In "If," by Rudyard Kipling, what are the qualities the poet wishes to see in his son?

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling, the poet would like his son to have the ability to stay calm in a crisis. Having a clear head in a chaotic situation is very useful as it is the only way to effectively help and move things forward. However, no-one really knows how they would respond in a crisis until they are tested by circumstances. A person may be surrounded by others who are hysterical, driven wild through fear and panic, blindly striking out ineffectively. Kipling hopes his son will grow to be the sort of man who can distance himself slightly, be objective about the danger to himself personally and see clearly the swiftest, most useful way to help. Such a person who manages to help others in spite of their disorder is a true man.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It seems to me that the overriding classification of the values articulated in Kipling's poem all have to do with a sense of internal strength.  The poem's driving force is how the father can envision his son to be strong enough to fight through the different temptations for internal weakness present.  The situations offered to the son are those where one might be compelled to acquiesce to "the lesser angels" of one's nature.  Fighting through this to an end where the stronger aspects of individual nature are revealed becomes of critical importance to the father.  It is this exploration of strength and the development of the son's character that becomes of vital importance to the father.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In general, the speaker in this poem wants his son to have sort of old-fashioned, "manly" values.  He wants his son to have the sort of stoic attitude that people say upper class English people from that time admired.

Here are some examples:

  • He wants his son to be able to react the same whether he has met with triumph or with disaster
  • He wants his son to have the heart and nerve to keep pressing on bravely even when he is terrified
  • He wants his son to be able to understand that he is superior to the common mass of people, but make allowances for those people's shortcomings
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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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In Kipling’s poem "If" the author lists the qualities that he wants in his son through-out the poem. He desires his son to be honest and not get caught up in lies. He wants him to be able to hold his head up even when the world is up against him. He wants his son to believe in himself but to also understand why and that people will have doubt at times. He does not want him to be bitter with people.

The poet wants his son to have dreams but not allow the dreams to destroy him but rather allow them to guide him. He also wants his son to be strong in adversity because he knows it will come and his son could lose everything but if he remains true to himself and his beliefs, he will pull thorough.

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