Study Guide

Ulysses Old Age

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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Old Age

In a lot of ways, Ulysses resembles a retiree, someone who's had a long, eventful life and has been forced to hang it up just a bit too soon. Death isn't just stalking him because that's what death does; it's stalking him because he's old! Ulysses spent twenty years away from home, and even if he left home at the age of 25, that would still make him 45. That's like 70 if you're living in 1200 B.C.! And that's one of the reasons why he's in such a hurry to get out of Ithaca; he doesn't want to spend his few remaining years sitting around watching his son take over the family business. He'd rather say his goodbyes now and see what happens.

Questions About Old Age

  1. Do you know any old people that are like Ulysses?
  2. Are you worried about getting older and not being able to do the things you used to?
  3. Is there anything good about getting older?
  4. Ulysses says that "old age hath yet its honour and its toil" (50). In what ways does old age have "honour," and what are some of the responsibilities that come with old age? Is Ulysses trying to escape those responsibilities by leaving Ithaca?

Chew on This

Ulysses says that "old age hath yet its honour and its toil" (50); by his own admission old age has responsibilities and he's trying to get out them. He contradicts himself.

Ulysses is an old man who wants to be young again; he is hopelessly attempting to transgress a boundary that can't be crossed.

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