimately, great Virginian planters used indentured servants as “an initial solution to an acute problem of obtaining a labor supply.”[9] Nevertheless, the great planters turned to slavery in order to fulfill their needed requirement for able working hands.

Since harvesting tobacco was labor intensive, the Virginian elite brought “a steady supply of black slaves” to colonies, thus reshaping the economy and race relations.[10] Free blacks like Anthony Johnson who first lived in the West Indies developed working skills that were marketable in a predominately white society. In the early 1600s, many slaves lived on plantations in the West Indies before arriving in the American colonies. As a result, African Americans were able to learn English, which enabled them to communicate with neighbors and potential business partners. Since they learned English before arriving in the American colonies, highly skilled free blacks were able to “adopt appropriate forms of behavior” and “adapt to unfamiliar, changing social environment.”[11]

However, at the end of the seventeenth century, the relationship between whites and blacks eventually evolved into racial prejudices due to this mass importation of slaves directly from Africa. The transition from servants to slaves transpired between 1680 and 1720, occurring mainly in the Chesapeake colonies.[12] This immigration transformation impacted the population growth of African slaves, which altered social and economic relationships.[13]


Two major changes resulted from the increase of slave importation: the training of slaves and the creation of debilitating slave laws. First, because the indentured servants could not supply the colonial demand for labor, Virginian planters eventually used black slaves as their main labor source.[14] At first this resulted in the imported slaves performing unskilled labor, while the white indentured servants continued performing skilled crafts.[15] As the production of tobacco grew, an increased demand for skilled and unskilled labor continued, as well; ultimately, white servants trained in special skills ended up costing more than “the training of slaves to take over the skilled jobs of the plantation.”[16]

Second, a black majority in the colonies emerged after the large immigration of Africans from their native lands. This made white colonists, particularly the local gentry, highly anxious, since they constantly feared amalgamation and especially rebellion. They decided to create laws and strengthen pre-existing legal codes in order to control the growing slave population. Planters went so far as to restrict the legal rights of blacks, which included their right to buy property.[17] As a result, Virginian colonists began to validate slavery in their minds in order to justify the specific slave laws.


The Virginian elite limited the growth of both poor farmers and indentured servants and enabled their own expansion of land and wealth by unlawfully using black headrights. At the end of the designated time of service, indentured servants were entitled to freedom dues, such as clothes and other fundamental goods, in order to help provide an independent beginning. Even though many indentured servants assumed free land would be included when they signed their legal contracts, indentured servants, in actuality, did not receive land because the headright went to the person who paid for the indentured servant’s passage to America.[18]

However, the great Virginian planters did not merely use the headrights of indentured servants; these men illegally used the headrights of African Americans, as well. When the trade of indentured servants started to decline, many great planters used black headrights so they could add land to their massive estates or lease the land to poor farmers.[19]

During the 1660s, the great planters claimed 95,000 acres on almost two thousand black headrights. The use of black headrights resulted in slavery becoming “both … permanent [and] self-perpetuating.” [20] Using black headrights were technically illegal, since the headright system was supposed to promote white colonial subjects expansion to the American colonies. In 1699 the Virginian elite stopped stealing black headrights because of the British desired to “eliminate fraud in land transactions” and to stop “class competition in Virginia.”[21]

Two main consequences resulted from the elite’s use of black headright system: first, the Virginian elite acquired huge estates, which lessoned the amount of land readily available for poor farmers, and second, slavery became unquestionably permanent.[22] As a result, the lower class, who grew increasingly angry about the unavailability of land and the policies of corrupt colonial leaders, eventually decided rebellion was the best option to try to secure their rights of possessing land.


