“Let me hear no smooth talk
of death from you, Odysseus, light of councils.
Better, I say, to break sod as a farm hand
for some poor country man, on iron rations,
than lord it over all the exhausted dead.”
Right before restless Odysseus leaves Circe, she tells him that he must go down into Hades to visit the shade of Teiresias, the blind prophet who advises Odysseus of his homecoming (the Wanderings). He then goes on to meet the shades of the queens and lovers of dead heroes and finally the heroes themselves. In the quotation cited, Odysseus is talking with Achilles, the greatest hero of the Trojan War. Achilles, while alive, was fully cognizant of his choice between a long life spent in obscurity or a short life, filled with glory. He chose the latter.
I suppose Achilles quickly realized after he died that fame has no meaning for you after you’re dead. In retrospect, he understood that death gives meaning, and fills one up with the passion for life. Every action, however mundane, is filled with the miracle of life and completes itself when one interacts with others. This is what Achilles meant when he asks Odysseus about his son and his former kingdom–never mind the dead, what are the living doing? Achilles yearns to be back among the living.
This theme of death giving meaning to life is prevalent throughout the Odyssey. Hell is death, heaven is now, in life, in the field of time and action.
Odysseus nearly died of homesickness (or boredom) when Kalypso detained him on her island, hoping to make him her immortal husband. Odysseus knew if he drank that ambrosia, life would be eternal, you’d have a beautiful house and a babe for a wife, but things would get terribly vapid after a certain point. Immortality is death, in this sense. Finally, it is Athena (thought, action) who convinces the gods (who are, I think, jealous of us mortals) to let Odysseus off the island and back into his life. It is interesting to note that even Hermes couldn’t wait to get off Kalypso’s island–“who would willingly come here? There is no city of men nearby. . . . .
Ultimately, Odysseus’ journey to Ithaka is about embracing one’s life, accepting the challenges, the dangers, pitfalls, and joys, with courage, tenacity and a keen sense of what it takes to maintain balance in one’s life.
Ismene And Haimon of Sophocles’ Antigone
Antigone Ismene And Haimon
Antigone, the character, is a tragic hero because we care about her. Ismene and Haimon help us care about Antigone by making her feel worthy of loving. And with out this her plan to bury her brother seems irrelevant to the reader because we can care less about her. Ismene, although weak and timid, is in the story to illustrate that Antigone is capable of being loved. “We are only women, We cannot fight with men, Antigone” (Sophocles 881). Another reason Ismene is incorporated to Antigone is to show exactly strong-willed Antigone is. Haimon is there to show that Antigone has a life and a future outside her purpose. What else Haimon brings to the story is he makes Creon look like a fool, but more importantly he validates Antigones cause. So without Antigone having to live for she would have nothing to lose, therefore, her death would not be tragic.
The prologue juxtaposes the differences in character between Antigone and Ismene. Ismene works of what is sensible, while Antigone uses more emotion. “Antigone: He is my brother. And he is your brother, too. (Talking about burying Polyneices). Ismene: But think of the danger! Think what Creon will do” (Sophocles 881). In this part of the play we really see how strong Antigone is by witnessing just how feeble Ismene is. “Another example of this is when Antigone is talking to Ismene saying she is going to bury Polyneices no matter what. Ismene replies that you can’t. Antigone then says well I will until my strength gives out” (Sophocles 882). Not only is Ismene weak but it she is also a law a biding citizen. In scene two Ismene shows the viewers that she is still weak, but also that Antigone is a hero because heroes must be loved. And this is where we find that at least one person does. “But how could I go on living without her” (Sophocles 892)? Here the viewer also finds out that Ismene has good intention toward her sister, its just hard for her to show them. Likewise in the beginning of scene three Haimon will not do anything to hurt his father Creon. “I am your son, father. You are my guide. You make things clear for me, and I obey you” (Sophocles 893). This quickly changes though. Haimon now is fed up with all the bad talk about Antigone and is also in a way speaking for the people.