According to Kipling, what should be one's attitude to unexpected loss?  

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "If" is essentially an instruction manual written to his son on how to become a "man." In the second stanza of the poem, the speaker encourages his son to treat "triumph and disaster" the same. The speaker is essentially commenting on the importance of maintaining composure and remaining stoic during victories and defeats. If one were to suddenly lose something or someone, the speaker believes that a "man" should accept the loss with dignity.

In the third stanza, the speaker comments on how a person should react to an unexpected loss by simply accepting the loss and starting their specific endeavor from the beginning without ever speaking about the aforementioned loss. The speaker is a proponent of fortitude, persistence, and hard work. According to the speaker, a "man" will learn from his losses and not dwell on his failures. Instead of quitting, a person should accept their loss and start their project from the beginning with a new, fresh outlook. The speaker also encourages his son to not speak about his loss or failures. Instead, he encourages the boy to maintain a positive attitude and restart from the beginning without commenting on his past failures.

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Rudyard Kipling's "If" is a famous advisory poem addressed to a nameless young man. It contains many pearls of wisdom intended to help this young man realize his true potential as a strong and morally upright gentleman. One of the speaker's suggestions concerns loss and how to cope with loss. According to the speaker, if one should happen to lose in life—particularly once having risked a lot—the best attitude to take is simply to begin again from the start, without ever stopping to "breathe a word" to others about what has happened. In other words, the speaker is telling the subject of the poem that he should keep his losses to himself, rather than complaining about them to others. He should be willing to risk great things, but should not then be devastated or disheartened if the risk does not pay off. Instead, he should recognize that one loss is not the end of all things, and should simply go back to the start and build his winnings up again quietly and stoically.

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