Justify the title of Rudyard Kipling's poem "IF". Why does he use the word "if" in each line of the poem?

Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Each time a line in Rudyard Kipling's poem starts with "if," he introduces another principle of life that needs to be discussed before a promise is given at the end of the poem. Hence, the structure of the poem is based on presenting one major principle of life after another; but before each one is described, a conditional "if" is placed before it to show that the promised results are based on personal choice and follow-through. For example, the promise at the end of the poem is as follows:

"Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!" (Lines 31-32)

Therefore, becoming a man and inheriting all of life's opportunities provided on Earth are based on "if" a person chooses to accept the principles that precede the end result. Another way to put it is that Kipling itemizes major struggles that people go through in life, then shows a way to endure them; hence, if a person can endure these struggles by also behaving properly through each trial, the promise in the end will be his. Again, Kipling follows a specific pattern throughout the poem, which is basically like saying, "If you can face this struggle, and bear it patiently, then you will obtain the secret to a successful life." Since the "ifs" are all connected to the many principles discussed, and based on a person's choices in order to obtain the promise, then the title of the poem is perfect.

Read the study guide:
If

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question