7 March Self Before Others in Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses Alfred Tennyson’s Ulysses describes a man’s unending desire fortravelling and adventures. On the one hand, Ulysses inspires me to pursue my dreams. On the other hand, I believe that I cannot always follow his footsteps because I consider it reckless and irresponsible to neglect one’s roles and responsibilities in life to pursue one’s dreams. Ulysses uses metaphor and wording to argue that individual interest is more important than familial and social obligations. I disagree with Ulysses’ ideals because I cannot imagine leaving my family and community behind to satisfy my thirst for adventure, even if that adventure is part of my identity. Tennyson uses wording to illustrate that Ulysses finds his traditional social roles boring and conflicting with his identity. Ulysses sees the life of a king as repetitive and dull. He says: It little profits that an idle king (Tennyson 1). Ulysses does not find ruling an exciting responsibility. Furthermore, Ulysses seeks adventures, which being a king does not offer, so he turns over his responsibilities to his son. The poem shows his desire to be someone that a king is not: When I am gone. He works his work, I mine (Tennyson 43). He believes that his son is better suited to be a king, while he is more fitting as a wandering adventurer. Aside from wording, Tennyson employs metaphors to show how Ulysses sees traveling as part of his identity. One of the most vivid metaphors involves enjoying traveling as one would a drink: I cannot rest from travel: I will drink/Life to the lees… (Tennyson 6-7). For Ulysses, travelling symbolizes the enjoyment of one’s life because it is his dream. Furthermore, Ulysses does not see being a king as equal to his identity. He compares ruling to rusting: To rust unburnishd, not to shine in use! (Tennyson 23). He rusts because ruling does not fulfill his identity, where it is his destiny to travel until he dies. Traveling and adventures feed Ulysses’ identity. Despite the strengths of pursuing self-interests, I disagree with Ulysses’ ideals because I cannot leave my family and community behind to satisfy my thirst for adventure, even if that adventure is the core of my identity. Being an individual can be balanced with being part of one’s family and community. I can and will find ways to become who I want to be without necessarily neglecting my social identity. To become who I am is not always about opposing my family and community roles. I cannot be completely happy, if people I cherish suffer as a consequence. The greatest tension in the poem is between self-development and social interests, which is shown through imagery and language. Ulysses does not find any connection with his people. They are different from him because he knows what life should be about: That hoard and sleep, and feed, and know not me (Tennyson 5). A hoard is about conformity and he will not conform to social norms. Instead, Ulysses binds himself to fellow mariners. His language for them is loving and tender: Souls that have told and wrought, and thought with me (Tennyson 46). Their souls are interconnected because they know what life is about- to live free from social obligations and controls. For Ulysses, he cannot develop his identity, if he allows society to control his literal and figurative movements. After reading the poem, certain questions arise and they are: 1) Ulysses wants freedom and autonomy over his life and continuously traveling is his best way to do it. By being a slave to his passions, does he truly exert autonomy? 2) Is it always moral to pursue self-interests without considering social and familial interests? 3) When is it moral to pursue self-interests over social interests?Work CitedTennyson, Alfred. Ulysses. 1833. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.
You may also like
The physical connection is created when the baby is growing