What is the meaning of the poem If?

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The poem "If," written by Rudyard Kipling and published in 1910, is written as a father talking to his son, giving the son a series of illustrations or models of behavior that the father hopes the son will follow as he matures. Through these examples, the father is trying to show the son the kind of actions that will allow him to grow up to become a responsible, caring, reliable, and virtuous leader among his peers.

The first stanza counsels self-belief and self-confidence while cautioning that one should be open to input from others. The second stanza encourages pursuit of ones dreams in spite of adversity but cautions against becoming obsessed with achievement regardless of the cost. In the third stanza, Kipling expands on this while commenting that "model leadership requires action that is based on a worldview that is complex, multifaceted, and ultimately inclusive." The final stanza encourages the son to recognize the worth of all individuals.

 

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