The Wanderer begins with the story of a man traveling at sea and asking the Lord for compassion and understanding for his journey of exile. The life of sea has become the fate for this man after a long series of misfortunes. The poem brings up the hardships that the man has faced during his lifetime, including the fact that he had to watch his kinsmen ruined and slaughtered. The man reminds himself that these things are what he will be thinking about during his isolated journey through the seas. The Wanderer cannot share these things with any living man because he believes that his dignity requires him to keep these emotions to himself. Even so, he concedes that even an ambitious man, although able to conceal his sorrowful heart, cannot escape its reality. He is sure that this is a fate he has to live with for the rest of his life.
Returning to his example, the Wanderer narrates how his kind lord had died of old age and he subsequently became unemployed. He was exiled from his country and left in the heart of winter in search of a new lord. The Wanderer was friendless and desired to serve in a new mead hall, but efforts were fruitless. The Wanderer speaks to length regarding the loneliness he felt during his exile, drawing parallels to readers who have experienced exile before. The Wanderer remembered the joys he experienced in service to his lord, including the treasures he received as well as the good graces of his employer. With his employer’s death, these benefits had now disappeared. During his sleep, the wanderer dreams of his happier days when he had his lord with him but when he is awake, reality hits him – he is only surrounded by darkness, frost, snow and tempest. His sorrow is acute considering his dreams always remind him of happier days and he has no kinsmen to go to when he gets off the ship.
In the course of his thinking, the Wanderer considers how lords are often forced out of their kingdoms and their halls. He reasons that such incidents are surely more severe compared with his experience. Nevertheless, the Wanderer observes the fleeting and fluctuating nature of the world and concludes that these experiences are what make men wise, whether they are good or bad. The Wanderer therefore lists some lessons that he had learned from his experiences. In this essay, a review of this lessons is provided using examples from real-life.
Lessons learned from the Wanderer
Perhaps one of the most critical lessons that are learned from “The Wanderer” is the impact of one’s life experiences on their perspectives of self and the world. Although the Wanderer experienced a number of hardships during this time in his life, the challenge was maintaining the right attitude that would eventually lead to higher knowledge. In the Wanderer’s example, his natural estate following the demise of his lord was one of loneliness. Even so, a movement towards connecting with others and seeking social support during this distressful time could become a huge aid in overcoming his woes. In the poem, the wanderer appears to be looking for answers. Since his lord’s death, it appears that the wanderer had lost his sense of purpose and banished himself. Applying to one’s own life, there are events that one experiences that leave lasting impressions on one’s view of life. In fact, some events are so consequential that they could be considered as a “before” and “after” moment. Due to the journey through life, everyone has had such moments and they determine how people look at life and themselves. They could define their place in the world. As such, this story first teaches that things that happen or the choices made over which we have no control could lead to significant role changes for the individual. For instance, one could become a mother, teacher, or addict through no choice of their own. On the other hand, such life changes could also change the groups with which we interact, whether it is a tribal or political group, as well as the social conventions that one follows. This is seen in the life of the wanderer. He describes a happy life, full of goodies when his master was alive. He considered himself to have friends and being full of supply. Now that his master died (event which he had no control over) he finds himself without a roof over his head and with a shift in career, where he knows nobody and feels desperately lonely. The death of his lord was the “before” and “after” moment in his life. Today, these events could include being sent to boarding school, moving from one town to another, working in a foreign country, being diagnosed with a terminal disease, accepting a job offer in a new company among others. It is also possible for these life-changing events to be negative for instance the death of a spouse, a sad childhood experience, becoming a teenage mother or getting a divorce. The lesson from the wanderer is that such experiences could alter one’s perspective of others and themselves.
