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Themes

"The Wanderer" describes in great detail the thoughts and emotions of a person forced to travel far from his homeland alone. Having lost his kinsmen and lord in war, the speaker now travels far and wide in search of a new lord, the only person who can provide the shelter, protection, and monetary support he needs to survive. The sadness of the exile is even more unbearable because he has no one with whom he can share it, being totally alone. The language the speaker uses to describe exile itself, referring to it as the "paths of exile" and "exile-tracks," conveys an idea of exile as a well-established path that many others before him have tread. The exile's experience – of having and then losing life's joys – makes him better suited than most to understand the transience, or fleetingness, of all of creation.

Questions About Exile

  1. What circumstances have forced the speaker in "The Wanderer" to go into exile?
  2. What is the exile's life like? What does he see and hear?
  3. What emotions accompany exile?
  4. Does the exile draw any lessons from his experience? If so, what are they?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"The Wanderer" suggests that exiles and the elderly are particularly well-suited to understand the transience of existence.

"The Wanderer" suggests that exile is a well-established path that many others before the speaker have taken.

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