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Ulysses Analysis

Ulysses Analysis

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Published by: amantedelibros11 on Sep 24, 2010
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Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses” Critical AnalysisAlferd Tennysons’s “Ulysses ”Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’ is both a lamentand an inspiring poem. Even modern readers who are not so familiar with theclassics, can visualize the heroic legend of Ulysses, and so is not preparedfor what he finds in the poem— not Ulysses the hero but Ulysses the man. Tennyson brings out the agony felt by Ulysses at his old age, The influence of the Industrial age can be seen in Tennyson’s usage of the word ‘profits’ inthe very first line. The character calls himself ‘idle’ showing hisdisillusionment at this ripe stage of life. The “still hearth” and “the barren crags” symbolize death. He continuescomplaining about his hapless state and the reader begins to detect theshallowness of character of this otherwise larger than life legend. He is soself-centered and full of self pity that he shows scant respect for those closeto him and those that he rules as seen in lines 4-5. His pride keeps him fromcalling himself old, in that many words ; He has to allude to his wife’s age tolet the reader in on his own advanced years. The wisdom and grace of oldage seem to elude him completely as he metaphorically claims “I will drinklife to the lees.”Tennyson uses vivid imagery in lines 10 - 11, the “rainyHyades”again bringing out the fear of death in the narrator . The lines “I ambecome a name”, and “ myself not least , but honored them all” reflects theawareness Ulysses has of his legendry fame . The reader begins to identifywith the character as he seems fraught with the same faults that afflictnormal men . “A hungry heart’ is a personification used to highlight thecharacter’s insatiable desire to travel and explore “ I am part of all that I met“, portray the swelling pride of one who knows he is a legend. In lines 22-25the character laments at having to , ‘pause’ and “ to make an end”symbolizing imminent death. He hates his infirm state as can be seen in lines24- 30.”For some three suns “ is a connotation suggesting he has been inbed for three days, which for him is the most demeaning of all . Ulysses cansee death at his doorstep , yet feels every hour can be used for the unendingquest for knowledge. Tennyson uses a powerful simile in line 31 equating‘knowledge ‘ to ‘the sinking star’ which is the most elusive and the mostdifficult to discern in the sky. In line 32 he uses a hyperbole to dramatize theextent of the character’s desire for the unknown and the unexplored. Thesecond part of the poem, lines 33-43 are devoted to the contrast betweenfather and son, one can feel the heavy sarcasm in the words “ slowprudence” “blamelessness” and “decency” of his son. He is contemptuous of these traits, which maybe harmless and noble, yet are hardly worthy of agreat king. Ulysses’ wandering spirit looks upon any kind of softness as afailing. He sneers at the more ‘centered’ personality of his son who governshis people in a mild and orderly manner .In lines 37-38 he reveals hisparadoxical personality as he feels soft handling is a form of subjugation that
“ subdues them to the useful and the good”. Here the reader can peer intothe maverick character of Ulysses and his complete disregard of anythingnormal and routine. Another character trait that shows through in lines 41-42 is that of an agnostic or to put it less strongly, he shows a “jovialagnosticism”. (Landow) .The poem is a dramatic representation of a manwho has faith neither in the gods nor in the necessity of preserving order inhis kingdom and his own life (Landow). Just as the reader is wearing downunder the relentless spate of negative traits of Ulysses, Tennyson bringsrespite in the third stanza reminding one of the past glories of this fabledsoldier of the Trojan war. With rich usage of symbols and visual imagery, hemanages to finally make a connection between the character and thereader . The last stanza is directed to his mariners as also to the readers whoafter visiting upon all the negative traits of his character realized that he toowas human like them . He calls upon them, “souls that have toiled ,andwrought ,and thought with me”(46),immediately connecting them to hisstruggle. Tennyson uses symbolism all through this last stanza.” The port”symbolizes the final place(44),the “vessel puffs her sail” symbolizes the soulready to leave.“ There gloom the dark, broad seas”(45) denote the unknownnature of the final journey. Ulysses calls upon his friends to take up thechallenge in the face of death and like a true soldier, to fight till the end. Herefuses to give in to the vagaries of old age and extols the readers to joinhim in the final battle. “this open invitation to join Ulysses in his last heroicattempt seals the bond between reader and speaker” ( Cleverly) .The hero inus rises to the fore as he implores us with his appeal in line 56-57 “come ,my friends .’Tis not too late to seek a newer world”. In lines 60 - 65 Ulysses isnot certain where death will take him. “Maybe that the gulf will wash usdown”(62) symbolizes the possibility of hell but “Happy Isles” (63) stand forheaven where he feels he will be greeted by his old friends like Achilles .Inline 67 Tennyson uses the hyperbolic expression “Moved earth and heaven”,to highlight the legendary strength of Ulysses. “That which we are , we are”,indicate the coming to terms with life or maybe it could even mean the finalrealization that the soul is more powerful that the body . In the end there is astrong message for the reader - more than a message it is a model to baseones life on -“Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will .To strive, toseek, to find, and not to yield.(66-70).As the last lines unfold a realization farbeyond what is apparent starts emerging. In the initial stanzas of the poemwas Ulysses lamenting at his sorry state because he couldn’t gracefullyaccept old age or was it an appeal to those who pod along, “That hoard, andsleep, and feed” to take notice of life. In that light Ulysses seems to be anenlightened soul, who saw far ahead of the normal people. His quest forknowledge like a ‘sinking star’ was unquenchable. Was he seeking the highertruth. Did he know something that the others were not aware of? “Beyondthe utmost bound of human thought” (32). He was seeking somethingbeyond death is evident in “for my purpose holds .To sail beyond sunset.”What does he mean by “ seek a newer world”(57). When we see Ulysses inthis light we realize that the faults we sought in him in the initial stages of 

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