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Destiny, Fate and Free Will in Homer’s Odyssey – Guidance and Loyalty

Guidance, Fate, and Loyalty in The Odyssey

The Odyssey is an epic poem about a journey. After the Trojan War is won Odysseus leaves Troy for his home in Ithaca. However, the gods decide to test his courage and resolve and send him on a twenty-year odyssey. Odysseus’ courage is constantly tested as he struggles with the many obstacles the gods place before him. Although Homer depicted The Odyssey as a self-reliant journey, in reality the gods and other mortals guide Odysseus. It is his loyalty to and his love for his family that keeps him going. The Odyssey depicts Odysseus as he overcomes each obstacle through guidance, fate, and loyalty to his family.

To Odysseus loyalty is the most important quality. He expects his family and friends to be loyal. He especially expects loyalty from his wife Penelope. Odysseus talks to Penelope disguised as an old man, “and as the snow melts on the lofty mountains, when Eurus melts what Zephryrus has scattered, and at its melting flowing rivers fill; so did her fair cheeks melt with flowing tears, as she bewailed the husband who was seated by her side” (187). Odysseus doesn’t reveal himself even though he pities his sobbing wife because he knows she wouldn’t be able to conceal her love for him in front of all her suitors. This touch of dramatic irony helps the reader sympathize with the struggles of Odysseus’ wife.

Odysseus demonstrates his loyal to Penelope during his stay with the Phaeacians. Even with Nausicaa by Odysseus’ side because she likes him, he still stays loyal to Penelope. As the Phaeacian woman watch Odysseus as he starts to bathe he says, “Women, stand here aside, while by myself I wash the salt from off my back…

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… in the sunlight he is. Odysseus is guided by the Phaeacians as he sleeps and due to his sleep misses important elements. Since Odysseus is asleep a sense of dramatic irony is shown because the reader knows something that the Odysseus doesn’t.

Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey tells the tales of Odysseus, a man who has an epic journey through life. He overcomes the struggles and conflicts of life through three main elements: loyalty to and from his family, fate, and guidance. Loyalty to his family and from his family helps him long to make it home. The gods determine his fate and by overcoming the struggles and conflicts of life he is able to fulfill his fate. Lastly guidance by the immortals and mortals helped Odysseus eventually make it home to Ithaca. Odysseus’ tale is one that covers only a portion of his life, but seems like a lifetime.

herody The Imperfect Hero of Homer’s Odyssey

The Imperfect Hero of The Odyssey

In literature, a bold character or hero is often the principle character. In the epic poem The Odyssey there are many immortals, but only one hero, Odysseus. The differences between the immortals and the hero are few. The god-like Odysseus is plagued with the human weaknesses of pettiness, self-doubt, and dependence on the pity of others.

Odysseus reveals his pettiness when he amuses himself with humorous guile. Odysseus not only uses his cunning at the expense of his enemies, but he also uses his cunning and guile as a way of entertaining himself. After Odysseus tells the Cyclops his name is “Noman,” Odysseus stabs Polyphemus in the eye and Polyphemus cries for help saying, “Friends, Noman is murdering me be craft” (87). Odysseus’ power over his enemy is once again confirmed by his wit more than by his physical force. Although Odysseus is a wise man, this wit is only useful in the short picture. After he and his men get away from Polyphemus, Polyphemus’ father, Poseidon, causes the mortal men trouble. To avoid such trouble, Odysseus could have choose not to amuse himself.

Odysseus often loses sight of the greater vision, which is returning to his family. Odysseus risks his return by a moment of testosterone-driven pettiness. The moment comes when Odysseus challenges Irus by saying, “…do not challenge me too far with show of fists, or you may rouse my rage; and old as I am, I still might stain your beast and lips with blood” (174). When the beggar/Odysseus fights and wins against Irus it is a miracle that no one became suspicious of Odysseus. The suitors were shocked that an old beggar, as Odysseus appeared to be, would be that strong. If anyone put two and two together then Od…

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…One thing that can be learned from Odysseus is: no matter how good one is, one is still a human; and part of being a human is to learn to overcome one’s flaws

Works Cited and Consulted

Griffin, Jasper, Homer: The Odyssey Cambridge UP 1987

Heubeck, Alfred, J.B. Hainsworth, et al. A commentary on Homer’s Odyssey. 3 Vols. Oxford PA4167 .H4813 1988

Jones, Peter V. Homer’s Odyssey : a companion to the translation of Richmond Lattimore.

Carbondale, IL : Southern Illinois University Press, c1988. PA4167 .J66 1988

Murnaghan, Sheila, Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey, Princeton UP 1987

Peradotto, John , Man in the Middle Voice: Name and Narration in the Odyssey, Princeton UP 1990

Stanford, William Bedell. Homer’s Odyssey. 2 Vols. Macmillan

Thalmann, William G., The Odyssey : an epic of return. New York : Twayne Publishers. PA4167 .T45 1992

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