Study Guide

If Men and Masculinity

By Rudyard Kipling

Men and Masculinity

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools; (15-16)

If we were going to paraphrase these lines, we could say they say "take it like a man." In other words, "watch" the things you've devoted yourself to get destroyed, but then be strong, act like a man, and fix them. Kipling loved this idea, as you can see in our "Calling Card" section.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" (21-24)

All this business about the "Will" makes us think of some champion fighter or soldier, forging ahead. It makes us think, in short, of typically masculine virtues (strength, power, and those kinds of things).

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, (29-30)

These lines recall lines 21-24, and again make us think of athleticism, competition, and strength—typically (but not always) masculine themes.

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, (31)

This line is all about possession, control, owning things. Those ideas are, traditionally, very masculine ones. While not super-explicit or anything, these lines definitely connect masculinity, colonialism (remember the poem was written in response to a British attempt to gain more control over parts of South Africa), and power.

And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son! (32)

It doesn't get any more, well, sexist than this. The whole poem is all "if you do this, and if you do that, you will… become a man." A man is what we're shooting for—not a woman, but a man with control over the earth and everything in it. In a nutshell, this is a poem about how to become a dominating male when you grow up.