What is a critical analysis of Rudyard Kipling's poem "If"?

Answer

Overall, the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling presents a set of ideals that make up the behavior of the ideal man. Taken together, these characteristics express an attitude of stoicism and a reserved character. It is interesting that Kipling does not include heroism, wealth or fame among the virtues that he recommends, states Humanities360.com.

In stanza one, the message is the value in rejecting negative opinions from others and maintaining one's individuality and self esteem in the face of criticism. 'You' is used seven times in this stanza, which breaks the wall between the writer and reader and invites the reader into the poem. The level of forgiveness within these lines is also astonishing and Jesus-like.

Stanza two counsels patience and advises readers on how to react to difficult situations. This patience applies to both other people and the world. Although the stanza counsels acting virtuously, it also creates a balance when it warns against acting too good or seeming too wise.

Stanza three is conservative in nature, and once again aims to create a balance between dreams and reality. The forces of triumph and disaster are personified so they can be declared impostors, as one would normally declare a person an impostor.

Stanza four deals mostly with perseverance, and continuing in the face of adversity. Kipling has a very specific way he believes this should be done. He believes that men should persevere not in a way that is attention-seeking, but rather with quiet dignity and without complaining.

In stanza five, once again Kipling maintains a balance when he compares "kings" and "the common" and "foes" and "loving friends." His message is that status is ultimately unimportant, and that one should treat all people equally and maintain a sense of personal dignity.

Finally, stanza six is important because it is the first time the reader realizes that Kipling is talking not to them, but rather to a young boy. Although readers know nothing about this boy who has been listening to the narrator the whole time, they may be moved to identify with the boy and hope he does well.

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