The Wanderer Questions and Answers

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In what ways is the wanderer someone with whom you can sympathize from the poem "The Wanderer"?

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Dolly Doyle eNotes educator | Certified Educator


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The wanderer is sympathetic because his situation is one most humans would not want to find themselves in. His exile bereaves him of his family, friends, and society. His isolation is both social and physical: he has no people and no home, and he is lost in an unforgiving wilderness where the chances of dying of exposure are likely.

Another element which makes the wanderer sympathetic is his courage in the face of exile. He bitterly mourns everything he has lost; however, he knows complaining will not alleviate this pain: "The weary cannot control fate/Nor do bitter thoughts settle things." The wanderer takes a Stoic sort of comfort in the knowledge that all things in the physical world must eventually die, that every day the world "falls to dust." His pain, while great, is not unique. While there is no optimism in this thinking, the resignation to the truth makes the wanderer admirable, as does his will to keep on going forward, even if he is only moving toward his inevitable death.

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Wanderer, from the poem named for him, is a sympathetic character for numerous reasons.

The character is presented as a social creature, as actual humans are.  He is without a mead hall (the traditional home of an Anglo-Saxon male), without friends he can talk to and trust, and without a gold lord, without a leader. 

His gold lord died and he has been in exile ever since.  With no central government, power and might ruled in Anglo-Saxon England.  If one mead hall conquered another mead hall, the conquered usually fled and went into exile.  His words create an elegy about the past he misses and will never replace.

Now his existence is spent on the cold sea, in wind and snow.  He misses his old friends so much that his mind sees them in visions, only to disappoint him when the visions disappear. 

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