In modern western society we are a people taught from very young that good manners and strong morality are necessity. The idea that the good will prosper and the bad will get what they deserve is widely accepted and applauded. However, these ideas about the social rules of “modern civil man” are not so novel. This same system of social behavior and belief is exhibited throughout the epic poem, The Odyssey. In this epic we find the roots of our contemporary social actions and convictions importantly displayed.
All through this epic there are many examples to distinguish those civilized, who abided by social customs, and those who did not. One of the primary forms of manner, during this period, was the customary practice of the civilized to invite a guest to feast without prior inquiry into his errand. We encounter this social rule early upon the first meeting of Telemachos and his mother’s suitors during a feast at the home. An unidentified guest arrives and is ignored by the suitors. However, the mannered Telemachos promptly invites the guest in to join them in feasting; he is annoyed that their guest was made to wait and also embarrassed by and apologizes for the suitor’s crude behavior. This same practice repeats itself throughout the poem and is yet again contrasted when Odysseus and some of his crew arrive at the island of the Cyclops. The men allow themselves into an unattended cave whose owner is the Cyclops, Polyphemus. Upon the uncivilized Cyclops’ arrival home he eats some of the men and traps the remainder. Clearly, the social intuition of manners plays such a strong silent role. As Horace Mann said “Manners easily and rapidly mature into m…
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…ood, and idea that good always triumphs over evil. We can easily witness the roots of present rules of society budding during this time period. Such reflection and insight allows us to connect in a way, we maybe normally would not have, with one of our modern culture’s leaders in morality and manners.
Dimock, George E. The Unity of the Odyssey. The University Of Massachusetts Press: Amherst, 1989.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretation Homer’s The Odyssey. Chelsea House Publishers: New York, 1988.
Lawall, Sarah, ed. “The Odyssey.” Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. W.W. Norton
Free Catch-22 Essays: Insanity
Insanity in Catch 22
In all of history, no war seems to have touched the minds of people everywhere as much as World War II. This war brought about some of the worst violations of human rights ever seen. The German military created a system for the public to follow, and if the individual opposed, he was oppressed. This kind of mentality is presented in the novel, Catch-22 (1955). Joseph Heller uses the insane situations of the setting and his characters to show a unique perspective on World War II.
A small Army Air Corps base serves as the setting for Catch-22. It is set on a fictitious island called Pianosa. The island is described as very small and is located in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Elba, Italy. It is set in the time of World War II. The island almost serves as a microcosm of the war taking place around it. This setting accommodates nearly all of the hardships being faced by the victims of WWII. The Air Corps dominates this island and its soldier inhabitants. A system is established and it must be obeyed by all the soldiers. This system is kepy alive through a “catch-22”.
Basically the catch-22 is a trap set up by the military bureaucracy to keep all of the soldiers flying in battle. It is best summed up in a piece of dialogue from the novel. It is shared between the main character, Yossarian, and the base’s doctor, Daneeka: “Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. ‘Is Orr crazy?’ ‘He sure is,’ Doc Daneeka said. ‘Can you ground him?’ ‘I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That’s part of the rule.’ ‘Then why doesn’t he ask you to?’ ‘Because he’s crazy,’ Doc Daneeka said. ‘He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he’s had. Sure I can ground him. But first he has to ask me to.’ ‘And then you can ground him?’ Yossarian asked. ‘No. Then I can’t ground him.’ ‘You mean there’s a catch?’ ‘Sure there’s a catch,’ Doc Daneeka replied. ‘Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.’ “( Heller, 46)
This bureaucratic trap is accepted by most of the naive soldiers. This is why the military is able to make the soldiers do whatever they want them to do.