I need a full summary of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Kipling's "If" is a great poem; however, if I'm honest, I really didn't like it as a kid. I had to become a father in order to "get it." I had to become an adult that is attempting to raise a future wise and honorable man. I had to make mistakes in life in order to learn from those mistakes, and that is where the narrator of this poem is coming from. The poem itself is essentially a thirty-line instruction manual for how to be a man (according to the speaker). "If" can be a bit frustrating of a read because you have to get through practically the entire poem before the speaker says what will happen if you do all the ifs he is talking about. If you can keep calm when everybody else is freaking out, then you'll be a man; however, the poem lists if after if without finishing the thought. The final two lines finally complete the thought.

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
The advice throughout the poem is solid advice. Staying calm in moments of heated debate is smart. Anecdotally, I've learned the hard way what happens when you let your emotions lead angry debates. He talks about being a gracious winner and not being a sore loser. These are all things that the speaker wants his listener to learn from, take to heart, and implement to be a great man.
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"If" is written as a father giving advice to his son. The father is giving the boy suggestions for ways to behave in approaching life and other people so as to become an outstanding adult member of society.

The advice is delivered through a series of situations the father describes with a negative behavior or reaction contrasted with a more desirable course of action. "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you" - the father follows this pattern throughout the poem.

The son is encouraged to strive for the higher moral ground, to behave honorably regardless of what others may or may not do. "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with Kings and not loose the common touch" - the father concludes by telling his son that success in following these examples will give him "the Earth and everything that's in it," including achievement of being "a Man" in the best and fullest sense.

 

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