What does the poet mean when he says we should treat Triumph and Disaster ‘just the same’?

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Icie Brekke eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" is a wonderful articulation of the positive qualities and characteristics one needs to be a happy, successful, and well-rounded person. Throughout the poem, Kipling gives warnings that start with the word "if" followed by lines of advice. The following section in question reads as follows:

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;" (Lines 11-12).

Looking at the first line, Kipling warns that triumph and disaster will most likely meet everyone at some point in their lives. Then in the second line, he calls these two events impostors because people tend to be fooled with the stereotypical stigmas associated with them. People might believe that they are better than others by achieving success, for instance. Further, people who meet with disaster may believe they are not as good as others. However we choose to respond to triumph and disaster will determine our character. For example, if a person accepts triumph with humility, only to be faced with disaster later, he will handle both of them appropriately and not get caught up with either arrogance or self-pity. On the other hand, if a person deals with triumph with a poor attitude, he or she will probably meet disaster just the same way and suffer for it.

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