Why is Rudyard Kipling's poem named "If?"

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling, thirteen lines begin with the word "if." The poem creates a series of conditional statements, or "if-then" statements, each of which has the same conclusion. The conditional statements are hypotheses. The poet keeps setting up a qualification and saying that "if" the "son" to whom the poem is addressed is able to meet that qualification, "then" he will possess "the Earth and everything in it" and he will "be a Man." The idea is that he will be a successful person, having everything he could want to be happy and content. He will be mature and respectable, a person worthy of the title "man" in its best sense. The poem piles on one hypothesis after another and only provides the double conclusion at the very end of the poem. Therefore, the thirteen or more "if" statements are balanced by two "then" statements. Obviously, a young person has a lot of conditions to fill before he can claim the full title of "Man." Therefore, the poem is called "If" because the emphasis is on all the things that add up to success and maturity rather than on the end result, just as one has to put in years of time and effort to claim fully the prizes of success, contentment, and honor.