The Wanderer: An Analysis
The Wanderer is a 10th century Old English poem. It consists of 115 alliterative lines, where two persons speak – the wanderer and the author. The writer is anonymous, as what mostly Anglo-Saxon poems are, and it really had no title at first. It was only preserved in an anthology, the Exeter Book, with the original manuscript nowhere to be found. It is mostly a monologue of the wanderer. The author only gave a short introduction and a final conclusion of the wanderer’s realizations. If we are going to analyse it, it is evident that the wanderer speaks in three fragments, which are distinct and separate to each other. The first is that of the man’s lamentations of what happened to him, the second is that of his realizations on how the world got so cruel and inhumane, and third is his acceptance of the present circumstances and understanding that life should go on even after all these unfortunate events that happened in his life.
The first part, which is the dwelling of the man on past circumstances which led him into exile, deals with his longing to bring back the days when everything seems so joyful and bright. He remembers the days of his youth where he celebrated life together with his family, his comrades, his king, and his hometown. He speaks of how thankful he is for everything that the king has given to him. The latter’s generosity gave him even more than enough will to continue living a life full of happiness and joy. Furthermore, he remembers the fun and amusement he felt when he was with his friends. He reminisces those times when all they ever felt was happiness and contentment. However, along with these joyous memories, he also felt the pain of loneliness and isolation. He yearned for care, love, and all the other things he had back in the days when they were still all together. He felt so much sadness upon realizing that no matter how much he prayed, things will never go back the way they were.
Relatively, on the second part of the poem, the man became more depressed and troubled. The depression came ruminating in all parts of his mind and soul. He described such feeling of devastation as somehow comparable to death and inexistence. It was somehow similar to feeling nothing at all. With so much loneliness and isolation, he felt like there is no point in continuing life. He literally thought that no one was ever there to spend the rest of his life with, which is technically true since he lost everyone in the battle. He felt emotionally damaged and fragmented as if there is no more reason to live. He started questioning his faith and the existence of a Creator. He had so much mixed feelings that he did not know what to feel anymore.
Nevertheless, he was able to overcome such feelings that the isolation brought. In the last parts of the poem, he spoke of his reflections toward life. Slowly, he began accepting his destiny and fate. He started getting out of the isolated shell to discover brighter futures. He strayed away from the negative emotions he was feeling in order for him to survive. I guess because that is one of man’s basic instinct – to survive. His realizations of what happened to him and to the world became his foundation to build a stronger faith in God. While he desired for the past to happen at least one more time, he also realized that this could not bring back the life of his friends, his king, and his family. He finally went under the last stage of grievance, which is acceptance. His complicated mind became once more clear and enlightened.
A number of scholars have their own interpretation of the poem. Some have their literal interpretations, while others believed in its figurative construction. Most of them said that it actually explains the sense of loss. Others, especially optimists, preferred to understand it as a manner of overcoming such loss. Whichever it may be, it is important to know that anyone can interpret the poem the way they understand it. So to speak, in my opinion, The Wanderer seems to be analogous to the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. First, the wanderer’s lamentations symbolizes denial, for he cannot accept the fact that everyone is gone. Second, his anger was represented in so many ways such as when he started questioning what has happened to the world. Third, while no bargaining was mentioned in the poem, the representation of such could be similar to that instance when he questioned the Creator. Fourth, depression was entirely exhibited through the number of negative emotions used. Lastly, acceptance is when he realized that no matter how much life may be cruel, you just have to accept things and move on, and look forward into a brighter future. These five stages were clearly evident from the beginning until the end and they clearly showed what the wanderer really felt at that time when his realizations were made.
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