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Figures of Speech in Rudyard Kipling's "If"

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In Rudyard Kipling's "If," figures of speech such as metaphor, personification, and paradox are used extensively. For example, the poem uses personification in "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same." Additionally, metaphors like "If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run" enrich the poem's motivational message.

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What is one effective metaphor or simile in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

"If" by Rudyard Kipling was said to be inspired by Sir Leander Starr Jameson, who led the British to overthrow the Boer government in 1895. This didactic poem focuses on the virtues of manhood and leadership, emphasizing stoicism and righteousness.

In the second stanza, Kipling uses the metaphor of "worn-out tools" (line 16) to refer to the strength a person must conjure up to rebuild his life once it is broken. Those tools consist of the human potential all men have when faced with failure. Specifically, the tools could become endurance, patience, and fortitude. When all looks lost and one feels everything he has worked for and given his life for is destroyed, a virtuous man will take those tools and find the strength to use them once again.

Therefore, endurance, being able to go that extra mile when one is exhausted; patience, being willing to wait for results; and fortitude, being able to bear adversity with strength, become tools necessary for life.

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What is one effective metaphor or simile in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

Near the end of his immensely popular didactic poem, "If," Rudyard Kipling writes,

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance won

This metaphor of the minute as representative of the time of a person's life reinforces the previous lines and the theme of Kipling's:  A true man is responsible for his life as, existentially, he creates this life by being accountable for his actions and time.

That the minute is "unforgiving" implies that the metaphoric runner must make use of every second, every moment of his life, in order to have this life("distance" as a metaphor for life) be worthwhile.   This wise and frugal use of time is just one of the conditions that make "you, a Man, my son."

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What is one effective metaphor or simile in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

The metaphor that I will choose to talk about in this poem is the one where the speaker says that triumph and disaster are impostors.

This is really quite effective given the theme of this poem.  By saying that these two things are impostors, the speaker is saying that triumph and disaster are things that are not real.  He is saying that people must realize that these things are not permanent.  Therefore, they must be able to just take them in stride and not let these things "get to" them.

This fits in with the theme of the poem -- the theme that this poem is about dealing with anything that comes in the correct way.

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What is one example of personification in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

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.

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What is one example of personification in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

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. 

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What is one example of personification in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

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."

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What is one example of personification in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

Personification is the attribution of human-like traits to nonhuman subjects. Sometimes writers use personification to describe inanimate objects or nonhuman animals. In this poem, Kipling applies personification to abstractions and intangible phenomena. Most of these cases have already been mentioned. But let's review them, and add an additional example.

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

This evokes the master/slave relationship between two human beings.

2. "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster /And treat those two impostors just the same;"

"Triumph" and "Disaster" are characterized as if they are people (imposters). And in a longstanding tradition of English literature, Kipling highlights his characterization by treating the words as proper nouns (capitalizing them).

3. "Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'"

A person's will is characterized as having the power of speech.

4. "If you can fill the unforgiving minute…"

The minute is described as "unforgiving" -- a psychological trait.

Each of these cases illustrates the way that personification can make intangibles and abstractions more vivid or emotionally compelling. That's particularly important for a poem that is meant to inspire the reader to cultivate certain abstract virtues. We could easily translate this text into a dry recitation of rules about which abstract principles to live by. But the results would be harder for the reader to process, and less memorable.

For instance, Kipling could have simply told the reader to be productive with his time. Instead, he writes about filling "the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run." Kipling has created an image of physical striving against a demanding scorekeeper or judge. A potentially dry generalization has been made concrete and visceral.

Similarly, he could have told the reader to approach triumph and disaster with detachment. Instead, he creates an image of resisting the efforts of two tricksters -- a more compelling message.

So these are good examples of personification being used to turn abstract ideas into something more immediate, intuitive, and easy to visualize.

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What is one example of personification in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

I would just add another example of personification from the first line of the second stanza, "If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;" This example gives dreams the human characteristic of being a master, such as in a master/slave relationship.

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What is one example of personification in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

In poetry, personification is one of the devices used by poets to make their poems come alive. The definition of personification is when something which is not human is given human characteristics.  In the poem  "IF" by Rudyard Kipling, the author asks, "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters both the same" as if they are both real people who can be imposters by pretending to be someone else whom you treat equally.  Kipling even capitalizes their names as if they are the names of people; hence, again he uses personification.  He uses the same device when he refers to the Will which speaks to the heart and nerve and sinew and says, "Hold on!"  Personification makes this poem more personal to the reader as Kipling is talking directly to the reader by the use of the word "you."   

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What are the similes in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

A simile is defined as a poetic device or figure of speech that illustrates something by comparing it to something else. In literary criticism, the term "metaphor" is used for an implicit comparison that does not use explicit comparative words, and the term "simile" is applied to comparisons that are made explicit by the use of such terms as "like" or "as." As there are no explicit terms of comparison used in the poem "If", the poem does not contain similes. Instead, it uses related forms of figurative speech such as synecdoche, metonymy, and metaphor. 

The phrase "your heart and nerve and sinew" is an example of synecdoche, a figure in which the part (in this case various human body parts) are used to stand for the whole person. The phrase "risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss" is an example of metonymy, where one type of risk, in gambling, is standing in for bold, daring behavior in other aspects of life. 

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What figures of speech are used in Rudyard Kipling's "If"?

Many literary devices fall under the category of "figure of speech," which previous Educators have identified in preceding answers. This answer will call attention to those figures of speech in "If" which are commonly understood maxims or scenarios in English-speaking culture. There are indeed certain tropes which we turn to time and again to make meaningful comparisons to real life phenomena. 

