Identify some figures of speech that are used in "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Metaphor A simile is a comparison using the words “like” or “as,” but a metaphor is a more direct comparison.  For example, “If you can keep your head” is a metaphor.  You can’t actually lose your head!

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, (lines 17-18)

In these lines, life is compared to games.  You don’t actually have winnings in life, and this is not a literal pitch and toss.  It’s a metaphor for risk.

Personification is when something that is not human is described as if it was human.

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 imposters just the same; (lines 9-12)

Triumph and disaster are concepts, and they are described as human, given human qualities like that ability to master you.

Rhyme is one of a poet’s most powerful tools.  When used well, it creates a rhythmic, songlike quality.

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 (lines 3-8)

In this case, rhyming the lines in a distinct pattern creates a rhythm that makes the poem songlike, and adds to a sense of fun and wonder.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You might want to think about the use of personification in this famous poem. Let us remember that personification is the attributing of human qualities to inanimate objects, and there is one clear instance of this in the poem. Consider the following quote:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Note the way that the minute is described as "unforgiving," which is of course, literally impossible, as time is an inanimate object, but it here serves to emphasise the feat of being able to run for a span of time even though it is hard work.

Also, note the way that apostrophe is used to refer to Triumph and Disaster:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

Triumph and Disaster are refered to and made out to be human characters, as they are described as being "two impostors just the same," just more individuals that can be met along the path of life and need to be encountered and surpassed.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"If" is a whole series of metaphors. Rudyard Kipling uses a whole series of examples to illustrate the qualities he feels his "son" or any other person should exhibit if s/he aspires to true, mature leadership.

Metaphors "show how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in one important way." Looking at the poem, Kipling sets up his examples of qualities by explaining what the positive action should be in the face of others doing to opposite.

If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two imposters just the same

Most individuals would react differently if they triumphed in a situation that if the same situation ended in disaster. Kipling is counseling his son that the reaction should be the same in either case, that the results are "imposters" - not as important as the action of doing something to advance the situation at hand.

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