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Winter Weather

Symbol Analysis

The exile in "The Wanderer" is forced to travel alone over the stormy sea. Without the protection of a permanent home, he is constantly buffeted by cold winter weather. What starts out as just one more discomfort the exile endures becomes, by the end of the poem, a malevolent force. Like fate, the wintry weather is something uncontrollable that the earth and its inhabitants just have to put up with. Winter weather is something that both exile and the abandoned building in the second half of the poem endure, which makes us reflect on the other things these two might have in common.

  • Lines 3-4: The speaker uses a metaphor of the "lone-dweller" stirring the "rime-cold" (frost-cold) sea with his hands, to convey the idea that he is rowing a boat. This metaphor emphasizes how much the exile is at the mercy of the elements, since it's like he's a body being tossed about on the cold waves without even a boat to protect him.
  • Line 24: The earth-stepper describes himself as "mad and desolate as winter" in a simile that shows the way his mood is matched by the wintry weather through which he travels.
  • Lines 46-49: The earth-stepper uses vivid imagery to describe the winter landscape to which the exile awakens after dreaming of being back in the mead-hall. The vividness of this description really makes us aware of the contrast between the happy, warm mead-hall and the cold, dark place in which the exile now finds himself.
  • Lines 65-66: Using synecdoche, the earth-stepper explains that no one can be wise until he's had "his share of winters in the world," that is, until he's old. This synecdoche connects the exile to the wise elderly person, since both of them experience a whole lot of winter.
  • Lines 76-78: The speaker compares the desolation of the world to an abandoned building that endures frost and winter storms. This description of the abandoned building links it to the exile, who is similarly at the mercy of the elements.
  • Lines 102-106: The speaker uses personification when he describes winter weather "attacking" the abandoned building "in anger toward men." Now, the winter weather has become a malevolent force like the one that slaughtered the exile's kinsmen.

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