Essay on Homer's Odyssey: Exploring Our Social Roots

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The Odyssey: Exploring Our Social Roots

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.

Works Citied

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 & Company, Inc.: New York, London, 1999. 209-514

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