Why does Rudyard Kipling use paradoxes in his poem, "IF"?The impact it has on the poem

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Rudyard Kipling makes a number of seemingly paradoxical statements in his famous poem "If."  For example, Kipling advises:

a) If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;

b)  If all men count with you, but none too much.

Does Kipling think that dreams and thoughts are or are not important?  Do men "count," or not?

I think that Kipling is telling us that we must develop the virtue of balance.  Dreams and thoughts should be important, but we must balance them with the proper dose of practicality.  What other people think and do is important--we should not ignore them; but we should not allow ourselves to be controlled by what other people think and do.

In philosophy, this idea is called "The Golden Mean"; the idea dates back at least to Aristotle.  See the link below.


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