illustration of a bald, bearded man's face superimposed upon a stormy ocean

The Seafarer

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How is Anglo-Saxon society represented in "The Seafarer"?

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Anglo-Saxon society is represented in "The Seafarer" as one in which status is all-important.

This is not a society in which the community is everything and the individual almost nothing. Individuals are only really valued to the extent that they embody the community's values. If they do this, then they can achieve a great reputation for themselves. If not, then they are liable to be marginalized, ignored, and, in some cases, cast out from society altogether.

As the seafarer embarks upon yet another lonely, isolated voyage, he reflects upon the importance in Anglo-Saxon culture of what he calls "gold-givers"—that is, those who carry out heroic deeds, such as fighting bravely on the field of battle, and, in the process, win fame and renown for themselves and their family name.

Although the seafarer may enjoy his life, it doesn't really exemplify the values of Anglo-Saxon society. For in heading out to sea, there is no chance to make your mark, to achieve glory and fame—all the things that this society values more than anything else.

But at least the seafarer has the consolation of a rich interior life, even if that wouldn't attract much admiration from his fellow Anglo-Saxons back on dry land.

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