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Please give a detailed explanation of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

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shafu | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 16, 2009 at 1:26 AM via web

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Please give a detailed explanation of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

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troutmiller | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted January 16, 2009 at 2:44 AM (Answer #1)

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The first stanza touches on several character traits: self-confidence, courage, patience and honesty.  His words "If you can keep your head," "If you can trust yourself," and "If you can wait and not be tired by waiting" show those traits.

The second stanza deals with what you may do for the public, yet not have personal reasons or gain behind it.  You can face trouble as easily as you face success, and you can take something that broke--even though you worked so hard for it--you can rebuild it all over again. That shows a hard work ethic.

The third stanza speaks of taking everything you've worked for and risk it all, and then lose it and have to start again.  The key to that is not telling anyone of your loss.  That shows integrity. That's in the line "And lose, and start again at your beginnings and never breath a word about your loss."  Then it says you must take all you have within you, and when you are at your lowest point, you still have to have the will to try.  This shows perseverance.

The final stanza speaks of you being able to work with anyone and not change who you are or what you stand for.  This poems says that if you can do all of these things, the world is yours and you can be truly called a Man.  "Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, and-which is more-you'll be a Man my son!"

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vishal234 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted June 16, 2009 at 9:44 PM (Answer #2)

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The first stanza touches on several character traits: self-confidence, courage, patience and honesty.  His words "If you can keep your head," "If you can trust yourself," and "If you can wait and not be tired by waiting" show those traits.If these traits are absent then they would be the great obstacles for the leader.
These are as follows:-
- irrationality ("keep your head...")
- doubt in oneself  ("trust yourself)
- impatience   ("wait and not be tired by waiting")
- petty behavior  ("don't deal in lies")
- immoderation    ("don't look too good...")

The second stanza deals with what you may do for the public, yet not have personal reasons or gain behind it.  You can face trouble as easily as you face success, and you can take something that broke--even though you worked so hard for it--you can rebuild it all over again. That shows a hard work ethic.Thus from this stanza , the hindrances which have to be overcome are as follows:-
- being unrealistic  ("not make dreams your master")
- postponing ("not make thoughts your aim")
- overreacting  ("meet with triumph and disaster")
- weakness    (be able to withstand misfortune)

The third stanza speaks of taking everything you've worked for and risk it all, and then lose it and have to start again.  The key to that is not telling anyone of your loss.  That shows integrity. That's in the line "And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breath a word about your loss."  Then it says you must take all you have within you, and when you are at your lowest point, you still have to have the will to try.  This shows perseverance.Therefore this stanza shows following obstacles faced by a leader  to become a man in the aggresive world:
- worry and fear ("risk...and lose and start again")
- being self-serving ("never breathe a word" about loss)
- quitting ("hold on when there is nothing in you)

The final stanza speaks of you being able to work with anyone and not change who you are or what you stand for.  This poems says that if you can avoid all of these things, the world is yours and you can be truly called a Man.  "Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, and-which is more-you'll be a Man my son!".Thus finally , obstacles which have to be removed for the survival in this pathetic world :
- pride and arrogance ("keep virtue and common touch")
- dependency ("If all men count with you, but none too much")
- wasting time   ("If you can fill the unforgiving minute")
 
I f he is able to overcome all the above obstacles,the poet is sure, he will be the master of this Earth,and achieve everything in life .Moreover, he will , then, be able to earn the proud privilege of being called "MAN".

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 29, 2012 at 5:05 PM (Answer #1)

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"If" is a statement of advice, given to a son by his father. The father, who is also the narrator of the poem, is delivering instructions to his son about how he hopes the son will live his life and conduct himself in his relationships with others. The advice is given in the form of contrasts, with the father describing a poor choice of action and then explaining the better way to act or react.

The first stanza of the poem suggests that the boy needs to be confident, patient, and honest, even if those around him are not acting the same. Even if others blame problems on him unjustly, the son is being asked to rise above those accusations he knows to be untrue. At the same time, however, the son needs to guard against acting conceited or condescending toward others.

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;

The second stanza encourages the son to develop lofty goals of his own, to share them with the world, and to not become discouraged or disillusioned if others reject his ideas. If he knows "the truth you've spoken" is valid and worthwhile, he should continue striving to bring it to reality, even if others twist or reject it.

The third stanza presents the advice as seen on the larger stage of life. The father is exaggerating the extent to which the son should carry his efforts and the potential risks in order to emphasize that "winnings" and "loss" are both temporary in the course of a lifetime. The important thing is to remain true to personal values, regardless of the actions or inactions of others.

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!"

The final stanza is the father's summary. "If" the son is able to follow this advice; if he is able to relate to all those he encounters fairly, respectfully, and equally; if he can succeed in living his life to the fullest while not taking advantage of or harming others, then the father declares the son will have achieved true fulfillment and the moral riches that follow. Not only will the son be able to have the reward of "the Earth and everything that's in it" but, most important of all in the father's opinion, "you'll be a Man, my son!"

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aushadi | College Teacher | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted February 26, 2009 at 12:51 PM (Answer #3)

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Rudyard Kipling's If is one of the famous poems under his selection and I, believe it is a Universal truth that he speaks about.

From the first stanza to last, the poem holds a couraging tone. If a person reads from the beginning to the end he/ she may be awaken with such possitive thoughts. "if you can keep you head"..."if you can trust yourself"...."if you can wait"....all these lines emphasizes that the poet wants to convey the courage, honesty, self esteem, self-confidence that a person should have.

At the same time he admitts that you also should not be overconfident about yourself, which is a great truth that most of them do not realize in this world.

This poem is very much effective for the students regardless of age, where you will be encouraged to strike out at your aim.

