Odysseus (1054 words) Essay

Outline I. Introduction – In Homer’s The Odyssey the tale of a man’s journey
back home after long years at war is also the tale of a man’s spiritual journey
through his own soul. II. The beginning – Odysseus leaves Troy feeling almost
immortal and this pride is what leads to his downfall and second rise. III. The
middle – Odysseus undergoes his symbolic death and rebirth. IV. The end –
Odysseus has regained power over his household and has restored order to his
life. V. Conclusion In Homer’s The Odyssey, the tale of a man’s journey home
after long years at war, is also the tale of a man’s spiritual journey through
his own soul. Odysseus’ role as an epic hero is modified throughout the epic
poem. As Odysseus leaves Troy for home, he is the typical bloodthirsty warrior.

During the course of his trek, he undergoes a symbolic death and rebirth. Upon
his arrival in Ithaka, the wiser man he has become is evident. The Odyssey is
Odysseus’ story of his journey not only from Troy to Ithaka, but also from
bloodthirsty warrior to epic hero. Odysseus begins the tale of his trip from
Troy to Phaiakia in Book IX. The beginning of his tale displays the bloodthirsty
warrior that left Troy. What of those years of rough adventure, weathered under
Zeus? The wind that carried west from Ilion Brought me to Ismaros, on the far
shore, A strongpoint on the coast of Kikones. I stormed that place and killed
the men who fought. The first lines of Odysseus’ story display his warrior side.

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This passage shows how he and his crew landed and immediately went to battle and
plundered. Although Odysseus recalls telling his men to stop afterwards and
return to the ship, he never really forcibly tried to make the men return. The
lack of effort on Odysseus’ part implies that he did not truly care if the men
ransacked Ilion. Due to this greed and bloodlust, nearly a third of each ship’s
crew was lost. This bloodthirsty warrior cared only for battle and blood,
instead of his men and his return home. After stopping on the island of Aiaia,
the home of Kirke, Odysseus journeys to Hades. This represents a symbolic death
for Odysseus. There he must speak with Teirasias to hear the prophet’s visions
for Odysseus’s journey home. Teirasias predicts that the journey can take two
paths; either a peaceful journey home, or if the crew and Odysseus can not
restrain their desires, death and destruction will befall the crew. Odysseus and
his crew do not heed Teirasias’s warning, and the entire crew save Odysseus is
lost at sea. After nine years on Kalypso’s island Odysseus finally continues his
journey home. The strong god glittering left her as he spoke, And now her
ladyship, having given heed To Zeus’s mandate, went to find Odysseus In his
stone seat to seaward-tear on tear Brimming his eyes. The sweet days of his life
time Were running out in anguish over his exile, For long ago the nymph had
ceased to please. Though he fought shy of her and her desire, He lay with her
each night, for she compelled him. But when day came he sat on the rocky shore
And broke his own heart groaning, with his eyes wet Scanning the bare horizon of
the sea. Odysseus had begun to lose hope of ever getting home. Kalypso
grudgingly gives in to Zeus’ order and aids Odysseus in obtaining wood for a
ship. After nineteen days at sea, he is battered in a vicious storm and washes
up half-unconscious, bloody, and naked in Phaiakia. This episode represents a
symbolic rebirth for Odysseus. His time of incubation on Kalypso’s isle is over
and he emerges naked and bloody – like the day he was born. Once he has landed
on Phaiakia, Odysseus realizes that he can not continue on as a bloodthirsty
warrior, but rather must heed the wisdom passed on to him by those he met in
Hades and change his outlook. It is at this point that Odysseus begins to fully
comprehend the effects his actions have on those around him, as well as on his
future. Only now is he truly ready for his tumultuous return to Ithaka. By the
time Odysseus returns to Ithaka he is no longer the fierce warrior he was when
he left Troy. Instead, he has changed into a man desperate to reclaim his throne
and home. Unlike the bloodthirsty warrior he once was though, Odysseus does not
rush in and fight; instead, he bides his time and gathers assistance. Even
within his own home he does not reveal himself but issues a warning to the
suitors. Of mortal creatures, all that breathe and move, Earth bears none
frailer than mankind. What man Believes in woe to come, so long as valor And
tough knees are supplied him by the gods? But when the gods in bliss bring
miseries on, Then willy-nilly, blindly, he endures. Our minds are as the days
are, dark or bright, Blown over by the father of gods and men. So I, too, in my
time thought to be happy; But far and rash I ventured, counting on My own right
arm, my father, and my kin; Behold me now. No man should flout the law, But keep
in peace what gifts the gods may give. Odysseus’ journey has taught him many
valuable lessons. Through his trials and tribulations he has learned that even
the strongest of men have their hidden weaknesses. He has also learned that a
man is not as strong as he wants to be; a man is as strong as the gods want him
to be. Odysseus tries to warn the suitors that to continue down the path which
they are on is not a wise decision, but no one heeds his warning. Odysseus has
revealed that he now knows the error of his ways, he fully admits to the evil in
being a prideful warrior. Odysseus has proven himself a changed man, thus
becoming a true epic hero. Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey tells the story of a
man who through extreme turmoil realizes his faults and learns to be a more
balanced individual. Through a symbolic death and rebirth, Odysseus has become a
man who is worthy to be called an epic hero. Odysseus has battled his fellow man
and won; he has struggled with monsters and triumphed; he has grappled with
temptation and overcome human desire; but most importantly, he has combated
against the evils of his own soul and prevailed. It is all of these victories
that form Odysseus, the epic hero.

Homer. “The Odyssey.” Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. New York,
New York: Random House, 1990


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