What life lessons does the poem "If" teach?

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The poem "If" focuses on the idea of the passage from childhood to adulthood, as seen by the test cases presented.

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There are several life lessons taught in Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "If." For, this poem, addressed to Kipling's son, is a paean to the stoicism characteristic of the British of the Victorian Age, and to uprightness.

  • Stanza 1

In this first stanza, Kipling initially stresses that one must "keep" one's head; that is, remain rational while others are becoming irrational and placing blame upon others rather than accepting responsibility:

If you can keep you head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you...

Kipling also stresses self-discipline: "trust yourself when all men doubt you." "..wait and not be tired by waiting...."
And, he emphasizes manly rectitude: " Or being lied about, don't deal in lies."

  • Stanza 2

Kipling emphasizes that it is important to dream and have an imagination, but control of one's imagination is necessary, as well, for one must be realistic:

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

One must also be strong and willing to take risks and lose, then turn and start again after watching the

...things you gave your life to, broken, and bend down to pick them up and "build'em up with worn-out tools.

  • Stanza 3

In this stanza Kipling emphasizes fortitude and the ability to begin anew when necessary. A man must be able to suffer losses and start over:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

  • Stanza 4

This stanza emphasizes and extols the virtues of moral uprightness.  Kipling praises the virtue of humility--"the common touch"--and making the most of time--

...fill the unforgiving minute...with sixty seconds worth of distance won,

Then, he can conquer anything and be a true man.

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What is the theme of the poem "If"?

The poem "If" is a didactic poem. It teaches a lesson about life. The speaker in the poem is instructing his son on what to do and not do to obtain or inherit the earth while he becomes a man. 

The speaker uses seemingly contradictions of ideas, yet the paradox of ideas works:

Kipling creates a paradox (the combination of mutually exclusive ideas that, while seemingly contradictory, serve to make a point in their contradiction) that is characteristic of the tone of the entire poem.

If the son can have self control along with his self confidence, he will be the wiser and inherit the earth. If the son can have patients and "If you can wait and not be tired by waiting," then you will inherit the earth. If the son can rise above the fact of losing it all and having to begin again, then the son can inherit the earth:

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:

If the son can hold on when all in him says to let go, then the son can inherit the earth:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

Truly, the poem "If" is a lesson about what is important in life. It teaches the son that there are some things worth fighting for. It teaches the son that self control and the will to hold on will make him a winner. 

If the son can learn to be humble in all walks of life, he will inherit the earth and become a man. If the son can learn to not allow friends nor foes to hurt him, he will be a strong man:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

No doubt, Kipling's message is to learn to make the best out of life. Having all of the qualities and characteristics mentioned in the poem will make a man out the son and he shall inherit the earth. 

Truly, the overall theme is one of manhood and leadership. The speaker is teaching his son what it takes to become a man. He also emphasizes that his son will inherit the earth if he learns the valuable instruction of the poem. 

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What is the theme of the poem "If"?

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What is the theme of the poem "If"?

Rudyard Kipling wrote this poem in answer to a question from his son about when the son would be a man. We find in the poem many examples of what Aristotle called the Golden Mean, which is moderation between extremes.

Aristotle considered that any virtue becomes a vice if carried too far. Courage, for example, allows us to face adversity, even danger, with confidence. Too much courage, however, could be foolhardy, leading one to take unwise and unnecessary risks. Kipling's advice to his son is to find the balance--the Golden Mean.

For example, he writes:

"If you can walk with crowds, yet keep your virtue,

Walk with kings, nor lose the common touch.

If neither foes not loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much."

And when you have found that balance, you are a man.

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What is the theme of the poem "If"?

Live life to the fullest, discounting the efforts of the world to bring you down.  People may defame, circumstances may discourage, but each individual must keeping trying their best to make the most of their life.  In other words, don't sit on the sidelines of life; when you get the chance, dance!  Then, and only, then, you will be a real man or woman.

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What is the lesson of the poem "If"?

