The theme of mutability is revealed in Tennyson's "Ulysses" as Ulysses struggles to rebel against time. Tennyson reveals this theme through the use of tone, similes, metaphors, imagery and setting. He uses a confidant nostalgic tone to help develop this theme as the speaker reminisces on triumphant times past. Comparisons to the stars and to the horizon throughout the poem are effective in emphasizing the mutability of time. Tennyson also uses imagery to demonstrate the effect that time has on everything. He uses the setting of the poem to contrast life with lifelessness, which is an important part of developing the theme of mutability. In this poem Ulysses has returned from sea after great triumphs in the Trojan War and struggles with the dullness of the day to day rule of Ithaca. He is not happy to stay home and "rust unburnished." The theme of this poem comes from Ulysses' unwillingness to accept the fate of time and his rebellion to fight against it. Ulysses is aware that it is impossible to avoid the ultimate fate of time, but he is going to die trying to prove he is a great hero. Ulysses wants to go "beyond the utmost bound of human thought." He has the desire to battle time until it kills him. This is supported by R. H. Hutton, he says that Ulysses is Tennyson's picture of "insatiable craving for new experience, enterprise, and adventure," driven by "reason and a self controlled will (356)." Ulysses' will, that made him one of the greatest heroes of his time, is what will give him the strength to pursue these cravings.
Tennyson uses a nostalgic tone to show that everything changes with time. The speaker of the poem, Ulysses, recalls past triumphs and contrasts them with the monotony of his day to day rule of Ithaca. Ulysses yearns to relive the glory of these triumphs. He begins the poem by saying, "It little profits that an idle king, / By this still hearth, among these barren crags." This quotation demonstrates that Ulysses is not happy...
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