Another lesson that the wanderer executes in the course of his trials is the importance of a positive attitude in the face of despair and insurmountable challenges. In the case of the wanderer, he begins the poem by asking God for compassion and aid during this time of difficulty. Although the entire poem highlights the pleasures he enjoyed compared with his current suffering, the poem equally closes with a confident statement in God’s ability as well as advice for people finding themselves in similar circumstances. The wanderer reveals that maintaining the right attitude during hard times could lead to higher learning, displayed in his ability to derive some wisdoms from his own experiences. In response to his experience, the wanderer notices the characteristics of a wise man – he considers that a wise man does not possess anxiety or irresoluteness. Additionally, a wise man should not possess braggadocio either. At the end of the poem, the wanderer has traveled through many winters and his prayer has changed from that of needing compassion to needing security in his journey of life. He also exhorts the reader to follow this direction as well. From this experience, it is possible to determine that the positive attitude embraced by the wanderer in the course of his difficult journey was one of the things that enabled him to get on for years. Despite the fact that his predicament at the beginning of the poem looked critical and possibly going to overcome him, positive attitude towards his new-found life empowered the wanderer to continue through his life’s distresses and pursue a fulfilling life after his shift in fortunes. This poem also points to the occurrences in life that could be life-changing, such as the death of the wanderer’s lord in the poem. Such occurrences could serve as life-altering valleys of decision, which cannot be approached lightly. Although the wanderer’s emotions served to remind him of his previous life, his positive attitude enabled him to push through into his new life so that the end of the poem records he had been at sea for many winters. Similarly, it is a positive attitude that enables an individual pass-through losses and negative occurrences in life. For instance, the loss of a loved one could lead to feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety and suicidal thoughts when they are not supplemented by a positive attitude. As the poem suggests, a positive attitude does not indicate that the individual does not miss the object or person they have lost. Instead, they choose to honor their memory by pushing through their circumstance and living a fruitful life nonetheless. The wanderer had lost both his family and his best friend. Additionally, he had lost his home and presumably all he owned and was now subject to becoming a sailor to earn a living for the rest of his life. It was easy for him to become depressed and even commit suicide, as some people do today. Even so, the positive attitude he had – which included an element of believing in a spiritual being guiding him through his predicament – aided his ability to sail through the rough circumstances into relative stability and safety. The value of a positive attitude in times of trouble is thus displayed here.
Lastly, one of the crucial lessons learned through this poem is the importance of support systems during times of crisis. These support systems could vary in nature and present the healthy coping mechanisms that individuals could embrace to overcome negative outcomes after times of crisis. The reason why there are many incidents of suicide and higher rates of depression than ever before embody the concept of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Modern-day coping mechanisms have also included drug and substance abuse, relational abuse and other forms of unhealthy mechanisms. Although solitude is not advisable during times of extreme loss, the wanderer expresses himself through this artistic form, thereby communicating his emotions at this crucial time of distress. Moreover, he keeps himself occupied in a new-found career at sea despite the loss of his job. Although life literally happens to him, he adapts to the new situation and through divine intervention, finds himself on the other side of the storm he was facing. Today, there are multiple coping mechanisms that individuals could adopt to face devastating outcomes in life. These mechanisms are healthy and provide meaningful outlets for negative emotions with no harm to self or others. An individual could join a support group depending on their problem type. Support groups vary depending on the theme and could include support groups for cancer patients and their families. Alternatively, artistic expression could be a meaningful form of communication. For instance, Flannery O’Connor is a well-known writer whose writing career peaked after she lost her father tragically to lupus. Writing the novels provided her with the necessary means to overcome the grief of her father. As the wanderer notes, remaining alone with this thoughts was not going to be a healthy experience. As such, he sought answers to why it happened. His answers came in the form of deriving pearls of wisdom from his experiences – that he should not be anxious, possess braggadocio or become irresolute. Similarly, individuals must be willing to move on from the effects of a bad experience and embrace their life as a gift rather than focus on the losses they endured. Social support systems enable the individual to move beyond the loss and embrace the newness of life presented after the loss.
In conclusion, the life of the wanderer paints a picture for a modern-day audience, as it relates to aspects of loss that could still be encountered today. The poem draws a picture of a man who was at the end of their rope after tragedy befell him. He lost his prestigious job under a powerful yet gracious lord and was soon forced into exile. He watched the slaughter of his family and had a life of solitude ahead of him to endure. Nevertheless, valuable lessons are drawn from this poem including the importance of social support systems, a positive attitude and how these events could shape one’s perception of oneself and the world around them. Based on the poem’s example, this essay recommends that maintaining a positive attitude and embracing social support systems could lead to healthy outcomes even after disaster.