Prosthesis and Poem

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Judging poetry is a subjective matter, but there a few concrete criteria one can use to evaluate it. Historical significance, tone, and subject matter can all be used to evaluate a work of art. For example, all of these criteria can be used to evaluate the poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. The circumstances surrounding the creation of the poem are significant because of the state of modern medicine at the time. The subject matter is one that many people can and have related to over the years. The tone is gloomy, yet inspirational.

“Invictus” is a poem written in the 19th century by a man who had his leg amputated due to a disease of the bone. This was a time when medical science was not very good. There were not all the technological advances that we have today. Usually when someone was sick, extreme measures were taken, like bleeding or amputation. This is what happened to the author of this poem. When he was younger he had his leg removed below the knee. This is when he wrote this poem, when he was in the hospital. Henley wrote the poem to show that he was not going to give up on life even though he was now disabled. If the author lived in modern times, there is a chance his leg could have been saved or he could have been given a prosthetic leg. If the author had lived at a later time, this poem would not have been written.

The Latin translation for “invictus” is “unconquerable”. This is a subject that resonates with many. It’s about never giving up in the face of adversity. No matter what “fell clutch of circumstance” (5) one is given, it is important to remain steadfast. In 2009, the movie “Invictus” was released. It was about the racial tensions in South Africa after apartheid and was named after Henley’s poem. In the movie, Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) refers to the poem many times. In fact, while he was imprisoned, the real Mandela would recite the poem daily to inspire himself to have an “unconquerable soul” (4). At...
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