One example of a colonial-American rebellion is Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion, which reveals the frustrations and fears of Virginian’s lower class. To many poor colonial farmers, Governor Berkeley was seen as a friend to the Indians, since he would not permit anyone to hurt the Indians in order for trade relations to develop; Berkely’s stance, nevertheless, interfered with the colonists’ hunger for more land.[23] While the poor colonists could not move onto the Indian’s lands, the wealthy continued to steal land by using black headrights. The public poll tax, which burdened the poor, created huge discontent among colonists.[24]

Nathaniel Bacon was a successful planter who desired change and despised Berkeley’s unjust dominion. Bacon believed that the Indians should be completely removed from Virginia, taxes should be reduced, and the ruling elite should be stopped. Supported by “small farmers, landless men, indentured servants, and even some Africans,” Bacon decided revolution was the best choice.[25] Blacks and whites rose together in 1676 with Nathaniel Bacon to rebel against Governor Berkeley in Jamestown, Virginia. After burning Jamestown to the ground, Bacon, who died shortly thereafter, ruled Virginia for a brief time. When England warships arrived and restored order, they ended the rebellion of the lower class, oppressing them and ensuring more land to the ruling elite.[26]

What happened after Bacon’s Rebellion indicates the true feelings of the colonists. English commissioners representing the crown (Colonel Francis Moryson, Colonel Herbert Jeffreys, and Sir Berry) originally came to Virginia to offer pardons to the rebels and replace Governor Berkeley with Colonel Jefferys. Instead, they found Berkeley “restoring law and order in his own way” by stealing properties and dispersing the land among his elite friends and himself.[27] Although the commissioners gathered complaints from Virginian citizens of Governor Berkeley’s mistreatment of the rebels and his suppression of the rebellion, the commissioners did not explain in their reports the reason why Virginians rebelled.[28] Virginian complaints against local taxation included first, “how high the taxes were without benefiting the people at large” and second, “the manner of taxation appeared to benefit the people with property—the tobacco planters.”[29]

Essentially, poor colonists, both white and black, held recalcitrant attitudes towards the elites’ suppressive hand in gathering high taxation without proper usage of the funding to help those less fortunate. Since these complaints were not included in the commissioners’ reports, the poor Virginian farmers’ voices continued to be suppressed, even after rebellion. Fearing another uprising, the Virginian politicians reduced taxes, allowed small farmers to expand upon Indian land, and hastened the replacement of indentured servants with slaves, who had even less freedoms to express dissent than poor farmers did.[30]


As Anthony S. Parent, Jr., associate professor of history at Wake Forest University, stated, “Black and white laborers ran away together, muddied racial lines by consensual sexual relationships, and were comrades-in-arms in Bacon’s Rebellion.”[31] Free African Americans could not have anticipated the fall of their commercial interactions among white colonists and the diminution of their free black community.

After the rebellion lead by Nathaniel Bacon, the Virginian elite feared the union of poor African Americans and poor white laborers rebelling in order to overthrow the privileged few. In the end, “the expanding plantation system in Virginia,” which resulted from the fraudulent use of black headrights to accumulate land and the huge influx of slave importation, eventually “undermined the position of free [black] planters.”[32] Unequal hierarchies, which ranged from the wealthy plantation owner and culminated with the tobacco-harvesting slave, definitively shaped Virginian society. Racism became a conscious decision of the Virginian elites for their great wealth and power to continue unthreatened.


[1] T. H. Breen and Stephen Innes, “Myne Owne Ground”: Race and Freedom on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, 1640-1676 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 83.

[2] Ibid, 17.

[3] Ibid, 47.

[4] Ibid, 114.

[5] Ibid, 60.

[6] Ibid, 62 & 64.

[7] Anthony S. Parent, Jr., Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1600-1740 (Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 43.

[8] Abbot Emerson Smith, “New Light on some of America’s ‘First’ Families,” The Journal of Economic History 2 (1942), 40.

[9] David W. Galenson, “The Rise and Fall of Indentured Servitude in the Americas: An Economic Analysis,” The Journal of Economic History 44 (1984), 9.

[10] Breen and Innes, 114.

[11] Breen and Innes, 112.

[12] Aaron S. Fogleman, “From Slaves, Convicts, and Servants to Free Passengers: The Transformation of Immigration in the Era of American Revolution,” The Journal of American History 85, no. 1 (1998), 48.

[13] Ibid, 59.

[14] Galenson, 10.

[15] Ibid, 11-12.

[16] Ibid, 12.

[17] Fogleman, 50.

[18] Breen and Innes, 60-61.

