Condemned to travel over the open ocean even in winter, deprived of the shelter of a permanent home, the exile in "The Wanderer" is at the mercy of the elements. Images of winter weather emphasize the contrast between the exile's earlier life (in the warm and friendly mead-hall) and the one he now puts up with. By the end of the poem, the winter storms have become evil forces that "attack" people and buildings alike. This depiction, combined with the poem's use of the traditional Old English "beasts of battle" motif, in which scavenging animals feast on the casualties of war, makes the natural world into a destructive force capable of destroying man and his creations. Man is powerless before it, kind of like he's powerless before fate. In fact, the natural world in "The Wanderer" could almost be a stand-in for fate, an extended metaphor for the way it works in people's lives.
Questions About Man and the Natural World
In what forms does the natural world appear in the poem?
What is the speaker's relationship with the natural world like? How does he feel about it?
What's the weather like in this poem? How does the description of the weather affect our understanding of other ideas in the poem, like fate or the speaker's mood?
What poetic techniques does the poem use to make the natural world appear menacing and ominous?
Chew on This
In "The Wanderer," both fate and the natural world are shown to be menacing forces outside of humans' control.
The weather in "The Wanderer" shares features of the speaker's mental state.