First, let's consider the idea of something which is "broken" and must be "rebuilt." When some kind of tragedy occurs, a person or object is not necessarily literally broken, but it is a common metaphor we use to conceptualize the process of solving a problem. Kipling writes: "Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, / And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools." Life delivers trials time and time again that must be coped with. Despite the fact that you and your resources, your "tools," may be "worn-out," you must never give up. In the face of yet another problem, you still must "stoop and build 'em up."

In the following stanza, Kipling employs the trope of gambling to teach several lessons. The first four lines read:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
A fulfilling life requires a certain amount of risk-taking. When we articulate the value and danger of such risks, we often turn to gambling or betting as a suitable metaphor. Kipling does the same here. The poet uses this concept to flesh out ideas about perseverance and humility: to "start again at your beginnings" and "never breathe a word about your loss." 
As a final example let us look to the final stanza of "If," which starts by saying "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, / Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch." Royalty, in literature and real life, is often an efficient way of expressing a notion of sophistication or great power. Here, the speaker advises his son that while he should be advanced enough to be on par with powerful people, he should never disrespect or neglect those less powerful or in need; he should never "lose the common touch." Using the common dichotomy of royalty vs. the common person ("Kings" vs. "crowds"), the speaker of the poem encourages his son to pursue moderation in power, as in all things.

This poem refers to commonplace ideas and behaviors: rebuilding what is broken, gambling and losing with grace, and positioning oneself between the most and least powerful members of society. All of these figures of speech ("Tools," "pitch-and-toss," "Kings") help to achieve a special tone in this poem: namely, the instructive lecturing of a loving father. It is fitting that fathers are known, in part, for delivering cliche moral speeches, because that is essentially what Kipling does here. It is simply far more poetic than the average "dad speech." 

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What figures of speech are used in Rudyard Kipling's "If"?

Metaphor A simile is a comparison using the words “like” or “as,” but a metaphor is a more direct comparison.  For example, “If you can keep your head” is a metaphor.  You can’t actually lose your head!

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, (lines 17-18)

In these lines, life is compared to games.  You don’t actually have winnings in life, and this is not a literal pitch and toss.  It’s a metaphor for risk.

Personification is when something that is not human is described as if it was human.

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same; (lines 9-12)

Triumph and disaster are concepts, and they are described as human, given human qualities like that ability to master you.

Rhyme is one of a poet’s most powerful tools.  When used well, it creates a rhythmic, songlike quality.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise (lines 3-8)

In this case, rhyming the lines in a distinct pattern creates a rhythm that makes the poem songlike, and adds to a sense of fun and wonder.

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What figures of speech are used in Rudyard Kipling's "If"?

"If" is a whole series of metaphors. Rudyard Kipling uses a whole series of examples to illustrate the qualities he feels his "son" or any other person should exhibit if s/he aspires to true, mature leadership.

Metaphors "show how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in one important way." Looking at the poem, Kipling sets up his examples of qualities by explaining what the positive action should be in the face of others doing to opposite.

If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two imposters just the same

Most individuals would react differently if they triumphed in a situation that if the same situation ended in disaster. Kipling is counseling his son that the reaction should be the same in either case, that the results are "imposters" - not as important as the action of doing something to advance the situation at hand.

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What figures of speech are used in Rudyard Kipling's "If"?

You might want to think about the use of personification in this famous poem. Let us remember that personification is the attributing of human qualities to inanimate objects, and there is one clear instance of this in the poem. Consider the following quote:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Note the way that the minute is described as "unforgiving," which is of course, literally impossible, as time is an inanimate object, but it here serves to emphasise the feat of being able to run for a span of time even though it is hard work.

Also, note the way that apostrophe is used to refer to Triumph and Disaster:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

Triumph and Disaster are refered to and made out to be human characters, as they are described as being "two impostors just the same," just more individuals that can be met along the path of life and need to be encountered and surpassed.

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What is one example of onomatopoeia in Rudyard Kipling's "If"?

Among the various literary devices utilized by Rudyard Kipling in his classic poem "If," he does not use an onomatopeia at any time throughout the poem. An onomatopoeia is a literary device in which a word imitates and mimics the natural sound of a thing. Some good examples of onomatopoeias are flies that "buzz," cows that "moo," and pigs that "oink." Instead of utilizing onomatopeias in the poem "If," Rudyard Kipling chose to utilize personification, repetition, paradoxes, and alliteration. Personification is when a non-human thing, animal, or inanimate object is given human attributes. An example personification in the poem is when Kipling writes,

"If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two imposters just the same."

Kipling is personifying triumph and disaster by referring to the two inanimate nouns as "imposters." Kipling also utilizes numerous paradoxes, which are statements that seem contradictory but contain a hidden truth.

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What is one example of onomatopoeia in Rudyard Kipling's "If"?

I’m going to be honest with you here: I’m not sure there is an example of onomatopoeia in this poem. An onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like the thing it represents, like “achoo” for a sneeze or “buzz” for the sound a bee makes. The phonemes in the words themselves resemble the sounds they signify. Because we are dealing with sounds, any onomatopoeia in “If” would have to be representing a sound. The poem mentions talking, doubting, blaming, breathing, all kinds of sound-related things, and yet none of them really represent any sound they are describing. If your assignment is to find one example for a number of literary devices for this poem, you might have to leave the onomatopoeia section blank, like you do sometimes for the letter “x” when you’re going through the alphabet. 

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