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Destiny and Henley Essay

“Invictus” was written by Henley when he was in the hospital with tuberculosis. While in his twenties he contracted a tubercular infection that led to his leg being amputated below the knee. Later he developed the same infection in his other leg and was told it would have to be removed as well. Henley refused to have it amputated and sought the help of a doctor who had developed antiseptic medicine. Twenty months later Henley had finally recovered and was able to leave the hospital. It was during this dark time in his life when he wrote “Invictus”.

When you read the poem you can see how passionate he felt: “I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul”(Henley). Instead of falling into despair, Henley was able to be thankful that, though his body was beaten, his soul wasn’t. Even in the highest of his horrible circumstances, Henley refused to let life defeat him, but instead he rose up and fought back: “In the fell clutch of circumstance / I have not winced nor cried aloud” (Henley). He did not waste his time despairing over what he had lost, but instead focused on getting better.

You can also see how desperately determined he was: “I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul” (Henley). He refused to give into the idea that someone else was in control of his life. In the poem he cites “the bludgeonings of chance,” which shows he felt it was simply fate that this happened to him, and yet he went on to defiantly state that he was in control of his own destiny (Henley). By looking closely at “Invictus”, you can clearly see the struggles that Henley went through in his own life.

The powerful tone in “Invictus” is gloomy and dark although Henley remains optimistic and with the help of the three types of figurative language the dark tone is constantly seen throughout the poem helping readers truly feel the misery the author is going through . Invictus could be taken as a hopeful poem for those suffering, constantly being reminded that you are the “Captain of your soul” and that it is you choosing to live in pain or be brave when facing a challenge. “Beyond this place of wrath and tears” refers that the writer has hope for the after life.

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid” refers to the fearlessness of the writer “My head is bloody, but unbowed. ” refers to his courage to fight. The use of imagery in “Invictus” provides readers with deeper sense of the poem and connects them to the author’s true feelings. Henley uses strong relevant adjectives to paint a picture of the horrors of misery he feels in the beginning and towards the end of the poem he allows readers to grasp that it was his bravery that helped him overcome the impossible.

The theme of “Invictus”is one that appeals to most people. It is the idea that you control your fate more than anyone else ever will. In a world that cares nothing for us and often seems to be trying to destroy us, we can overcome all odds and be victorious because we, and we alone, are masters of our own fate. This is proven through the circumstances that the poem was written under.

Instead of submitting to the original prognosis of the doctors and having his other leg removed, Henley chose to take charge of his life, find a new doctor, and ultimately change the course of his life (Invictus: A Study Guide). The theme is one of triumph and survival. Despite all odds, despite all expectations, Henley took control of his destiny and came out victorious. The fact that Henley wrote this during a dark time in his life added a wealth of emotion to the poem; he was writing from his heart and it was obvious.

The overarching theme of the poem is relevant to everyone because when it comes down to it, we all want to feel like our life actually has meaning and is not just a sum of chance circumstances and happenings. The use of imagery in “Invictus” provides readers with deeper sense of the poem and connects them to the author’s true feelings. Henley uses strong relevant adjectives to paint a picture of the horrors of misery he feels in the beginning and towards the end of the poem he allows readers to grasp that it was his bravery that helped him overcome the impossible.


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