Rudyard Kipling once started his renown poem with the phrase: “If you can keep your head when all about you, are loosing theirs and blaming it on you”. Kipling wrote the poem after he was inspired by the actions of Leander Starr Jameson, a British colonist. In “If”, Rudyard Kipling creates a strong atmosphere that clearly allowes the reader to comprehend his message and mark them by using an important theme, a well organized structure as well as comprehensible yet distinguished language and word choice.
The most important thing the reader will remember when finishing this poem is the important theme Kipling wants to transmit to the reader. The over-arching theme described in the poem If is that of perserverance and determination. The poem speaks to the reader on what it means to become an absolute man and how he operates through the thick and thins of life. The various values and codes of conduct disperesed throughout the poem form many sub-themes that support the main one.
The most significant one is Rightful behavior, which is maintained throughout the poem by keeping our heads high and maintaining good posture during the lows of life: “ If you can keep your head”. Kipling also adds that we must not deal hatred, even if the poeple around us are doing the opposite.
When achieving success or failure the poet adds that it is important to not be too self-centered, which makes up the second sub-theme of modesty. The poet advises us to never get too self-righteous even if we have the best set of virtues and abide by strict moral codes: And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.
Maintaining balance and control in all aspects of our life is another important theme which the poem forwards. The poet asks us to give our maximum effort to our goals in life but at the same times asks us to not make our ambition and dreams our be all and end all. He asks us to have faith in our belief system but not so much that we become immune to the valuable opinions of others. Lastly, self-belief is another major theme: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you”. The poat asks us to never loose hope in ourselves, because self-belief is key to perserverance. The theme however, is clear as a result of the poems structure.
The structure of the poem If is taut and well organized, making it esier for Kipling to transmit his ideas of the ideal man.The Anaphora Kipling employs at the beggining of every verse by repeating the word “If”, accentuates the message of the theme making the reader question themselves. “ If” uses a form that consists of the poem being divided into four identical stanzas, each consisted of eight lines, showing balance. Overall, the poem has thirty two lines in total, allowing him to develop his ideas throughout the poem. The meter applied to the stanzas is an iambic pentameter, a way to add rhythm to the poem in one specific way making the poem more harmonious and easier to read. The rhyme scheme he uses also enabeles the reader to understand the message more easily. Indeed in the first stanza, the poem follows the rhyming pattern of AAAABCBCwhereas the 2nd , 3rd and 4th stanzas follow the rhyming pattern of ABABCDCD. The images Kipling uses are built off of cause and effect. Firstly, the poem tells the reader to stay positive. SEcondly, he tells the reader the importance of letting go and lastly it circles back to staying positive and staying ones true self. Punctuation also adds on to the structure of the poem, making the poem more pleasant to the ears of the reader. Each thought continues on to the next line as a unit of two. At the end of every line, the author uses a coma, to significate a pause in the tone of the poem and creating a mood. In the poem there is no end punctuation until the final exclamation point at the end. The poem is an ongoing thought, caracterized by its language.
The poet is able to clearly express his message through his use of distinguished language. Firstly, Kipling uses personification when he talks about making your dreams your master. In this case, dreams have a human characterisitic of becoming the master. Another example of personification is when he says: “If you can meet with both triumph an disaster” He personifies triumph and disaster because you can not realistically meet with them. Secondly, he uses metaphors such as: “and stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools” Worn out tools refer to the feeling of total exhaustion that can force someone to give up. Thirdly, Kipling employs symbolism. In his poem, Knaves represent liars or conman, Kings represent the rich and important poeple in society, and Crowds represent the common middle or low class people. Lastly, the poet uses repetition, which is very present in the poem as Kipling uses the phrase “if you” throughout the whole poem, creating a connection in the reader’s mind and making a point, linking ideas, emphasizing a word, giving rhythm and creating a flow.