Is Kipling a sadistic imperialist or the first unflinching post-colonialist? Unlikely that we will ever know. He probably had elements of both in him. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. What makes him so compelling is that he paints such vivid and memorable pictures of human tendencies that they will outlive both the concerns of imperialists and post-colonials–taking on yet new meanings in further generations. Similar to the way that Beowulf and the Iliad long outlived the concerns of their creators.
Kipling is in the peculiar position of having been a byword for fifty years. During five literary generations every enlightened person has despised him, and at the end of that time nine-tenths of those enlightened persons are forgotten and Kipling is in some sense still there.
George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling” (1942)