What are the values represented in the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling?

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The values of the poem are old-fashioned, conservative, and even aristocratic. Kipling comes by all these values honestly.  Recall that he was born in British India and spent parts of his life in England, America, and South Africa.  He was an educated aristocrat who achieved fame and influence in his life.  For more about Kipling's family and biography, see the link below.  What I have called "aristocratic" values include courage, risk-taking, self-discipline, leadership, the "stiff upper lip," hard work, taking responsibility, and stoicism.

Besides aristocratic values, the poem also has a sub-theme of democratic values.  Kipling was a warm-hearted man who loved, not hated, India, unlike our stereotype of the colonial British.  What I have called "democratic" values include humility, respect for everyone, not returning evil for evil, and egalitarianism.

Here is a list of values with quotes from the poem:

  • courage/fortitude: "If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew ..."
  • risk-taking: "If you can make one heap of all your winnings ..."
  • self-discipline: All the behaviors described in the poem require self-discipline.
  • leadership: "If you can keep your head ..." and "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken ..." both describe situations usually encountered by leaders.  There is also "talk with crowds ... walk with Kings" which seem to assume a person with some power and influence.
  • the "stiff upper lip": "And never breathe a word about your loss." This value is less about having no feelings than about not displaying your feelings publicly nor complaining about your losses and hardships.   Contrast it with stoicism, below, which is not quite the same thing.
  • hard work: "If you can fill the unforgiving minute ..." 
  • taking responsibility : "If you can...

    (The entire section contains 592 words.)

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