Symbolism in “Ulysses”

Blog: In Tennyson’s poem, could the character represents something more than the man Ulysses who conquered Troy, ventured home, and set out again on a voyage into the unknown? What might he symbolize?

In the poem, Ulysses, Ulysses’ story is taken further to a few years after his long-awaited return home. Throughout Ulysses’ whole trip, his goal is to return home to Ithaca, no matter what stands in his way. But when he finally comes home, “among these barren crags,” and is finally with his “aged wife,” he realizes he does not want to be home; he wants to “drink life to the lees.” I find it a bit ironic that on his whole journey he was dying to get home, and when he finally reaches his goal, he craves more adventure out of life. Ulysses represents more than this legend who encountered dangerous obstacles and nearly died numerous times; he represents perseverance and the idea of taking the most out of life. He says, “How dull it is to pause, to take an end,” showing his thoughts about never stopping. He says, “Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’/Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades/For ever and forever when I move.” This quote connotes his perseverance to move forward, however he never gets any closer to the “untravelled world.” But, his yearning to explore pushes him to the very end.

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