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Ulysses By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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Subject:Literature/Poetry
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Alfred, Lord Tennyson “Ulysses”
Ulysses is a classic example of a dramatic monologue that is made up of a speech by the protagonist prompted by a critical condition. The speaker is an ancient Greek hero narrating how he loathes his current regal situation, and his desire to travel as he is used. In this piece, Tennyson shows himself as a warrior, an aged sailor and a king who is in reflection on his encounters as a traveler.
The gender code that required men to act as responsible fathers and husbands while dedicated to expanding English empire was received with restlessness according to the emotions depicted by the poem. The monologue responds by stating that men are not comfortable with staying at home for a long time. The speaker stresses that a man does not gain anything by staying at home near the wife, “it little profits an idle king.”He asserts that it is tiring being at home and governing people who cannot recognize him and their only job is eating and drinking.

The monologue responds by suggesting it is more fulfilling for a man to pursue adventures that excite him more than staying around an aged wife. It is clear, that as a man, the speaker finds the gender code restraining that condemns him to give up his dreams of discovering a new world, “I cannot rest from travel.” Expanding the British Empire through finding new lands is a responsibility that the speaker feels he must accomplish until he dies, “for always wandering with a starving heart…..yet all experience is an arch where thorough.” The speaker rants that life is not about breathing only, that there is more to it, “as though to breathe was life.” The narrator supposes that if he stays at home around the wife and son that his skills as a soldier will be rusting and thinning away. Instead, he wants to use his skills in the life he desires, not the one dictated upon him. He contends that he is not a good leader, and he prefers leaving these duties to his son.

The speaker feels that he has the potential to accomplish more things in life despite his old age. He believes that the things he can accomplish will be noteworthy that even men who fought at Trojan will be proud of his feats, “some task of honorable note, may yet be accomplished.” The speaker is set on leaving his home where he appears to be uncomfortable and restless, as well. He motivates his fellow sailors by urging them to join him in an adventure in their old age that might lead them to undiscovered places beyond their homes.

The speaker introduces his son Telemachus who will be the heir of the crown. Tennyson seems to condescend his son on his capabilities as a leader of Ithaca. The tone the speaker uses to address his son is rather confusing. He is a proud father because he has a son whom he claims is his, “this is my son, mine won Telemachus.”Additionally, it shows that they are not close. The father fails to display any connection with the son besides the fact that he will be a leader just like him. The speaker has illustrated his shortcomings through evading his responsibilities as a leader through choosing quests. The reader can sense that the father is afraid his son will be a popular leader loved by the people surpassing his legacy. You can read the original poem  here.

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Category: Sample Questions