Why might Kipling have decided to write the poem "If" using second-person point of view? How does the language that he uses in the poem affect readers?
Rudyard Kipling writes his poem "If" in second-person because he is giving advice. This advice, as stated in the last line, is intended for a young boy who is probably coming of age or soon to take on the responsibilities associated with manhood. The way the poem is structured starts with an "if" statement or two in each stanza, followed by a challenge and/or a principle to be learned. In this way, the reader can calculate line by line if he has that principle mastered or not. For example, the introductory stanza, just like all of the other ones, leads the reader through a step-by-step process of self-assessment, as follows:
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too . . ."
The language thus presents an "if" statement (challenge) about keeping one's head when everyone around the reader is panicking (principle). The implied advice is that people will panic, but the reader needs to stay calm. The next lines ask if the reader can trust himself (challenge) when other people do not; but they also advise him to decipher if there is any truth to be found in the lack of trust others place in him (principle). This pattern of challenges and principles continues throughout the poem, which helps to identify what a man will face in his life; and when he meets these things, the poem either offers a way to handle it, or a way to think about it that will influence the reader to be successful. The language is also positive and motivating. It seems as if the author believes in the one reading the poem, and that no matter what happens, this advice will help him to be a man.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial