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If— Summary & Analysis
by Rudyard Kipling

If— Summary & Analysis
by Rudyard Kipling

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Rudyard Kipling, one of the most famous poets of the late British Empire, published "If—" in his 1910 book Rewards and Fairies. The poem's speaker advises his son to live with restraint, moderation, and composure. The son should always keep his wits about him, the speaker says, never overreacting; he should learn to be confident without being vain, accept hardships without dwelling on them, and behave with dignity. Living this way, the speaker suggests, will make the son a true man. This is a poem of advice not just from a father to a son, but from Fathers to Sons: a poem about an idealized kind of self-sufficient male virtue. Its worldview borrows heavily from Stoicism, an Ancient Greek philosophy that encourages people to live uninfluenced by pleasure or pain—a perspective that appealed to English writers like Kipling and plays into the stereotypical idea of the British "stiff upper lip."

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