Ulysses: two roles of masculinity

            In “Ulysses” by Tennyson we examine two different male roles through the father and the son. The father's role is an adventurer, explorer and fighter. This is a common role for Victorian men because they were charged with the responsibility to explore colonies and claim land for the glory of the empire. The father craves "to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths/ of all the western starts, until [he] die[s]" (Tennyson 60-61). Socially this is an accepted male duty and role. This role is contrasted with the role of the son. The son's role in "Ulysses" is to stay at home and rule the land. There is a lot of tension about the son's duty because it could be interpreted as a feminine role. The son must "through soft degrees/ subdue [the people] to the useful and the good" (Tennyson 37-38). Men are traditionally supposed to be hard, not fulfilling the "offices of tenderness" (Tennyson 41). It is also a very domestic and feminine role to stay at home and take care of things while the father, or man, goes off to gather glory and riches. However, socially ruling is an acceptable role for a man. Queen Victoria claimed that in order to be a good women--to be "feminine and amiable and domestic"--women were "not fitted to reign" (Victorian Era LII). Therefore, she let her husband, Albert, rule the country for the short time he was alive. She was very submissive to his will and opinion and more took upon herself the domestic mother role (Victorian Era LII). Therefore, this tension built in "Ulysses" starts to expand our view of the male roles that are socially acceptable.   

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