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If -

Rudyard Kipling

If consists of advice given by

a father to his son on what it
means to be a Man.

Various attributes are listed


The advice is presented in a series of

statements each beginning with the
conditional word if. Each statement
contains a pair of opposites which
build up into a strong guide as to how
the father feels life should be lived.

Stanza 1
The main idea in this stanza is that
one should be true to oneself and not
over-react to the views of others, or
adopt them without full consideration.
To achieve this, the boy needs to
develop certain qualities.

The qualities
level-headedness and keeping calm
trusting in your own decisions
understanding what makes others
doubt or hesitate
sensitivity to other peoples view /

The qualities


Stanza 2
This stanza focuses on overcoming
obstacles that can impede our
progress through life.

The obstacles
dreams are important, but should not
rule our lives
while it is necessary to think things
through, we should not be distracted
by thought

The obstacles
success and failure are impostors
and so we should not be unduly
influenced by them. (Sometimes what
looks like success or disaster - may
turn out not to be, and so neither
should knock us off course.)

The obstacles
if others misrepresent what we say in
order to trap others we should always
hold to the truth
we need to be resilient, and be
prepared to start again when things
go wrong.

Stanza 3
There is a hint of recklessness at the
beginning of the stanza; suggesting
that taking chances is a vital part of
life. It is important to learn how to
manage risk, and to be stoical when
we lose

The father counsels his son that

he should:
take risks, but being willing to start
again if not successful
not complaining when he loses out,
but remain stoical and self-contained

persevere and strive, even when

exhausted, and never give up
develop strength of will to survive
and succeed

Stanza 4
There are two pieces of advice in
this final stanza:
do not be corrupted by power
use your time to the full.

The father advises his son:

not to be corrupted by political
to be able to talk equally to kings
and the common man

not to be over-influenced by what others

say, whether they are friends or enemies
To live every second of his life to the

Further explanations
"If-" contains a multitude of
characteristics deemed essential to
the ideal man. They almost all express
stoicism and reserve the classic
British "stiff upper lip."

In particular, a man must be humble,

patient, rational, truthful, dependable,
and persevering.
His behavior in response to detrimental
events and the cruelty of man is
He must continue to have faith in himself
when others doubt him.
He must understand that his words
might be twisted and used for evil

He must be able to deal with the

highest and lowest echelons of society
He must be able to withstand the lies
and hatred emanating from others.

The virtues expressed in "If-" are

devoid of showiness or glamour; it is
notable that Kipling says nothing of
heroic deeds or great wealth or fame.
For him the true measure of a man is
his humility and his stoicism.

Poetic Devices
Anaphora is the repetition of a word
or phrase with one or two intervening
Throughout the poem if and you
can is repeated

Assonance the repetition of a vowel

sounds preceded and followed by differing
consonant sounds, can also be noticed in
words allowance and doubting because
of the sound /u/ in the middle of words.
Look, too and good are also assonantal
with a vowel sound /u:/ preceding different
consonant sounds.

Alliteration is the repetition of the same

sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the
beginning of words or in stressed syllables of
a phrase.

The words on, of and toss in the

second line has the initial sound /o/.
Alliteration can also be spotted in the
words sixty, seconds and distance.

Personification - is a figure of speech in

which a thing, an idea or an animal is given
human attributes.
If you can dream and not make dreams
your master. (2nd Stanza)
Dreams were like masters who can control
our lives. In this case, dreams are assumed
to have had a human role/quality; that is
being a master.

If you can meet with Triumph and

Disaster (2nd Stanza)
Success is personified as Triumph and
can make us complacent. Failure is
personified as Disaster. It can influence
us to believe that failure is permanent.

Except the Will which says to them:

Hold on!(3rd stanza)
Will is personified as a person who
encourages us not to give up.

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