Friday, February 3, 2012


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Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a poem written in a dramatic monologue form, which means the entire poem is spoken by a single character, whose identity is revealed by his own words. In the poem the readers are shown a great king by the name of Ulysses in the later years of his life after his heroic win of the Trojan War and serving again as king of Ithaca. The purpose of the poem is to let the readers sees how restless Ulysses are when he reflects on the glorious days while in his youth and planning that by some means he will obtain those glorious times again rather than sitting still in his throne and let the rest of his life pass by while doing an unwanted job of ruling his kingdom. He refuses to accept a future of growing old and ruling his kingdom which makes up the main theme of life live to the max.

In the first paragraph, Ulysses declares that there is little point in his staying home by this still hearth with his old wife, doling out rewards and punishments for the people who live in his kingdom. He finds staying home especially unsatisfying since these people do not even know who he is now, this is supported by quotes such as. In the first stanza, it seems as though Ulysses is unsatisfied or bored with his wife because she is old and with his home because it is too different from what he desires. When he says that the hearth is still I think he means that his family is too accepting of the condition they are in. Ulysses has changed and his family is now different from what he needs to live life fully. They have no need for adventure. They are not moving forward or changing, but they are content where they are. Still speaking to himself in the second stanza he proclaims that he cannot rest from travel but feels compelled to live life to the fullest and swallow every last drop of life.

Ulysses has reached the old years in his life and he still refuses accept his given fate. Ulysses states in the second paragraph, “I cannot rest from travel; I will drink / Life to the lees.”(line -10) With this statement from Ulysses the reader is shown that he has become very disillusioned about whatever life his throne could bring him if he were to stay at home and run the kingdom. The reader discovers what Ulysses thinks he has to do with the rest of his life when he states “I am become a name; / For always roaming with a hungry heart”. (11-1) With this statement the reader is shown that Ulysses wants to go back to the days when he was always known for his adventuring on the open sea.. Ulysses feels that he must once again embark on the adventure and danger that kept his blood flowing and his spirit content that he only found during his seaward explorations. He also desires a life of independence, physical adventure, intellectual pursuit and a life of independence

Ulysses has a love for his travel and the experiences he gains by his every endeavor. His travels have exposed him to many different types of people and ways of living. He has been alone, with those he loves and he loves it all. His acquaintances have exposed him to the delight of battle while fighting the Trojan War with his men. Ulysses believes he has gained much happiness and knowledge even in the Trojan War. In this poem, Ulysses declares that his travels and encounters have shaped who he is when he says I am a part of all that I have met. In lines through 4, Ulysses is saying that it is boring to stay in one place, and that to remain stationary is to rust rather than to shine; to stay in one place is to pretend that all there is to life is the simple act of breathing. Ulysses knows this is not true. He believes that life contains much novelty, and he longs to encounter this. His spirit yearns constantly for new experiences that will broaden his horizons; he wishes to follow knowledge like a sinking star and forever grow in wisdom and in learning.

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Ulysses is obsessed with the way he has lived in the past and will give up anything to regain it. The reader finds out just how far he is willing to go to have one more experience of his courageous youth, when he states, “ This is my son, mine own Crockett Telemachus, / To whom I leave the scepter and the isle-”. (-4) With this Ulysses has let everyone know the true shallowness of his character, and has shown a major fault in this otherwise larger than life legend of being a king. He has become so self-centered and full of self-pity that he shows little, if no respect for those close to him and to those he is supposed to be ruling. Ulysses has put his own self-gratification above everything else. The reader is shown that however great Ulysses once was, he possesses many of the same faults that most other men possess. Toward the end of the poem, Ulysses prepares to go on the voyage that he and his aging crew will embark on. The reader also finds out that he has finally accepted the fact that he is growing old. Nevertheless, Ulysses is determined to bring honor to himself no matter his age. He is convinced that his work is not yet completed and that there are still newer lands to discover. Ulysses is convinced that if he sails beyond the sunset he can, “touch the Happy Isles, / And see the great Achilles”(6-64). In other words, Ulysses wants to find, and enter their version of utopia so that he can dwell as one of the favorites of the gods, thereby enjoying life after death. By the time the reader has completed the poem, and it is not hard to see that Ulysses is searching for the same thing a lot of other men have searched for, a way to cheat and/or escape death. However, the reader also sees a man that is throwing away what he has gained, in the hopes of finding a small glimpse of his past or even the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow known as immortality. Nevertheless, the readers now have a different viewpoint of a once great legend; they find that he was more human than before and prone to the same kinds of weaknesses that most men are vulnerable to. For Crockett even the great Ulysses, toward the end of his life, was trying to escape the fate that all men face during the winter of their years.

The poem emphasized Ulysses rebellion against conformity. The quest for wisdom makes Ulysses wants to leave his kingdom and feel the same again as years before. Ulysses, who desires to be independent, finds that the life he returns to be not what after twenty years he has been searching. He feels that he needs to be adventurous, and wiser, so long as life permits his desires of sailing to the unknown.

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