How does Kipling present hopes and fears in "If?"

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "If," Kipling presents hope as a way to avert fear.

Kipling frames hope and fear in a conditional relationship. Throughout the poem, this relationship is displayed.  For example, in the line, "If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;" the fear is that dreams will exert excessive control over the individual.  A person's best hope is for autonomy over dreams.  In "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue," the fear is a loss of conviction in the presence of others.  The hope that will defeat it is that authenticity and sincerity be displayed at all times. The line, "If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you," shows how the fear of losing trust with oneself can be countered through the hope of sustaining faith even when all others doubt.  In each of these examples, the speaker has fears which are countered through the hope expressed.  The use of "if" is conditional.  It communicates how if there is no hope, then fears will be realized.

In "If," Kipling establishes a precarious balance between hope and fear.  The reality of fears can only be offset through hope.  Maturation means we recognize our hopes as the best antidote to our fears.