[19] Parent, 44.

[20] Ibid, 44.

[21] Ibid, 45.

[22] Ibid, 54.

[23] Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty! (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012), 102.

[24] Thomas J. Wertenbaker, The Shaping of Colonial Virginia (New York: Russell & Russell, 1958), 139.

[25] Foner, 103.

[26] Ibid, 103.

[27] Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery —American Freedom (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1975), 272.

[28] Brent Tarter, “Bacon’s Rebellion, the Grievances of the People, and the Political Culture of Seventeenth-Century Virginia,” Virginia Magazine Of History & Biography 119, no. 1 (2011): 1- 41. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 16, 2012).

[29] Tarter, 1- 41.

[30] Foner, 103.

[31] Parent, 43.

[32] Breen and Innes, 114.

Free Printable: October 2015 Visiting Teaching Message

The visiting teaching message for this month discusses charity as another attribute of Christ.

Quote from the message:

“As we learn of Jesus Christ and strive to become like Him, we will begin to feel His pure love in our lives and be prompted to love and serve others as He would.”

You are welcome to print or share this picture quote as long as you credit the blog!

And Happy (almost) October!

Free Printable: October 2015 Visiting Teaching Message

Free Printable: October 2015 Visiting Teaching Message

A Soldier’s Circumstantial Characteristics: A Balanced Perspective of Kipling’s “If—”


The historical context of Kipling’s “If—” reveals that there were serious debates regarding how to react to the Boers in South Africa and the Jameson’s Raid. These conflicted perspectives were a microcosm to a larger debate concerning imperialism and the fighting soldiers.

Kipling seeks to find a balance between these perspectives by listing descriptive rather than prescriptive characteristics of soldiers. In Kipling’s “If—,” man is not just a pawn or a solider, but rather, an individual who must conform to the specific circumstances to survive Britain’s imperialistic war.

Kipling’s Son

Kipling’s background reveals his support of his son, who was a soldier. Kipling was born in India to a supportive and encouraging family that Kipling called “the family square” (Gray 185). His upbringing in this supportive home would impact how Kipling reared his son, John. Because John was only thirteen when Kipling published “If—,” Kipling was unsure if John, whom Kipling pushed into military service, would appreciate its meaning and hoped that John would understand the meaning “on his journey to manhood” (Bertman 49).

Therefore, Kipling provides a list of descriptive characteristics that a soldier, like his son, would need to survive the war. By being pro-soldier, Kipling could consequently be considered supportive of war and imperialism.

The Complicated Issue

However, Kipling was not completely supportive of imperialism because the British military dehumanized the soldiers by gambling with their lives. England’s sons were subjected to the power of imperialism; in order for a boy to become a man, he must be “willing to serve an empire that has such contempt for its people as to wager their souls at the gambling table” (Grasso 91–92).

Kipling could mean that if a soldier has enough “sinew” or strength, then the soldier could survive the war; however, Kipling could also be suggesting that if there is enough sinew or funding for the war to continue imperialism of the Empire, then war is more likely to continue, as well (“sinew”). Thus, when funding war is the main concern, the soldier becomes merely a pawn. The soldier’s plight exposes imperialism in a negative light.

Politics of the Day

Since Kipling portrays the soldiers as both sacrificial and heroic, Kipling was apparently influenced by the political discussion of his day. An article reported that the House of Commons discussed that the Boer government limited the right to vote for British citizens in South Africa (“Imperial Parliament” 2). Some members were in favor of intervening while others were not; the House concluded that Britain would not interfere (2). Yet, this would not be the case. Kipling stated that his inspiration for the poem was Dr. Jameson, who led the failed Jameson’s Raid against the Boers in South Africa (Bertman 44).

Hence, the propulsion of England’s imperialism would continue no matter the consensus at home. In Jameson’s Raid, the Boers were superior in fighting, while the British soldiers, who were less prepared, were sacrificial lambs (“To The Editor of The Standard” 3). Men died for their country while the politicians back home bickered. The decision of whether to support imperialism was controversial during Kipling’s time.


