Compare and contrast Ulysses and Telemachus in Tennyson's "Ulysses."

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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"Ulysses" is narrated by Ulysses himself. In the first two paragraphs of the poem, lines 1-32, Ulysses expresses his restlessness with his relatively uneventful life at home in Ithaca. Having been a great adventurer and a warrior in his younger days, he is now just an "idle king," a mere administrator. He desires experience and adventure and therefore, because of his age and his obligation to his family, he feels trapped in this new sedentary lifestyle. 

In lines 33-43, Ulysses introduces his son Telemachus, describing him in more effeminate, less adventurous terms. In fact, Ulysses suggests that while he is the quintessential warrior, it is Telemachus who would not only feel more at home as a king/administrator; Telemachus would be quite successful at it. 

Ulysses concludes, in line 43, by noting this contrast between himself and his son. "He works his work, I mine." Ulysses is the adventurer and Telemachus is the more passive shepherd/king. Because of their personalities, Ulysses believes that he is more suited for adventure (even in old age) and Telemachus is more suited to be a king. 




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