Explain one metaphor or a simile and its effectiveness in the poem "IF""IF" by Rudyard Kipling

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reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"If" by Rudyard Kipling was said to be inspired by Sir Leander Starr Jameson, who led the British to overthrow the Boer government in 1895. This didactic poem focuses on the virtues of manhood and leadership, emphasizing stoicism and righteousness.

In the second stanza, Kipling uses the metaphor of "worn-out tools" (line 16) to refer to the strength a person must conjure up to rebuild his life once it is broken. Those tools consist of the human potential all men have when faced with failure. Specifically, the tools could become endurance, patience, and fortitude. When all looks lost and one feels everything he has worked for and given his life for is destroyed, a virtuous man will take those tools and find the strength to use them once again.

Therefore, endurance, being able to go that extra mile when one is exhausted; patience, being willing to wait for results; and fortitude, being able to bear adversity with strength, become tools necessary for life.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Near the end of his immensely popular didactic poem, "If," Rudyard Kipling writes,

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance won

This metaphor of the minute as representative of the time of a person's life reinforces the previous lines and the theme of Kipling's:  A true man is responsible for his life as, existentially, he creates this life by being accountable for his actions and time.

That the minute is "unforgiving" implies that the metaphoric runner must make use of every second, every moment of his life, in order to have this life("distance" as a metaphor for life) be worthwhile.   This wise and frugal use of time is just one of the conditions that make "you, a Man, my son."

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The metaphor that I will choose to talk about in this poem is the one where the speaker says that triumph and disaster are impostors.

This is really quite effective given the theme of this poem.  By saying that these two things are impostors, the speaker is saying that triumph and disaster are things that are not real.  He is saying that people must realize that these things are not permanent.  Therefore, they must be able to just take them in stride and not let these things "get to" them.

This fits in with the theme of the poem -- the theme that this poem is about dealing with anything that comes in the correct way.