Literary Analysis Poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling

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Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” addresses the audience, saying that if you lead your life a certain way, then you will be considered a man and, thus, gain the world. In the last stanza of the poem, Kipling uses different literary elements, like anaphora, rhyme, and metaphor, which make the work relatable and engaging to the reader, in addition to getting his point across.

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Throughout his poem, Kipling uses anaphora by making a series of statements that all begin with “if.” This allows the reader to take part in the work and analyze himself in terms of the text. These “if” statements build-up to the last two lines (31-32) of the poem, where Kipling finally reveals the answer to the reader. This is relieving to the reader because of the building anticipation created by the numerous “ifs.”

Additionally, Kipling uses anastrophe by saying “Yours is the Earth”. By switching the order of the phrasing, he adds emphasis to the idea that the Earth belongs to “you”—the one who meets all the criteria of the “if” statements. This further connects the reader to the work because it has the effect that Kipling is speaking directly to the reader, and telling the reader that the earth belongs to them. Similarly, Kipling uses second-person point of view to make it evident that he is speaking to the reader. This draws a significant connection between Kipling and the reader, and it allows Kipling’s message to make more of an impact on the reader.

Kipling’s poem also makes use of repetition and rhyme scheme. The repetition of the word “if” at the beginning of many lines keeps the poem moving and keeps the reader’s eye moving from line to line in order to keep them engaged in the reading. The use of an A B A B rhyme scheme creates flow and adds a beat to the poem. The combined use of repetition and rhyme scheme creates a steady tempo in the poem that actively draws the reader in and helps build the anticipation previously mentioned in regard to the “if” statements.

Kipling uses symbols and metaphors in the last stanza of his poem as well. He writes, “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, / Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch”. In this, the “crowds” symbolize the common people, and the “Kings” symbolize the rich upper class. In this line, Kipling also uses “walk” as a metaphor, meaning that one should strive to get along with upper-class people. Through the use of these symbols and metaphors, Kipling is trying to get the message across to his reader that they need to be flexible and able to handle both classes of people. Similarly, he uses the juxtaposition of the “crowds” and “Kings” as well as—in the line following—“foes” and “loving friends” to show that one needs to be accepting of and civil to all types of people.

Rudyard Kipling’s use of literary elements in the last stanza of his poem “If” is strategically used in order to help make his work relatable and engaging to his audience. He uses anaphora, anastrophe, second-person point of view, repetition, and rhyme scheme to contribute to the flow of his poem, to maintain the attention of his audience, and to make his work more relatable to his readers. Kipling also uses symbolism and metaphor to help get his main ideas across to his readers. His usage of literary elements contributes to the overall message and presentation of his work.    

29 April 2022

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