Analyze and give reasons why the poet wants us to dream, and yet, not make dreams our master.

Expert Answers
Vikash Lata eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "If" is all about becoming a model human being by inculcating the virtues in life.

The second stanza of the poem begins with the following line:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

Dreams, here, may refer to one’s aspirations, goals and wishes. Our dreams do propel us to strive to accomplish them; they mobilize our efforts to make them real.  The idea that it’s good, and important as well,  to have dreams is implied here. But, dreaming in itself is not an end.

So, when the poet says, “not make dreams your master,” he cautions us against getting overindulged in our dreams. Dreaming is an enjoyable activity. It gives us great pleasure imagining ourselves basking in the glory of our achievement or success. It must not be forgotten that dreams are, after all, illusory and imaginary.

So, just by dreaming you don’t achieve anything, except an illusion of the real delight. What the poet is trying to say is - one has to put in a lot of hard work, invest time and effort, and be prepared to face obstructions if one's serious about turning one's dream into reality.

It can also be interpreted in another way.

Despite are constant efforts, we may face repeated failures on the way. If we are weak-minded, failures could negatively affect us. We might be driven to adopt wrong means, illegal or immoral, to find them. Not only this, excessive obsession with our dreams and repeated failures may throw us into the depths of despair.

So, when the poet says one must know to master one's dreams, he implies we should know to control and restrict them. Neither should the pleasure of dreaming prevent us from undergoing the pains to achieve them, nor should our obsession with them lead us astray or despair us.