“If—” may be interpreted in the extremes as either a celebration or a critique of Britain’s imperialism. However, Kipling’s argument actually presents a balanced perspective. “If-” suggests that in order to survive the war, a soldier must develop necessary characteristics.

Kipling examines the soldier in light of the failed Jameson’s Raid and other conflicts in South Africa, thus framing the poem as a balanced perspective on imperialism.



If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

Works Cited

Bertman, Stephen. “The Inspiration for ‘If—’.” Kipling Journal 85.343 (2011): 44–51. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 9 Oct. 2012.

  • In his article “The Inspiration of ‘If—,’” Stephen Bertman provides several examples of incidents during Kipling’s time that contributed to the shaping of his perspective. Some major factors that could have impacted Kipling include the Jameson Raid, the translation of Bhagavad Gita by Sir Edwin Arnold, and Kipling’s raising his own son, John.
  • First, Kipling wrote in his autobiography Something of Myself that his inspiration for the poem was inspired by Dr. Jameson. Bertman explained that Leander Starr Jameson was “a physician and charismatic patriot who. . . had supported the cause of British imperialism in South Africa” and was jailed “for having led a failed and politically embarrassing raid against the Boers in Transvaal” (44). Apparently, Jameson was viewed as a scapegoat for the situation and later became widely popular, serving “as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony” (44). Although Jameson’s Raid was a failure, Jameson later became a hero and a leader. This shows the contrast of opinions and ideas during the era as well as the superficial image of imperialism. Wars and raiding are bad, but if the ends justify the means, then perhaps funding wars and killing countless numbers of soldiers help England increase its number of colonies as well as its ultimate profit.
  • Second, Sir Edwin Arnold translated Bhavagavad Gita, which discusses religious beliefs as well as traits of the ideal man. Arnold’s translation could have “sunk into [Kipling’s] subconscious and ultimately influenced his choice of words for his own poem” (47). The main virtues written in this poem are “composure, detachment, and equanimity in the face of trial and temptation,” which are “virtues central to Hinduism and Buddhism” (46). Bertman describes these traits in Kipling’s poem as more “humanistically rather than theologically” (46). Although Bertman states he is uncertain of how much this “spiritual message” had as “an effect upon his creative imagination,” he does state that “Kipling’s affinity for the spiritual sensibilities of Hinduism” is prevalent in his other writings (47). Because Kipling never states religious beliefs in “If-,” his writing applies to human nature and man’s potential to succeed. Although Kipling does not specifically state that he was influenced by Arnold’s translation of the religious text, Kipling does have striking similarities in the listed descriptive characteristics a soldier must have in order to survive war.
  • Third, Kipling’s son was thirteen years old when the poem was published. Because of his son’s young age, Kipling apparently wondered if his son would “fully appreciate its meaning” (49). Bertman suggests, “Kipling may have hoped that some day in the future his son would both read and understand its verses, and take them to heart on his journey to manhood” (49). Kipling’s son was later killed in battle when he was only eighteen (49). Perhaps Kipling was inspired to write “If-” because of his own experiences in raising his son, since Kipling wanted his son to be a soldier as well as a man.

Grasso, Joshua. “The Imperial ‘Pitch-and-Toss’ in Kipling’s IF.” Explicator 67.2 (2009): 89–92. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 9 Oct. 2012.

  • When considering the inspiration of Kipling’s writing, Grasso’s “The Imperial ‘Pitch-and-Toss’ in Kipling’s IF” provides another perspective. Grasso states that many believe the overall “tone of ‘stiff upper lip’ poise and respectability” represents “the quintessential embodiment of British imperialism” (89). Grasso suggests that the colonial setting of the poem is revealed in the final stanza (91). The speaker tells the “addressee to be a man who appears thoughtful and introspective,” even though he is “constantly rolling the dice and is willing to use anything- or anyone- to fund the next wager” (91). Grasso explains that “cloak-and-dagger atmosphere of the Great Game” operates by viewing “all men as pawns” to “pitch and toss at will” or to gamble with the men’s lives (91). During this time of colonization, Kipling recognized that the military viewed soldiers as pawns to be gambled with at will. This could easily be viewed as Kipling critiquing imperialism.
  • Kipling was a patriotic man who loved Britain; however, he did recognize its faults, which included imperialism. Grasso concludes by describing the “final, unstated ‘If’” as “a boy might become a man, but only if he is willing to serve an empire that has such contempt for its people as to wager their souls at the gambling table” (91-92). Ultimately, the British Empire risks all by gambling with human lives. Even though Kipling loved the Empire, he was not “blind to its faults, or to the dehumanizing qualities of its greatest exponents” (92). He was not blind because he could recognize the Empire’s faults. Kipling was not completely supportive of imperialism when writing “If-” because he acknowledged how the British military dehumanized the soldiers.

