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Challenges of Life and Thought-Provoking Questions in Rudyard Kipling’s “If” Essay

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Rudyard Kipling as the author of many prose and poetry pieces impresses readers by a diversity of his literary talents. His poem “If” which was first published in 1910 remains one of the most expressive pieces written in a specific didactic manner which attracts the readers’ attention by the currency of the depicted ideas.

“If” is the vivid appeal of the author to a young man who only starts his way in life and should be ready to a lot of challenges. In his poem, Rudyard Kipling concentrates on such notions as self-worth, individuality, and patience which can be considered as decisive for determining the main aspects of becoming a noble man.

The tone of the poem is rather positive and even ironic. The author tries to inspire and encourage his son not to be afraid of all the life’s challenges with the help of presenting easy pieces of advice on how to react to this or that situation.

The language of “If” is characterized by many repetitions which help to focus the readers’ attention on the most important elements of the poem (Gardner). The poem is easily perceived by the readers because it is written in the iambic pentameter, and it is divided into four stanzas with eight lines organized rhythmically.

The problems of self-worth and the role of individuality are depicted in the first stanza. The necessary effect of focusing on the reader is provided by the frequent usage of the pronoun ‘you’. And the appeal to thinking of problems is created by using the repeated ‘if’, “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” (1-3).

Moreover, the last two lines “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, / But make allowance for their doubting too” provide the effect of the paradox in meaning which accentuates the necessity of being confident for a man (3-4). This effect is emphasized by using the words with negative connotations such as ‘hate’ and ‘lie’ in the next four lines.

The first two lines of the second stanza “If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; / If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim” are based on the opposition which accentuates the idea of avoiding any extremes in life (9-10). Furthermore, the message is developed in the next lines and focuses on the necessity of being patient in life.

To emphasize this thought, Kipling uses definite metaphors, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two imposters just the same” (11-12). Thus, ‘Triumph and Disaster’ written in capital letters are given as ‘imposters’ able to affect a person’s life, but it is necessary to know their real worth in order to overcome them.

The next two stanzas concentrate on the idea that all people are born equal with the equal opportunities which realization depends only on people’s will. To reveal this idea, the image of ‘Kings’ is presented, “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, / Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch” (26-27).

Moreover, the author’s voice rises to the end of the forth stanza, and Kipling presents the major idea of the poem focusing on the fact that following all these notions can make a boy be a Man, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, / And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” (31-32).

In his poem “If”, Rudyard Kipling reveals a lot of problems which can be considered as provocative for many young men. It is important that even today Kipling’s considerations can be discussed as significant for all those persons who try to find their place in this life.

Works Cited

Gardner, Janet. Writing About Literature: A Portable Guide. USA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. Print.

Kipling, Rudyard. If. n.d. Web. <>

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"Challenges of Life and Thought-Provoking Questions in Rudyard Kipling’s “If”." IvyPanda, 21 June 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/challenges-of-life-and-thought-provoking-questions-in-rudyard-kiplings-if/.

1. IvyPanda. "Challenges of Life and Thought-Provoking Questions in Rudyard Kipling’s “If”." June 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/challenges-of-life-and-thought-provoking-questions-in-rudyard-kiplings-if/.


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IvyPanda. "Challenges of Life and Thought-Provoking Questions in Rudyard Kipling’s “If”." June 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/challenges-of-life-and-thought-provoking-questions-in-rudyard-kiplings-if/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Challenges of Life and Thought-Provoking Questions in Rudyard Kipling’s “If”." June 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/challenges-of-life-and-thought-provoking-questions-in-rudyard-kiplings-if/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Challenges of Life and Thought-Provoking Questions in Rudyard Kipling’s “If”'. 21 June.

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