Social Issues: Human Condition


Literature in the form of poems and prose depict the life of human beings in a society. Poems and prose are essential in a society in many different ways. For example, they educate, enlighten, satirize and criticize a system, as well as entertaining people in the society. Poems and prose also portray the inner feelings of the writer.

This paper will look at poetry and prose, and how literature has continuously been used in the past to enlighten people and bring to light, the human condition. Human condition depicts the generality of human situations that they face while trying to get along with each other and the society in which they are living. Martin Luther King’s speech, “I’ve been to the mountain top” and Wart Whitman’s “Wound dresser,” will be analyzed to show and portray the theme of the human condition. The generality of human nature and the human condition are depicted in these two pieces of literature.

Human Condition

The human condition theme will be analyzed in the speech delivered by Martin Luther King in April, 1968 and named “I’ve been to the mountain top”. It will also be analyzed in Wart Whitman’s poem, “Wound dresser. Suffering is seen as a human condition while relating with each other and the social world, and there are inequalities which come with the suffering. In Martin Luther King’s speech, human suffering is highlighted in many occasions, which show what, the people he is representing are going through at the time.

Martin Luther King in his speech says that people all over the world; Nairobi Kenya, Johannesburg, Accra, Georgia, Mississippi, or even Memphis, the peoples cry is always same: “We want to be free” (2). The same is echoed in Wart Whitman’s poem, “Wound dresser”, in the manner he portrays the suffering of the wounded, for example, the amputated arm, the bullet wound and the fractured thigh. Whitman says that he remembers well, “…many the hardships, few the joys…” (19).

The two pieces of literature look at the aspect of human beings which is suffering. Suffering is part and parcel of human life, to the extent that Whitman in his poem writes that the soldier remembered most hardships than joys, but he was content (19). Human beings get used to suffering to a point where, they do not mind it anymore and even accept it as part of them.

Sacrifice, part of the human condition and good will is emphasized. There are some people who sacrifice their lives in order to change the status quo and end other people’s sufferings. Luther King appears to talk to people amidst all the threats issued to him (7). Luther is ready to sacrifice his life if it means leading people to the Promised Land; ending their suffering.

The wound dresser in Whitman’s poem wishes if it was possible, he would die for the suffering soldier if “…that would save you” (38). The majority suffer but very few sacrifice their lives for the majority others. Supernatural powers are seen as saviors from the suffering situations. Luther King sees God as the one who will give the Negroes the Promised Land, (7& 8), while the wound dresser sees death as savior and pleads to it to come quickly in mercy (Whitman, 43&44).


Human condition, which is general, in most human situations has been featured in the two pieces of literature. Suffering, sacrifice and a belief in a supernatural power are part and parcel of human life. Human beings always suffer, try to get out of the suffering situation, and some people suffer more than others, or on behalf of the majority.

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