Gray, Donald. “Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865–18 January 1936).” British Short-Fiction Writers, 1880–1914: The Romantic Tradition. Ed. William F. Naufftus. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 156. Detroit: Gale Research, 1995. 181–199. Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online. Web. 9 Oct. 2012.

  • In “Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865–18 January 1936),” Donald Gray describes how it is “easy to underestimate the variety, complexity, and subtlety of Rudyard Kipling’s writing” (184). During the 1890s, Kipling was extremely popular; however, in the beginning of the twentieth century, readers and critics labeled Kipling’s “loose colloquial forms and development of his tales” as “obvious and old-fashioned” (184). Modern critics and readers have termed his writing as “simple-minded and even pernicious” (184). Gray refutes these criticisms as “incomplete” because Kipling wrote “of the waste and cost of the work of the empire as he did of its efficiencies” and “was always aware of the impermanence of dominion, the inevitable decline and succession of empires” (184). Evidently, Kipling viewed both Western and masculine perspectives as “inescapably limited” (184). Therefore, Kipling’s “If-” could easily reveal the belief that Britain’s imperialism is limited in perspective.
  • Kipling was born in India to a family that was “affectionate and talented, giving support and encouragement” that Kipling himself called “the family square” (185). His upbringing in a supportive home would later impact how Kipling reared his son, John. When Kipling was six years old, he was sent to England to receive his education. Because Kipling had difficulties with his school, host family, and eyesight, his mother came to England and put him in a new school called the United Services College, which was a military school (186). Kipling did well in this new environment with “discipline that was masculine and institutional” (186). Kipling understood how the military functioned and disciplined, which is evident in “If—.” At this school, Kipling learned to balance his belief “that one day the apparently secure world will collapse into confusion with the satisfaction of freely accepting a set of rules that give hard work its reasons and rewards” (186). During Kipling’s time, the world was in a state of confusion concerning whether of not to support imperialism. Some viewed imperialism as completely wrong. How could a country invade and dominate another country, killing thousands of people in the process? Others fully supported imperialism, focusing on the Empire’s patriotism and stoicism. Some viewed imperialism as a necessary evil. In order to increase the profit, expansion must occur by conquering countries, which occurred through war and loss of life. Kipling’s conflicted feelings of how he viewed the world would impact his writings, including his poem “If—.”

“Imperial Parliament.” The Standard [London] 7 Feb. 1895: 2. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.

  • “Imperial Parliament” from The Standard reports about a House of Commons meeting in which the matter of the Swazis and the Boers is addressed. The debate’s primary focus is deciding whether to abandon “the claims of our Swazi allies to independence and security” (2). Ashmead-Bartlett argues that “the Boers had passed a law which prevented any Uitlander obtaining franchise,” and as a result, “a most disastrous state of feelings amongst our countrymen” occurred by “alienating a large section of the British people” (2). In the debate, Sir Ashmead-Bartlett calls attention to the supposed “injustice with which the British subjects in the Transvaal are treated by the Boer Government” and offers the question to examine “whether South Africa was to be Imperial or Africander” (2).
  • Mr. Buxton argued against Ashmead-Barlett’s claims. Buxton contended that although “the liberty of the subject should have been restricted,” the British government has “no right to interfere” unless there was a “breach of the London Convention” or “an invidious distinction between British and other subjects” (2). The British government hoped to maintain successfully “tribal independence, with security for their laws of inheritance and succession” (2). As a result of Buxton’s argument, the Amendment was withdrawn from the House of Commons.
  • This debate occurred the same year that Kipling wrote “If—.” The argument of how to deal with the people in South Africa could certainly have impacted his perspective because this was a topic that was on the minds of many people. Imperialism impacted soldiers and citizens alike. Soldiers were sent to fight in wars, while politicians back at home bickered about the whether or not it was correct to intervene. In this instance, the House concluded that Britain would not intervene; however, Dr. Jameson would lead his raid anyway, which failed and killed soldiers from the Empire and the Boers from South Africa. When a country is imperialistic, peace cannot last. Some people wanted peace and to spare the lives of soldiers. Others cared about profit and funding war. Hence, the propulsion of England’s imperialism would continue no matter the consensus at home.

