Based on Rudyard Kipling's poem "If," how does his view on manhood relate or differ to society's view.

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India to English parents and lived from 1865-1936. His views on the difference between right and wrong differ tremendously in a society that is plagued by greed and ambition. Yet he also knows that such things exist and that every man (and woman) must come across certain struggles and trials in life. Society says that the quality of a man is in his bank account or based on the number of houses, cars, or businesses he owns. Society also says that it's a "dog-eat-dog" world, so a person should do anything he needs to in order to be successful. In a society that often claims that happiness is found only in money and success, Kipling's "If" presents a different analysis.

According the first and second stanzas of the poem, a man is someone who can be "lied about" without dealing in lies; "dream--and not make dreams [his] master;" or "meet with Triumph and Disaster" and not be fooled by either of them. Society might say that if someone lies about you, then you have the right to lie about him; if you have a dream, sacrifice others to accomplish it; and if you aren't triumphant, do whatever you can to take back what you think is yours.

Other examples of manhood in the last couple of stanzas from the poem include being able to lose everything and not let that condemn you to a poor attitude for the rest of your life. Society, on the other hand, may tell you to simply give up. Also, if a person can associate with crowds and not lose his own virtue or integrity because he is swayed by the popular thought, then he will be an honorable man. And if someone can go the full distance of any task, even if it is unforgiving, and finish it without complaining, he will be successful in character. Society, though, would say that it is alright to cut corners and do the minimum that is required because no one will know, or it doesn't matter anyway. For Kipling, it seems that the qualities he mentions above would bring a more satisfying and fulfilling life rather than what society says is best.