Block 4, Ms. Nychka
On “Kipling” by Carol Ann Duffy answering “If” by Rudyard Kipling
The doctrines of idealism and optimism are demonstrated in the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. “If” advises the reader to achieve qualities and reach for perfection. “If” is answered in the book, Answering Back by Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, “Kipling”. Duffy’s response to “If” is appallingly contrasting in mood, diction, structure, and challenges Kipling’s ideals through example. “Kipling” is a narrative poem, telling the story of a gambler. “Kipling” is contrary to “If” in the sense that “Kipling” seems to oppose idealism and optimism and uses these doctrines as a response.
Kipling’s “If” entails the moral qualities that a “Man” in Kipling’s eyes, should have. “If” has an inherently didactic structure and intent, that is, “If” is written to teach moral values, implied by Kipling’s constant referral to a second party. Kipling describes each characteristic with a complex and detailed statement that a “Man” should achieve in order to exhibit said characteristic. Kipling creates paradox, advising to ignore doubt and yet allow it as well: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,/But make allowance for their doubting too;”. Kipling uses this complex paradoxical tone throughout the rest of “If” as to strengthen the characteristics a “Man” has. Also, the paradoxes in “If” serve to abolish the duality of good and bad within each trait, leaving only the good, and thus, Kipling describes an impossibly perfect person, or in the least, a person who most people are not. For example, the lines: “Or being lied about, but don’t deal in lies/ or being hated, but don’t give way to hating” reflect the traits of honesty and tolerance. Occasionally brutality is associated with honesty, and often times it is difficult for individuals to be tolerant to brutal honesty.