Second stanza deals with the goals and aims you should have in your life. Great people like Abraham Lincon has failed so many times in his life in becoming a president...but he never led his life down. This poem ideally suits him. Moreover, there are many other great people as such who, never led thier sleves down by anything.

"and never breathe...loss", depicts, you should never talk about your losses, since it gives very negative attitude. He further says, that you should upfront the Will you have within you, which will make you a winner one day.

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mrsenglish | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 19, 2009 at 11:47 PM (Answer #1)

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     If by Rudyard Kipling is a poem which offers instruction in leadership skills.  It is written in iambic pentameter, and is broken up into four stanzas with a rhyme scheme of abab cd cd.  In the poem, the speaker suggests certain qualities that the speaker of the poem should emulate.  The speaker not only points out the specific qualities, but also provides examples of each kind of behavior. 

     The speaker also warns the audience of possible obstacles, or the danger of taking some qualities to the extreme.  For example, "If you can dream- and not make dreams your master" suggests that these traits must be acquired, but not practiced in excess.  In this same line, it is also implied that doing is better than dreaming.  One must not only dream, but act as well.

    The last line reveals what acquiring all of these qualities will achieve.  The audience can achieve manhood.  This suggests that the poem is intended solely for boys.  The poem was written in the late 1800's and most likely reflects the popular notion of the time that men were leaders and women were not.

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emilymisquita | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted July 15, 2011 at 7:49 PM (Answer #4)

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The poem aims at delivering a moral instruction to the little minds and also functions as a source of motivation.
The first lesson the poet communicates is to be positive in face of differences of opinion and disapproval. The easiest resort for a person is to blame his failures on others; this is the basic tendency of men to pacify the supreme ego they possess. One should learn to take responsibility for his actions. Self-confidence and Self-respect are the best assets one can own.

One must rely on the self, while others regard his capabilities with suspicion. If one patiently and persistently waits for the fruits of one’s perseverance, nothing can stop him.

One must dream, for hope makes living worth.One must think deeply, but try not to limit his endeavor to thinking alone, because being practical is also equally imperative. For, too much thinking leads one to vacillation. One must treat triumphs and disasters with the same attitude and approach. They are two sides of the same coin-Life. 

Further,if you witness the devastation of things you once built., and rebuild the same with a rekindled fire, nothing can stop you.

One may forsake all hitherto hard-earned riches for a worthy risk, and may lose the same. If the person, works on rebuilding he same without a word complaint, it reflects on his profound dignity in the face of defeat. The continuation of a legacy when others have left, or left you in a lurch; and holding onto the same owing to your iron will power and unrelenting determination is the hallmark of superhuman individual

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 31, 2013 at 4:09 PM (Answer #4)

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 “If” by Rudyard Kipling was written over one hundred years ago.  Its application may be more relevant today.  The poem serves as a plan for living a life of integrity and honesty.  The father in the poem provides a set of guidelines with which to live for his son. 

1st Stanza

If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you…

This verse speaks to not losing a person’s temper.

  • The narrator suggests events when the boy may be challenged:
  • When others blame him for something that he did not do
  • A person should trust himself even if others do not but do not be over confident. Listen to what others have to say.
  • Be patient
  • Do not lie.
    Never hate others.
  • Do not become a braggart by showing off his looks or intelligence.

2nd Stanza

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

  • It is good to dream, but there is more to life than dreaming.
  • It is good to think, but the thoughts must be put into action.
  • There are two opposites that a man must be able to master: winning and losing.
  • If a man wins, it is a good thing but it is not the only thing in life.  If a man loses, he must be able to accept defeat and go on with his life.
  • Sometimes people twist what a person says in order to try to make a man act foolish.
  • When a person has worked on something and it is ruined, the only thing to do is to begin again with whatever is available.

3rd Stanza—

    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are goneIf 

Sometimes a man must gamble everything he owns on one thing…if a man loses, then he must start again.  He should not tell others about his loss. 

When a man works, he must give everything he has to it.  Even when the man believes that he cannot do anymore, he must go on until the job is completed.  This shows a man’s character when he is able to never give up.

4th Stanza

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,

  • A man must be able to communicate with anyone whether it is nobility or the common man.
  • Do not give into petty quarrels with friends or enemies. Everyone should be important to a man, but never be consumed by any one person.
  • A man’s day should be filled with a full day’s work.  Never waste time. 
  • If a man can follow these life principles, he will grow to be worthy man.

What a beautiful poem with brilliant maxims purporting the way for a man to live a mature life!

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aadilthahir | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:51 PM (Answer #2)

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"IF" by Rudyard Kipling is a didactic poem,a work meant to give instructions.It serves as an instruction not through listing specific characters but by providing concrete illustrations of complex actions a man should or should not take which would reflect these characteristics.This poem remains widely anthologized and is regarded as a popular classic of English Literrature,not necessarily for a display of artistry but for its familiarity and inspiration .It offers a catalogue of thoughtful advice to a young male consisting of the many qualities that the writer feels are essential to become a MAN!.

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aadilthahir | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:54 PM (Answer #8)

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IF" by Rudyard Kipling is a didactic poem,a work meant to give instructions.It serves as an instruction not through listing specific characters but by providing concrete illustrations of complex actions a man should or should not take which would reflect these characteristics.This poem remains widely anthologized and is regarded as a popular classic of English Literrature,not necessarily for a display of artistry but for its familiarity and inspiration .It offers a catalogue of thoughtful advice to a young male consisting of the many qualities that the writer feels are essential to become a MAN!.

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sam-cool | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted July 18, 2012 at 7:18 AM (Answer #12)

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thanks to all of u

 

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