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Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses”

In a society characterized by exponential change and gradually increasing complexity, those who act have greater power, especially those who can find self-determination and persistence to do so. Motivation is among the most valuable commodities, shaped by life experiences and inspiring behaviors to explore something new. In Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” which presents a dramatic monologue spoken by Ulysses, the character from Homer’s Odyssey and Dante’s Inferno, discussing his frustration with domestic life and his desire to sail again and explore the world. Despite other portrayals of Ulysses, Tennyson’s poem discusses his heroism, undaunted spirit, and limitless curiosity.

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The experiences that Ulysses had throughout his lifetime have shaped his perception of the world along with his behaviors and motivations. Spending his entire life in adventures, Ulysses despises living a peaceful life, reminiscing of the old times, sailing in the deep oceans: “Vext the dim sea: I become a name; For always roaming with a hungry heart” (Tennyson, no date). Thus, his entire identity is rooted in his past travels, which have significantly shaped his worldview and values. Even when trying for years to return home and stay put, each of the experiences has served as reminders that there is still “that untravell’d world whose margin fades” (Tennyson, no date).

Even as Ulysses ages, the life that he has lived is with him, and he yearns to learn more and “to follow knowledge like a sinking star beyond the utmost bound of human thought” (Tennyson, no date). When people age, it becomes harder for them to accept behaviors that they have never accepted in their lifetime. Till his last day, Ulysses’s motivations and behaviors will always return to his life experience as they are a part of who he is, and the same is true for the rest of humankind.


Lord Tennyson, Alfred. (no date). Ulysses. Web.

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