Rudyard Kipling Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What is one personification used in the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling?

Expert Answers info

Jay Gilbert, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Lecturer

bookB.A. from University of Oxford

bookM.A. from University of Oxford

bookPh.D. from University of Leicester


calendarEducator since 2017

write2,274 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

This poem by Rudyard Kipling utilizes a fairly common convention of personifying virtues and ills, but in this case, describing both "Triumph" and "Disaster" as "two impostors" whom a real man must learn to treat identically. That is, neither is real: so-called Triumph and Disaster are elements that appear in life in order to distract people from its true course, and in order to be a good man, one's head must not be turned by either. The personified "Will" can assist with this—"Will" says to "heart and nerve and sinew," "Hold on!" and can be relied upon when "there is nothing in you."

It is also interesting to note that "Man," like the personified "Will," "Triumph," and "Disaster," is capitalized in the final line. The matching orthography seems to equate the four persons as proper nouns representative of rounded concepts or beings.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write11,083 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In "If," a poem about the kind of moral courage and wisdom it takes to become a man, Kipling uses personification several times. Personification is attributing human qualities to something non-human, such as an animal, an inanimate object, or an abstract concept. In the poem's third stanza, Kipling uses personification to describe an abstract quality. He says:

"If you can dream and not make dreams your master ..."

A dream is abstract, an unrealized wish or desire, but here the poet speaks of it as a "master." A master is a human, someone who is in charge and tells others what to do. By understanding that a dream can become like a human being in controlling you and ordering you around, even causing you pain, as school masters were allowed to do in Kipling's day, Kipling makes it easier to understand the danger that a dream or desire can pose. You cannot become fully a "man"--today, we would probably say human being--that is to say, someone in charge of your own destiny, if you allow your dreams to control you. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write7,077 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

There are quite a few examples of personification (a metaphor in which a thing or idea is given human characteristics) in Rudyard Kipling's classic poem, "If." One comes in the second stanza: The words "Triumph" and "Disaster" are given the human characteristics of "impostors." Also in the second stanza, "truth" is "twisted by knaves" in order to entrap the spoken words. In the third stanza, the human element of the "Will" is given life, verbalizing the words "Hold on." In the final stanza, the time element--a "minute"--is given the human trait of being "unforgiving."

 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial