What obstacles must be faced in order to become a man?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are a number of obstacles that must be overcome as is shared by the speaker in the poem "If." If you can remain calm and level headed when those around you are blaming you, then you can become a man:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

This didactic poem gives illustrations that must be adhered to in order to become a man. The speaker is teaching his son very important lessons about life. If the son can learn patience and good character, he can become a man. In this poem, the speaker illustrates ways in which the son must follow in order to become a man:

 “If” is a didactic poem, a work meant to give instruction. In this case, “If” serves as an instruction in several specific traits of a good leader. Kipling offers this instruction not through listing specific characteristics, but by providing concrete illustrations of the complex actions a man should or should not take which would reflect these characteristics.

All in all, there are twenty illustrations that teach what it takes to become a man. If you can dream yet not rely only on dreams, you can become a man:

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:

If you can walk humbly with kings, then you can become a man. If you can start all over again after losing everything, then you can become a man. If you can overlook your enemies, then you can become a man:

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

In this poem, the speaker is wise. He gives clear instructions. He gives specific illustrations for the son to follow. The speaker has experienced the world and now he is teaching his son how to overcome the world as well. If the son will carefully listen to his father's instruction, he will become a man and enjoy all that life has to offer and learn what it takes to become a man.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial