Free Essays: Symbols in Homer's Odyssey

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The Symbolism of Homer's Odyssey Throughout Homer's The Odyssey, many tangible symbols are used to represent abstract ideas. Each symbol that Homer uses has two meanings. The double meanings of these symbols are used to represent Odysseus and Telemachus as they strive to meet each other. While each symbol has a meaning that represents the growth of Telemachus, each one also represents, by another meaning, the growth and development of Odysseus. When they meet for the first time, the symbols, and the character traits that they represent confluence, and the resemblance between Odysseus and Telemachus becomes complete. One of the main ideas running throughout the Odyssey is the importance of water. It has the power of giving life and quick, safe travel, but it also has the potential to drown you. Water can be considered a paradox in and of itself. While it is good and usually life giving, it also demonstrates how too much of a good thing can bring harm. It brings much harm to Odysseus as he is traveling to Phaeacia, "At Zeus' command the whole sky is heavy with clouds, the sea is seething, squalls from every corner hurtle together. There is nothing now for me but certain death." Everything needs water to live, however Odysseus speaks of water as an agent of death. Water that brings death by excess represents Odysseus, for he is the one that has to suffer all these years, and he is the one that nearly drowns. Odysseus also learns how too much of a good thing, such as wealth or gold, can seriously harm a man. He especially experiences this when he sacks Troy, and gets carried away, angering the gods. Henceforth, it is fitting that the excessive side of water represent Odysseus. Life that is brought by water, the water that satisfies souls is the type that represents Telemachus. He is not excessive, and has been in fact humbled by the suitors in their years there. Further, Telemachus has never seen any trouble with the water or the sea, "...sent a following wind through the clear sky to speed them from astern, so that their ship might most speedily complete their journey across the salt sea." The water never hurts Telemachus and always helps him. Telemachus does not get the chance, as his father did, to Perish from his own excesses. Telemachus also has a pure mind and body which is what water embodies.

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