Saturday, 21 May 2011

“If” by Joseph Rudyard Kipling: Extracting information

Understanding the poem : Stanza by stanza
25 years later, recalling the father’s advice…

Stanza 1
1. Continue to be sensible if others are not. (L1-2)
2. - Trust yourself when others doubt you. (L3)
- Give others the benefit of the doubt. (L4)
3. – Wait patiently. (L5)
- Don’t repay and deal in lies. (L6)
4. – Don’t repay in hatred. (L7)
- Be moderate in your speech and appearance. (L8)

Stanza 2
5. – Don’t be a dreamer, materialise your dream. (L9)
- Don’t think to impress. (L10)
6. Accept success and failure equally. (L11-12)
7. Be patient when the truth you’ve spoken is distorted by evil men. (L13-14)
8. Be strong in rebuilding what you’ve lost. (L15-16)

Stanza 3
9. Dare to risk and don’t get attached to material possessions. (L17-18)
10. Persevere to start again after every lost. (L19-20)
11. Don’t give up mentally and in your will even if there is physical limitation. (L21-22)
12. The willpower not to quit against all odds. (L23-24)

Stanza 4
13. Maintain your virtue and humility when socializing. (L25-26)
14. Live in harmony with others, yet not allowing others to hurt you. (L27-28)
15. Not to waste time but only for beneficial activities. (L29-30)
16. [The result]
- Will enjoy blessings while you’re alive.* (L31)
- Become a wholesome man. (L32)
* similar to the Beatitudes’ promise found in Matthew 5:5 – “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”

Figurative Meaning

1. Advice/exhortation
- the son
-  man in general

2. Balanced life – moderation and humility

A request/exhortation to uphold certain principles in life.

Tone and Mood
- Written in didactic tone (intended to teach a moral lesson)
- Presented to  inspire, encourage, and motivate

Point of View
1. First person (the father is an unseen persona)
2. Second person (the son)

Language and Style

1. Poetic devices
a) metaphors – triumph and disaster (as imposters)
b) will
c) unforgiving minute

2. Rhyme scheme
- 4 stanzas, 8 lines per stanza
- alternate rhyme scheme – a-b-a-b-c-d-c-d
  (except Stanza 1 – a-a-a-b-c-d-c-d)


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