In Stanley Kubrick's fantasy/horror movie "The Shining (1980)", when Jack Torrance is talking to the ghost/apparition bartender, Lloyd, in the mysteriously restored "Gold Room" he says:

You set them up and I'll knock them back, one by one.

And then, apropos of nothing:

White man's burden, Lloyd, my man. White man's burden.

I know that "White Man's Burden" comes from the Rudyard Kipling poem supporting colonialism, but why does Jack say this? What is he referring to?

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You can watch the scene itself here, if that helps.

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    I know that "White Man's Burden" comes from the Rudyard Kipling poem supporting colonialism. I wish to know why Jack chooses to say it at that point in time. It seems unrelated to anything. – Django Reinhardt Oct 30 '12 at 18:04
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    This is probably a question for english.se. But I think it's not a very good question since it shows very little research. He's sarcastically suggesting that drinking is hard work. – user1030 Oct 30 '12 at 18:06
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    "Supporting colonialism" is a little steep for a poem that opens with "Go bind your sons to exile//To serve your captive's needs". Kipling can easily be accused of racism in that poem, but not of favoring colonialism unless you are deaf to the dripping irony of it. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Oct 30 '12 at 21:09
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    @dmckee There's no irony in Kipling's poem, he honestly believed that it was the West's task to "improve" the lives of people's in countries he considered less fortunate. As he wrote in a letter to Roosevelt, after the US took control of the Philippines: "Now go in and put all the weight of your influence into hanging on permanently to the whole Philippines. America has gone and stuck a pickaxe into the foundations of a rotten house and she is morally bound to build the house over again from the foundations or have it fall about her ears." He also included a copy of his poem in the letter. – Django Reinhardt Oct 31 '12 at 16:34
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    @DjangoReinhardt Hmmm...didn't know that. I've always read the poem as a warning. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Oct 31 '12 at 16:39

According to The Shining: Jack of All Trades, Master of None, the line is a reference to the Kipling poem "that suggests that Europeans are the caretakers of the world."

But this is also Jack making a reference to alcoholism as the hidden price paid by the middle class for the cost of industrialization and the benefits of the technological society. That the cotton gin ultimately leads its beneficiaries straight to gin and tonics is one of the ironies of modern life that has left many of us still reeling.

IMDb explores some alternate interpretations in What is "White Man's Burden?"

Firstly, In the context of the scene, Jack could be referring simply to alcoholism and, as a former school teacher, he is making an ironic reference to Rudyard Kipling's 1899 poem "The White Man's Burden". It's possible that he is, quite simply, referring to the alcohol itself, calling it a burden in an ironic sense because he enjoys it so much, and referring to it as 'White Man's' insofar as the white man introduced alcohol into the Americas, hence they now have the 'burden' of drinking it. As such, he is, in effect, saying "Give me a drink, such is my burden."

There is another, more politically derived interpretation however, which may suggest an allusion to the European colonization of North America and the effect that colonization had on Native Americans. Merriam-Webster Online defines the phrase 'White Man's Burden' as "the alleged duty of the white peoples to manage the affairs of the less developed nonwhite peoples." The white man's burden was to raise non-white people out of poverty and ignorance through imperialism, whilst at the same time alcohol was turning white men into savages.


White Man's Burden on Wikipedia

Although Kipling's poem mixed exhortation to empire with somber warnings of the costs involved, imperialists within the United States understood the phrase "white man's burden" as a characterization for imperialism that justified the policy as a noble enterprise.

I could be wrong, but I believe it's a quasi-racist/imperialistic ideology that states that it is the duty of the white man to take over the world and conquer other races for their own good, I guess. It's a pretty harsh ideology that springs from the need to justify and glorify slavery and imperialism.

As far as the Shining goes, I believe that this is Jack's attempt to make a clever joke, but I think it kind of falls flat. I think he's being sarcastic, but it's hard to tell given that his mindset is distorted by hallucinations.

I could be totally off, but I've thought about this line a few times, and I can't seem to come up with a greater meaning than a bad joke that shows us how Jack wants to be perceived.


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