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“Ulysses” by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Lord Alfred Tennyson presents to us in the poem “Ulysses” an old sailor, a warrior and a king who is in retrospection on his experiences of a lifetime of travel. Ulysses old age and strong will causes him to be restless and unable to be comfortable at home. He chooses a life of travel over his family because that is what he knows best. Because of his faults, we identify with his character. As a result, Ulysses attempts to go on to face a new but familiar journey, not knowing if it would be his last. By connecting with Ulysses' courage he awakens the heroic spirit in all of us. Some themes that are important are The Quest for Paternity, The Remorse of Conscience, and Compassion as Heroic. The Quest for Paternity is important because at its most basic level, Ulysses is a book about Stephen's search for a symbolic father and Bloom's search for a son. In this respect, the plot of Ulysses parallels Telemachus's search for Odysseus, and vice versa, in The Odyssey. Bloom's search for a son stems at least in part from his need to reinforce his identity and heritage through progeny. Stephen already has a biological father, Simon Dedalus, but considers him a father only in “flesh.” Stephen feels that his own ability to mature and become a father himself (of art or children) is restricted by Simon's criticism and lack of understanding. Thus Stephen's search involves finding a symbolic father who will, in turn, allow Stephen himself to be a father. Both men, in truth, are searching for paternity as a way to reinforce their own identities. The other main one is The Remorse of Conscience because the phrase agenbite of inwit, a religious term meaning “remorse of conscience,” comes to Stephen's mind again and again in Ulysses. Stephen associates the phrase with his guilt over his mother's death—he suspects that he may have killed her by refusing to kneel and pray at her sickbed when she asked. The theme of remorse runs through Ulysses to...
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