Chapter 18 If

Rudyard Kipling is trying to inculcate the values, ethics, standards and morals one needs to have to become an ideal human being. All you need to know and learn about this chapter is given below.

Meet the Author

  • Rudyard Kipling is a Victorian poet and storyteller who has been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907.
  • Born: 30 December 1864
  • Place of Birth: Bombay, India.
  • Died: 18 January 1936
  • Major Books: ‘The White Man’s Burden’, ‘The Ballad of East and West’ and ‘The Jungle Book’.
  • Best known for: His children’s fictions were widely popular during the 19th and 20th century. Even though Kipling was a gifted writer he is labeled as a colonialist, racist as his works reflected these notions

Historical background to the Poem

The poem ‘If’ was published in the year 1910. The poem is set in the tone of a father explaining to his son how to live a meaningful life. Rudyard Kipling was a writer who took inspiration from the world around him.

However, it is believed that ‘The Jameson Raid’ that took place in 1895 to be the inspiration for the poem. Jameson Raid was a military action that happened during the Boer War in South Africa. It was led by an Englishman named Leander Starr Jameson. The raid was not successful, rather it was a disaster, but Jameson was celebrated as a national hero for his courage and willingness to take up the responsibility.

This might have influenced Kipling to write the poem ‘If’ in 1896. The poem was only published in 1910.

Father gives advice to Son
Father gives advice to Son

Summary of the Poem

Through the poem Kipling is speaking to his son. He is trying to inculcate the values, ethics and morals one needs to have to become an ideal human being. Only these timeless values will help one become the ‘Real Man’.

“Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And- which is more- you’ll be a Man, my son!”

First Stanza:

The first stanza is discussing how one needs to handle criticism, self-doubt and hatred.

  • Keep up your spirits high when others are losing theirs and blaming it onto you.
  • Trust yourself when all others doubt you.
  • Be patient because it is a virtue to hold on to.
  • Do not lie even if others lie about you.
  • Do not give way to hatred even if all others hate you.
  • Even with all these virtues do not display your wisdom or superiority to others.

...Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

Second Stanza:

The second stanza speaks about how one needs to indulge with dreams, triumphs, disasters and wicked people.

  • You need to dream but ensure that those dreams come true.
  • One needs to have positive thoughts and convert them into aims.
  • Take your victories and failures in the same manner.
  • You need to be patient and bear with others who distort the truths you have spoken for the fools to believe.
  • Even if the things that you have worked committed to is broken you need to build them up again with your old and tired tools.

... Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools:

Third Stanza:

The third stanza is about one’s courage, consistency and determination to their goals.

  • Even if you watch your entire life’s preparations and savings washed down, you need to rise back and start all over again without any complaint.
  • One needs to control and run his body even if it is too old and worn-out to be mended and keep saying to it to ‘hold on’ to do good for the humans.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk iron one turn of pitch-and-toss

Fourth Stanza

The final stanza mentions how one needs to engage with others and conduct themselves in the society.

  • One needs to be able to be with the ordinary people as well as take the company of the rulers and kings equally.
  • One must not be hurt by a friend or an enemy.
  • Do not treat people differently based on their money, power or wealth.
  • Everyone must be treated equally.
  • One must not waste a moment and do the needful in the allotted time.
  • If a man/woman is able to keep all these (everything mentioned throughout the poem) in mind the world will belong to them.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings- nor lose the common touch,

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If Questions and Answers

Below are a few questions that you can look out for your examinations and class tests. Stand out with perfectly written answers with help of Aneetta Class.

Through the title the poet is trying to put forth the guidelines to make a true ‘man’. The poet does this through the use of the conjunction:’if’. ‘If’, the conjunction is used to connect ideas. The poet makes use of the conjunction to lay out the rules and regulations for a successful man. Hence, the title is extremely relevant and apt.

The poet is imploring us to trust ourselves when others doubt us.

Poet believes that unprincipled people can misuse and twist the truth. It is done to fool the honest people.