With what message is the poet trying to touch the reader in "If" my Rudyard Kipling?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will presume that you are speaking of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.  The message the poet is trying to convey to the reader is how to behave, or how to carry oneself.  This is represented in the following lines:  “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, / Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch.”  The poet employs a series of situations that will compel the person being spoken to, presumably the reader, to aspire to readher "the better angels in their nature."  This is accomplished in setting up situations and providing a sense of guidance as to how to approach these predicaments. In employing contradictory imagery, the speaker seeks to provide a guide as to how to assume leadership and maturation.  For example, the opening lines address how one should behave in the social setting concerning how to pursue the right path.  In presenting such a dilemma in this manner, the poet touches the reader with a description of a situation that nearly every individual from divergent walks of life can understand and with which empathy is apparent.  This is continued throughout the poem, when the poem discusses dreams (second stanza), winning and losing (third stanza), and exploration of commitment through perseverance and challenge (second part of third stanza).  The poet is seeking to touch the reader in conveying situations that have confronted many and the realization of these is that through following "the better angels of one's nature, " maturation and strength will emerge (closing lines.)  While these lines do appear to include only men, the meaning of the poem has been extrapolated to include women, when read in a modern view.