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Why does Rudyard Kipling call disaster and triumph impostors in his poem "If"?

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literarychild | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 25, 2007 at 11:45 PM via web

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Why does Rudyard Kipling call disaster and triumph impostors in his poem "If"?

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted August 30, 2011 at 2:27 AM (Answer #1)

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If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two imposters just the same;

Truly, triumph and disaster are imposters. To triumph in a wrong doing is not a time to shout the victory. Hitler was triumphant is his murdering of the innocent Jews. He gloated in his triumph for a while. He was quite triumphant and successful in killing millions of Jews. Ultimately, his triumph was an imposter. It was only a matter of time before he was surrounded and defeated by his enemy. Then his triumph was an imposter. His triumph was not real. He lost the battle eventually and ended his life in suicide.

Likewise, disaster, when it comes with all of its fury, may look to be real, but it too can be an imposter. In the face of loss, there can be hidden blessings. For example, one may lose his or her abilities, only to find other abilities become stronger. Joni Eareckson broke her neck in a swimming accident. She lost her ability to walk. She became paralyzed from her neck down. What looked like a disaster was actually turned around for her good (Romans 8:28). Her disaster was turned into a blessing when she learned to paint using her teeth. She would never had learned this had she not faced the disaster of losing her sense of feeling. Her disaster became an imposter because now we have her beautiful masterpieces that would never have been painted had she not lost her sense of feeling or touch. This is how disaster can be an imposter. When a blessing comes out of disaster, disaster becomes an imposter, especially when it is turned around for one's good (Romans 8:28).

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted August 26, 2007 at 1:24 AM (Answer #1)

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My thinking is that the speaker wants us to view life as a continuum, marked by peaks and valleys that may or may not be seminal events in our lives.  If we can resist becoming too self-assured by our successess nor too defeated by disasters, we can live more contentedly.

I am reminded by of the quote by Golda Meir, "Don't be so humble; you're not that great."

Sources:

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted August 26, 2007 at 10:21 AM (Answer #2)

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Enotes provides a fine overview of the poem:  “If” is a didactic poem, a work meant to give instruction. In this case, “If” serves as an instruction in several specific traits of a good leader. Kipling offers this instruction not through listing specific characteristics, but by providing concrete illustrations of the complex actions a man should or should not take which would reflect these characteristics.”  It is interesting that he personifies both “Disaster” and “Triumph,” and capitalizes the words to call attention to this.  Kipling also personifies “Will” toward the end of the poem.  Significantly, something might look like disaster but not be so, or might look like triumph but might be something else (such as defeat). For these reasons, they—the experiences of disaster and triumph—might be “imposters,” not really what they appear to be.  “Will,” however, is unmistakably that; it cannot seem to be anything other than what it really is.

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cmeyer09 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 29, 2009 at 5:17 AM (Answer #3)

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I look at this in light of what God says in The Bible, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)  and "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Triumph and Disaster are, first of all, imposters.  Why? Because neither of them define God's purpose.  Whether something seems triumphant or disasterous, the cicumstances we face do not change God's goodness and His good plans for our lives.  His plans don't shift with our attitudes or circumstances.

Because of Jesus, we are made new and nothing can take separate us from God's love!  

Satan tries to use both triumph and disaster to distract us from remembering and knowing God's perfect plan and purpose for our lives...or even that God is involved in our lifes at all.  In triumph we can become too proud, in disaster we can think we are worthless.  And then we become self-centered instead of focused on God.

Rudyard Kipling is making a great point, because if we can treat those two imposters the same then it is a sign that we are mature and filled with God's love.

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aasthagupta | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 12, 2010 at 4:14 PM (Answer #4)

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My thinking is that the speaker wants us to view life as a continuum, marked by peaks and valleys that may or may not be seminal events in our lives.  If we can resist becoming too self-assured by our successess nor too defeated by disasters, we can live more contentedly.

I am reminded by of the quote by Golda Meir, "Don't be so humble; you're not that great."

 

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meg-mark | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:13 PM (Answer #5)

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Kipling personifies "Triumph" and "Disaster" and calls them 2 impostors. Impostor are those who come in disguise and deceive you. He means to say that if we get carried away with triumph it would soon lead to a downfall(disaster). Similarly if we work hard after a disaster it would lead us to success(triumph. hence behind every "Triumph"and "Disaster" there is hidden downfall and success respectively.

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kittmanch | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted June 2, 2011 at 3:58 PM (Answer #6)

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Rudyard ipling marks Triumph and Disaster as imposters because imposters are cunning people who do not stay in our lives for long and just like imposters, Triumph(winning) and Disaster(losing) do not stay in our lives for ling and should be acceplted as they come ang go and we should not be carried away with them.

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emilymisquita | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted July 15, 2011 at 7:56 PM (Answer #7)

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"Triumph" and "Disaster" are impermanent by nature, kIPLING    personifies them as imposters and advises detachment from both.

Kipling makes a recommendation to "make one heap of all your winnings / And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss" in order to illustrate the complete detachment with which an individual should regard both profit and loss, neither of which is permanent.

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