Study Guide

If Men and Masculinity

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Men and Masculinity

Have you ever the heard the term "boy's club"? Yeah, well, this is a boy's poem. No women are in here—anywhere. Not a single one. This is a poem about manhood, about how to become and act like a "man." It is clearly spoken by a father (or father figure) to his son, and it celebrates typically masculine virtues (strength, for example). In this day and age, that might seem odd. Women can be strong, too, that's for sure. In Kipling's day, however, gender roles were, well, a little more segregated let's just say. While the poem does offer some good advice, it is kind of a problem that the advice really only applies to the fellas.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. Is it possible that this poem could be for women too and that Kipling just said "son" because, say, he happened to have a son?
  2. Does this poem's macho-madness make it irrelevant for modern readers? Or are these ideas of what it takes to be a "man" still floating around today? Why do you think so?
  3. Is there anything "manly" about this poem's form? Why or why not?
  4. What parts of this poem might apply to women today? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Something just isn't right about this poem. Whatever ideas it expresses are cheapened by the fact that they are limited to only men.

It's sad, but to be manly is to be unemotional. The speaker tells his listener that, to conquer the world and to be a man, he has to be able to "watch" crummy things happen and simply fix them, without "breathing" a word about it.

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