Kipling, Rudyard. “If-.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Julia Reidhead. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 1882. Print.

“knave, n.” OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. Web. 9 October 2012.

“sinew, n.” OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. Web. 9 October 2012.

“virtue, n.” OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. Web. 9 October 2012.

  • The Oxford English Dictionary defines knave as a term “a boy or lad employed as a servant; hence, a male servant or menial in general; one of low condition. (Freq. opposed to knight.)” It can also be defined as “An unprincipled man, given to dishonourable and deceitful practices; a base and crafty rouge” (“knave”). Kipling could be suggesting that the knaves are the boys who fight in the war and are ignorant of the commands from those of higher ranks. Thus, they become trapped because they do not comprehend all of the orders. However, Kipling could be suggesting that those who are high ranking in the military are knaves because they twist military commands in order to trap and manipulate.
  • The Oxford English Dictionary defines sinew as “Strength, energy, force.” An additional definition of sinew means “The sinews of war, i.e. money” (“sinew”). These different definitions could have two implications in the context of the poem. Kipling could mean that if a soldier has enough sinew or strength, then the soldier could survive the war; however, Kipling could also be suggesting that if there is enough sinew—or funding for the war to continue imperialism of the Empire, then war is more likely to continue, as well.
  • The Oxford English Dictionary defines virtue as “Industry, diligence” or “A particular moral excellence; a special manifestation of the influence of moral principles in life or conduct” (“virtue”). Also, “virtue” can mean “An accomplishment” or “The possession or display of manly qualities; manly excellence, manliness, courage, valour” (“virtue”). Kipling could be arguing that if men keep their virtue (or manliness), then a man could survive in the Victorian society. However, Kipling could also be suggesting that to remain an individual and a solider, a man must continue to be industrious, diligent, and moral. When a man keeps his virtue, he has accomplished something because he has remained an individual instead of conforming to being merely a soldier.

“To The Editor of The Standard.” The Standard [London] 7 Jan. 1896: 3. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.

  • Published in The Standard on January 7, 1896, an anonymous writer wrote “To The Editor of The Standard” in which he described his frustrations with Dr. Jameson’s Raid, which “rekindled racial hates and jealousies that were slowly dying away” (3). The writer believed that “sooner or later” the British and the Boers would “have to join hands in the development of the country” (3). Because of the “illegal and ill-fated filibustering Expedition,” this “long blood feud between the Dutch and English colonists” (3) will continue. He questions the British government’s ignorance about this raid because they were “within a few minutes’ telegraphic communication” (3). The British government could have intervened, but they did not. The writer critiques imperialism and its injustice towards the British soldiers.
  • The writer explains that “extraordinary blunders and miscalculations were made” (3). The Boers’ “peculiar strength” is “always absurdly underestimated” (3). Their advantages include “Constant practice at all kinds of running game, a life spent in the saddle, and an extraordinary knowledge of the country” (3). Apparently, only “ten percent” of the British soldiers “could be classed as really good rifle shots,” and “barely twenty percent… could be compared as rifle shots with the Dutch farmers against whom they pitted themselves” (3). If more men went to fight against the Dutch, they would be “merely as sheep led to the slaughter” (3). This raid, as a result, “has set back the clock of South African unity and progress” (3). Kipling wrote “If—” during this time of anxiety after Jameson’s Raid. The writer’s Biblical allusion of soldiers being sent to fight and die like sheep being slaughtered is striking and powerful. It was a sacrifice; it was a waste of life. Opinions like these could have easily shaped Kipling’s perspective about the war.

