If Poem Summary

What is a short summary of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling?

Asked on by somaray67

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stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

"If" is written as if a father is talking to his son, giving his son advice on the way to behave to obtain the reputation of being an outstanding citizen of the community and the world.

The pattern used to deliver this advice, followed consistently throughout the poem, is to contrast an action or way of relating to others that would be positive with one that would lead to negative consequences. The father is providing examples of actions that are desirable, as opposed to attitudes that would not serve the son well in building constructive relationships with others.

In all cases, the father urges his son to be generous and considerate in his attitude toward others, striving to do the best he can personally without demanding the same standard of others. "If" the son can succeed in following this advice, he will attain the goal of becoming "a Man" in possession of "the Earth and everything that's in it."

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling can best be seen as a celebration of late 1800s - early 1900s British masculinity and stoicism -- the idea of the "stiff upper lip."

Kipling was a passionate defender of the British Empire and the values that, to him, made it strong and morally right.  In the poem, he celebrates those values.

The values he celebrates include keeping one's head in times of trouble, winning and losing with equal grace, and being able to deal with unfair criticism from one's inferiors.

This celebration of old-time British values has made this poem one of Britain's favorites.

You can see some other answers about the theme of this poem by following the longer of the two links I've provided.

kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Perhaps the most celebrated poem of Rudyard Kipling, If, composed at the turn of the 20th century (published in his collection, Rewards and Fairies, 1909) is a glorification of Victorian stoicism, a didactic poem that strongly highlights the virtues of 'grown-up' living: the way a son becomes a man.

The opening lines exude the imperative need of self-confidence, of courage to combat disapproval, the need to ignore doubt and make allowances for it. The poem is instructional in attitude, motivational in tone as the poet goes on advising the virtues of patience, honesty, fortitude and righteousness.

The conditional 'if', which is the title of the poem, refers to all the blocks in the way to full maturity, all the doubts & fears, all adversities that are to be solemnly and stoically overcome as a necessary pre-condition to true and perfect manhood.

The poem was said to have been written keeping the failed 'Jameson Raid' (the raid led by Dr. Leander Starr Jameson against the Boers in Southern Africa) in mind. It was about the mottos and maxims for right behaviour and self-development.

parama9000's profile pic

parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

The "if"s used in the poem show the small stumbling blocks on the way to full maturity from a boy to a man.

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