Rudyard Kipling

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Please write a summary of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

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schulzie eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The poem is a father defining for his son the qualities of a good man.. He is setting the parameters or boundaries for his son and giving him a goal to achieve.  The poem deals with life’s  challenges and how to deal with them.

Stanza one deals with being confident about the decisions you make and taking responsibility for those decisions. If others, who cannot take that responsibility for themselves  react negatively, you will be patient with them and not reduce yourself to their level by telling lies or dealing in hate. However, don’t ever think you are above anyone else. 

Stanza Two  states that it is good to dream, but don’t let your dreams control your life.  It is good to think, but don’t just think and not put those thoughts into action.  You will experience triumph and disasters in your life, but don’t take them seriously because they are not the substance of life, they are the extremes.  If you hear things you said misused  or things you have done destroyed, you need to be able to pick yourself up and rebuild them with everything that you have left in you.

Stanza Three counsels don’t be afraid to take risks and possibly lose everything. If you do lose everything, don’t talk about it, just start all over again at the beginning.   When you are tired and exhausted and your body just feels like it can’t continue on, use your mind and your will to tell yourself to “Hold on” and persevere. Push through it.

Stanza four deals with a person’s reaction to others.  You need to be able to talk to large groups of people and yet not let them influence your belief in what is right,wrong, moral, or immoral.  You need to be able to walk with men of power and influence and yet not forget the common man and his needs. You need to know yourself and your beliefs so well that neither your friends nor your enemies can hurt you because you know who you are and what you stand for.  People can depend on you, but don’t let others become too dependent on you. You need to live every single minute of your life to the fullest.  If you do these things, then the world is yours, and you will be  a good man.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This poem by Rudyard Kipling is a famous poem that many prize today for its motivational content. It offers a series of statements acting as advice to a young person, going through a whole range of different topics before finally stating that "if" you can do all of these things, then "you'll be a man, my son!" It has come to be recognised as an evocation of the British stiff upper lip and Victorian stoicism in the values that it presents as necessary to be a man. Consider the last stanza, which develops the poem and brings it to its conclusion:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
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!

This is typical of the rest of the poem. This poem is made for being used as quotations and indeed, is used as such. However, note the way that a lot of the advice or guidance is very sensible. If you are able to "walk with kings" yet not "lose the common touch," you are clearly a man who has not lost himself to the pride of position. Note too the way that if you can fulfill all of these requirements, "Yours is the Earth and everything  that's in it," a hyperbole that also reflects the truth that if you are a "Man," you are fully equipped to make your mark on the world.

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