Literary Analysis Essay of William Ernest Henley ‘Invictus’
‘Invictus’ is a short poem by William Ernest Henley. Written in 1875, the piece is classified as a Victorian poem focusing on the speaker’s willingness to overcome the physical and emotional challenges happening in his life. It is composed of 16 lines and divided into four stanzas. Likewise, it remains to be a lyrical poem and adheres to a rhyme scheme of abab-cdcd-efef-ghgh. Through the use of different literary elements, Henley is able to convey the speaker’s resilience to audiences and has offered numerous ways for readers to interpret the piece.
The use of literary devices can be seen in this poem. Specifically, Henley’s use of imagery enables readers to create a good image about what the speaker is trying to say. A good example to show imagery comes from the line that says, “My head is bloody, but unbowed” (Henley 1). Though this can be interpreted literally, it also presents a deeper meaning for readers to decipher. Likewise, the poem also utilizes figures of speech such as metaphors and personification. Both these strategies induce ways for these lines to elicit a particular emotion and impact. Altogether, these strategies utilized by Henley remains to be an essential component in helping create depth to his piece. Also, these literary elements become valuable stepping stones in portraying the main themes in the poem.
One of the most important themes shown by the poem to readers is the concept of inspiration. Arguably, Henley seeks to provide readers with the opportunity to never give up and find ways to overcome the challenges of life. The specific lines in each stanza try to portray the inclination of the speaker to persist and continue on with a head high. For instance, the line that Henley says “And yet the menace of the years | Finds and shall find me unafraid” (1) provides a good perspective as to how far the speaker can go in order to fight the challenges of his life. Having the right mindset surrounding things clearly serves as the inspiration for the speaker to believe that one can pursue and achieve whatever they want in life (Fischer and McGinley 1) It is only by becoming strong-willed can people find ways to overcome their fears and uncertainties.
Another significant theme that readers can gain from reading the poem corresponds to man’s capability to control his own fate. From the perspective of poem, it provides different situations where man has to make decisions that would change their life. This means that whatever the outcome of the situation, people should be responsible for these and accept the consequence whatever happens (Langstaff 1). Arguably, each decision and choice that people take would only make people stronger. That is why it is imperative that one takes control of things and try to survive the costs of these decisions. Clearly, the line from Henley that says ‘I am the master of my fate, | I am the captain of my soul” (1) provides the necessary adage that people should seek to emulate and follow.
Overall, ‘Invictus’ is a powerful poem by William Ernest Henley that describes the mindset that enables one to overcome the challenges in life. Its ability to convey meaning using a lyrical poem makes Henley’s piece stand the test of time and also be a valuable piece in motivating people to be confident and courageous, regardless of the circumstances. Given the author’s ability to utilize literary elements, it has brought forward ways to connect the poem to themes related inspiration and the necessity of man to exercise control of his own fate. All these remain to be valuable reasons as to why the poem continues to be relevant until today as it touches the universal values of resilience and willingness of man to overcome any obstacles and challenges.
Fischer, Joyce and McGinley, Jim. ‘Our Interpretations: William Ernest Henley’s ‘Invictus’ WCUPA.edu. n.d. Web. Accessed 4 September 2014.
Henley, William Ernest. ‘Invictus’ Poetry Foundation.org. n.d. Web. Accessed 4 September 2014.
Langstaff, Maria. ‘An Analysis of William Ernest Henley’s Poem “Invictus”’ Suite.Io. 3 Mar. 2011. Web. Accessed 4 September 2014.