Tuesday Tunes: “Pop Around the Clock”

No, I’m not doing an advertisement or sponsorship thing for Tide. However, I think this is an interesting cover/re-interpretation of the original, Billy Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”

The original was released in a 1950s and, in contrast, the commercial song in 2015. While the lyrics are similar (compare by looking at the two different sections below), there are differences in order to sell the product—repeatedly using the word pop instead of rock. Additionally, the 2015 version is less rock’n’roll and more modern pop (no pun intended). For me, the 1950s version feels more authentic or traditional and the 2015 version seems more upbeat and modern, but I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other; they’re just different. Finally, the 1950s version is an original recording, so the film is black and white, but the 2015 commercial is in full bright (dare I say technicolor?) colors.

Enjoy listening to both songs! Notice any other differences? Feel free to comment bellow!


the bbb blogger


One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock, pop
Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock, pop
Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, pop
We’re gonna pop around the clock tonight
Put your glad rags on and join me, hon’
We’ll have some fun when the clock strikes one
We’re gonna pop around the clock tonight
We’re gonna pop, pop, pop till the broad daylight
We’re gonna pop around the clock tonight

Billy Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” LYRICS:

One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock
Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock rock
Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock rock
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight

Put your glad rags on and join me hon’
We’ll have some fun when the clock strikes one
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight

When the clock strikes two, three and four
If the band slows down we’ll yell for more
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight

When the chimes ring five, six, and seven
We’ll be right in seventh heaven
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight

When it’s eight, nine, ten, eleven too
I’ll be goin’ strong and so will you
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight

When the clock strikes twelve we’ll cool off then
Start rockin’ ’round the clock again
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight

11 Lessons Learned from Parks & Rec

Although Parks and Recreation has been around since 2009 (which sounds like ages ago), I’m finally getting around to watching this show in August 2015. Better late than never? Definitely for this one! Still on season 3 but here are 11 lessons learned from Parks and Recreation.

11. Remember history—even the bad parts.
Pawnee citizens have lots of issues, in the past (and sometimes the present), such as mistreating Indians and being intolerant. But it’s still important to recognize and remember local and personal history in order to grow and learn from it. I love how Knope knows her history so well!

10. Feminism! Recognize awesome women (from the past as well as the present women in your life).
Let’s celebrate Gallentine’s Day!

9. Sometimes you have to say no. And that’s okay.
Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe is right.
Also, I wish this GIF had the angry hand slam on the counter accompanying that adorably fierce face.

8. Do what you love.
Figure out what you are passionate about, and do it! Work doesn’t have to be miserable. For Leslie Knope, her work involves helping parks and people.

7. Sleep is important.
It’s amazing what ideas will come to you after a good night’s rest.

6. Love what you love.
Embrace the fact that breakfast food is the best food. Or whatever floats your boat.

5. Relationships can be surprising.
Opposites attract?
Ron & April.
April & Andy.
Ron & Andy.
April & anybody.
Or Ron & anybody.

4. We all make mistakes. Sometimes the same ones more than once.
Just look at Ron and Tammy.

3. Friendship, in and outside the workplace, can be a wonderful thing.
We all need support. This is one of my favorite things about the show—seeing healthy, positive friendships.

2. The power of being positive is . . . powerful.
Basically, Chris. On a side note, sad Chris is just so . . . sad.

1. Feelings are okay.
It’s okay to have feelings. It’s okay to be excited about things. It’s okay to be passionate. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be upset. Knope shows a wide range of emotions, and that’s normal.

Androgyna, or The Fool (a play)

Dear reader,

I wrote this play for one of my classes last semester. It’s an interpretation of Ben Jonson’s Volpone from a different point of view of one of the characters.

Here Androgyno becomes Androgyna because this character identifies as female. It is important to understand intersex people and their rights.. This play is an attempt to enable minority characters and reveal the voices that sometimes go unheard but that deserve to be listened to.

Please provide feedback + ideas in the comments below.


the bbb blogger

image from here