In the poem 'If' by Rudyard Kipling, the poet describes a recipe for becoming a man - the best of men - and a list of ingredients! One of the reasons that the poem may seem a little outdated today, and the advice a little too much of a tall order, is that lessons for men have changed because the roles of men have changed. In Kipling's day, the advice to 'keep your head' when others are losing theirs,for example, would have been achievable and highly relevant for a potential army officer! Nowadays, that potential recruit is very likely to be a girl. Also, men were expected to take charge, be leaders and show unsentimental 'backbone!' The lesson for them today is more likely to be to share in the diaper changing and cooking.

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What is the lesson of the poem "If"?

"If" is a laundry list of admirable qualities for masculinity and manhood. Particularly important in the poem is the line about "...if you can keep your head while all about you others are losing theirs (paraphrase)."
Kipling here is basically giving sound advice to his reading audience in regards to life. Stay calm, be cool, and strive for excellence. By doing so, he is establishing himself as a bit of an amateur philosopher.

The advice is sage and sound, but as previous posters have noted, perhaps a bit unrealistic in our current day and age. Such expectations were not unrealistic, however, in previous times and eras, when men were expected to "wear the pants" and so forth.

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What is the lesson of the poem "If"?

I believe the poem is trying to set the standard for what a "man" of Rudyard Kipling's time would be. The father's advice to his son is admirable, but unrealistic. One would have to be a super hero to achieve the status of manhood! Maybe that is the point, that being a man takes near perfection. I would hope that attaining some of these ideals would help the son onto the road of manhood and give him a goal for which to strive. Perhaps parents like to give advice to their children that they themselves did not achieve and regret bitterly as they grow older.

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What is the message conveyed by the poem "If"?

"If" is a series of statements given by a father to his son. The father's purpose is to give the boy advice about behaviors that will serve him well in his future dealings with other people.

The advice is given through a series of scenarios in which the father presents a way of acting or relating to others that is not constructive or helpful, then contrasts it with the positive way of handling the situation. The father never directly forbids his son to act in the counterproductive manner; he simply suggests that there is another way that will be more helpful for the boy and for those around him.

The father summarizes by telling his son that if he is able to successfully shape his behavior and responses along the constructive patterns presented in the poem, that all the Earth and all the respect of others will be accorded to the son and that, even more important, "you'll be a Man, my son!"

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Explain one theme of the poem "If" in detail.

It seems to me that one of the overriding themes to the poem is the movement from childhood to adulthood.  The poem stresses the idea of presenting a series of test cases to assess whether this child has passed these benchmarks to move from child to adulthood.  The opening line helps to establish this, in that while others are enduring a loss of focus and discipline, the adult is the individual who can "keep" their head.  This opens a series of conditions where one can identify if they are acting as child or as an adult.  Enhanced by the idea of self trust, avoiding deception and hatred, the first stanza helps to bring these ideas to the forefront.  Such benchmarks are seen throughout the poem, as well, confirming the theme of passage from child to adult as critically important.

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Explain one theme of the poem "If" in detail.

The theme of this poem is that the speaker wants his son to grow up to be what he thinks of as a man.  To the speaker, being a man involves the sorts of virtues that upper class English people of Kipling's day believed in.  These were the values that allowed England to conquer their empire, or so they thought.

To Kipling, these values include being able to maintain confidence in your own abilities because you know you are better than those around you.  He also values being very bold -- being willing to risk everything.  Finally, I would say he values being able to deal well with all sorts of people -- those above you and those below you.

If you can do all these things, you will be man.

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What is the meaning of the poem If?

The poem "If," written by Rudyard Kipling and published in 1910, is written as a father talking to his son, giving the son a series of illustrations or models of behavior that the father hopes the son will follow as he matures. Through these examples, the father is trying to show the son the kind of actions that will allow him to grow up to become a responsible, caring, reliable, and virtuous leader among his peers.

The first stanza counsels self-belief and self-confidence while cautioning that one should be open to input from others. The second stanza encourages pursuit of ones dreams in spite of adversity but cautions against becoming obsessed with achievement regardless of the cost. In the third stanza, Kipling expands on this while commenting that "model leadership requires action that is based on a worldview that is complex, multifaceted, and ultimately inclusive." The final stanza encourages the son to recognize the worth of all individuals.

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