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Symbol Analysis

Every time the character of Ulysses (protagonist of Homer's Odyssey) comes up in modernist literature, he's pretty much always a stand-in for a heroic man trying to find his way toward some symbolic "home" or loyal wife. And in Pound's poem, he means the same thing.

Ulysses busts onto the scene in lines 9-12, where Pound uses the symbol of the Sirens to show how Ulysses (or Hugh Selwyn Mauberley) was really tempted to stray from his life's mission and to pursue superficial stuff instead of true beauty. That's why Mauberley spent a whole year on "chopped seas," not really knowing what he wanted or where he was going.
Next, Pound makes a comparison to Ulysses' loyal wife, Penelope. Then he compares Penelope to Flaubert, which means that the French writer Flaubert was the true mark of unchanging beauty for Hugh Mauberley. All of this basically goes to say that Pound thinks of Mauberley as a modern-day journeyman, someone searching for beauty in a world that'll do everything it can to stop him from succeeding.

Jeez, Ezra. Don't start having any delusions of grandeur or anything like that.

  • Lines 9-12: Pound talks about the story of Ulysses trying to resist the temptations of the "Siren song," which can show the superficial distractions that threaten to take Hugh Mauberley off-course in his quest for beauty.
  • Lines 13-15: Penelope, Ulysses' loyal wife, appears on the scene. Pound compares her to the French writer Gustave Flaubert, implying that the true beauty guiding Mauberley's modern journey is the beauty of great literature. Pound also mentions the sorceress Circe, another character in the Odyssey, as another symbol for the temptations and lies Mauberley has to deal with.

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