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“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

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Latin word meaning unconquerable. The word Invictus also contains victory in it. One can infer from the title that this piece of literature is about taking responsibility and control over your own destiny, or over ones self.

The first stanza, the author asserts what he is surrounded by, “Out of the night that covers me”. The author claims his environment to be a negative and dark place. “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul”, he implies the grateful he is for the gods giving him the strength to never give in to the hostile place he presides. Stanza number two assures that he will not give up. “In the fell clutch of circumstances I have not winced or cried aloud”, in the eye of the storm, in the heat of the moment, he has not shown any weakness. “Under the bludgeoning of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed”, when in the hardest part of the problem he struggles but never gives up. The third stanza declares that one has to stand strong.

“Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade”, after the horrible times that have gone by, there is still more to come. “And yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find me, unafraid”, he is strong and shall remain strong as time goes by. Fourth stanza states that a person is under control of his or her own fate. “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll”, the consequences have no importance in this situation. “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”, a person has total control of their own destiny.

One can assume that the author is writing about a personal experience involving a big struggle. He wrote, “The night that covers me”, signifying that he has a great internal struggle to keep himself away from temptation. He states, “My head is bloody, but unbowed”, which we can assume means that there has been problems so strong he has been beaten, but always ends with his head held up high and undefeated, victorious.

The tone changes throughout the poem. The tone varies from being the underdog to finally stating coming out ahead. Starting off with a dark and gloomy feel. The poem progresses towards the feeling of power and the words increasingly become strong and outspoken. As in the beginning the feel of being weak becomes invincible at the end. Definably shifting from a sad poem to a powerful poem.

One can conclude that the theme of the poem is that everyone is responsible and has control over his or her destiny. Regardless of what happens a person is under control of his life. Come dark storms or facing hell itself, the human spirit can not be broken.

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