How does the wife in "The Wife's Lament" describe herself as a friendless wanderer longing for her beloved lord, whereas the wanderer is bereft of his homeland and laments for his love of his lord in battle in "The Wanderer"?

Both "The Wife's Lament" and "The Wanderer" portray two characters who have lost their previous social identities by being banished from their former lives and losing the presence of the people who granted them their former social roles.

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The difference between the nature of the lamentations of the wife and the wanderer in the two Anglo-Saxon poems "The Wife's Lament" and "The Wanderer" illustrates the gender roles of medieval Anglo-Saxon society. In both of these poems, the speaker is experiencing an exile both physically and spiritually. The wife is separated from her husband. The wanderer is separated from his lord and fellow thanes. Both of these characters built their identities around their relationships with their lost loved ones. Without them, they feel lost.

The wife is banished due to her husband's kinsmen opposing their union. She lives alone in a grove waiting for her lord to return from a distant land. The reason for the husband's exile is ambiguous; it is unclear whether or not he has been banished himself or if his journey was undertaken willingly. Regardless, without her husband, the wife has no proper place among his people and lacks what she perceives as her purpose in life: to be by his side. Her despair is most keenly felt in the lines,

Keeping cheery, we vowed quite often
that none but death could separate us.
How soon that changed...

The wanderer is also alone because his kinsmen and lord are dead. Before his exile, he gleaned meaning from his relationships with the other men in the mead hall. Unlike the wife, his meaning comes from homosocial bonds, not marriage. However, like the wife, he is now friendless, alone, and mourning for the sense of identity he has lost now that his community is no more.

In both poems, the past is a source of pain more than solace. The speakers are reminded by the happiness of their past situations of how miserable and lonely they are currently.

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