Free Essays: The Many Challenges of Homer's Odyssey

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The Many Challenges of Homer's Odyssey


In The Odyssey, Odysseus had to face many challenges during his travels; a few

of these difficulties were a cannibalistic Cyclops, huge whirlpools, determined

suitors, along with many hardships.  Odysseus fought constantly to return to his

homeland of Ithaca, but to accomplish this Odysseus had to be clever,

resourceful, and have great leadership qualities.


Odysseus proved throughout the

story that he was very clever.  When he was faced with having to get out of

Polyphemus's cave, Odysseus first told the Cyclops, "My name is Nohbdy: mother,

father, and friends, / everyone calls me Nohbdy". (pg. 452, 341-342)  Odysseus

told him this because he knew if the other Cyclopes would come and ask who was

with him, they would think that "Nohbdy" was there.  In another episode,

Odysseus outsmarted the Sirens; he wanted to listen to their sweet song, but he

knew he would try to jump overboard.  It was then he got the notion to tell his

crew, " are to tie me up,  tight as a splint, / erect along the mast,

lashed to the mast, / and if I shout and beg to be untied, / take more turns of

rope to muffle me." (pg. 459, 536-539)  This and telling the crew members to put

wax in their ears ensured that Odysseus, alone, could listen to the Sirens' song

and not die. 


When Odysseus had to figure out how he could kill the Suitors who

were staying in his house, he had Athena disguise him as an old beggar and then

told  Telemachus, his son, to hide all of the Suitors' weapons and armor. If

they asked Telemachus what he was doing, he was to tell them he was storing the

weapons so that none of the suitors would kill each other if they got into a

fight. Many times throughout the story, Odysseus had to be resourceful enough to

accomplish a task by using surrounding things, whatever was at hand.  When he

was drifting back towards Charybdis,  Odysseus grabbed onto a nearby fig tree

and held on until a piece of driftwood shot out of the whirlpool; then he

grabbed a hold of the driftwood and soared to safety. 


In order to escape from

the Cyclops's cave, Odysseus wanted to blind the Cyclops.

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To do this, he carved

a large stave which he planned to use against the Cyclops  and poke his eye out.

But in order to keep this stave a secret from Polyphemus, he had to hide it in a

place where Polyphemus would not suspect. It is here he hid it,  "...under / one

of the dung piles in profusion there." (pg. 451, 303-304)  To make this stave,

Odysseus first had to find a tree which he could cut down,  " olive tree,

felled green and left to season..." (pg. 451, 293)  Odysseus also had to find a

way to prevent the suitor from knowing that he was back,  so he prayed to Athena

to disguise him as a beggar.


Odysseus had to be a good leader in order to make

tough decisions about what he and his crew should do.  When passing through the

strait between Scylla and Charybdis, Odysseus chose to lose six men to Scylla

instead of risking losing the entire ship to Charybdis.  Upon the Island of the

Lotus Eaters, Odysseus had to get the men who had eaten the Lotus off the island.

"I drove them, all three wailing, to the ships, / tied them under their rowing

benches,..." (pg. 445, 97-98)  On the island of the sun god, Helios,  Odysseus

warned his men not to kill the cattle  which belonged to the god; but,

unfortunately, his men disobeyed him and slaughtered the cattle, which they

feasted upon. 


Zeus later punished his men with death.  Trapped inside of

Polyphemus' cave, Odysseus knew he had to be a good leader if he was to get

himself and  his men out of the cave. Originally he was going to kill Polyphemus

when he ate two of Odysseus's men; but when Odysseus was about to stab him, he

realized that he should not kill him, because "I had touched the spot / when

sudden fear stayed me: if I killed him / we perished there as well, for we could

never / move his ponderous doorway slab aside." (pg. 450-451, 273-276) During

his adventure Odysseus proved that he was smart, and able to deal with adversity

skillfully. He proved an able leader despite all the troubles that he

encountered on his adventure. 


In the end,  Odysseus proved he could surmount

the challenges which might have prevented him from getting home.

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