Homer's Odyssey

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Homer's Odyssey

On a ten-year voyage across cold and choppy seas with nothing but the bitter wind at one’s back, physical strength is a necessity. The chances of successfully trekking home with weak limbs are not great. In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus is the epitome of power. His brawny physique undoubtedly grants him the strength to swim, climb, run and even kill his way back to his wife. But Odysseus cannot return home on physical force alone, as many of the obstacles he faces are mental. Perhaps the greatest of these obstacles is temptation. The "battle-weary" man’s odyssey is brimming with temptations of the mind, body and soul that he must not only grow out of, but conquer, in order to return home and stake his glory.

The first blatant example of temptation in Odysseus’ journey happens on the island of the Lotus-eaters. The delicious but devious fruit of the lotus, he and his men discover, has the power to muddle one’s memory so that he forgets about home. While some of the men succumb to the fruit, Odysseus demonstrates remarkable self-control. This is in stark contrast to the way he handles himself in other tempting situations along the voyage. In this scene, though, Odysseus does not forget his longing for home and that is why his reaction to this temptation is interesting. It immediately shows us that he does possess self-control and has a goal he is eager to reach. It suggests that the willpower he lacks later in the poem is, in fact, always inside of him. It is not something he needs to learn, but something he needs to improve upon and make a permanent part of his identity instead of a fleeting one. This scene proves that Odysseus has the power to be confronted by something alluring and not be taken in by it.

Nonp...

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...e voyage, the cunning fighter is not hasty at the end of the poem. Disguised as an old beggar, he could have revealed his true identity much earlier than he does. Instead, he waits for the right moment to strike. The suitors test his patience and perhaps his temper seethes within, but he does not make his fury known until the perfect moment. When the time comes to strike, he combines the cunning he has had all along with a newfound sense of control.

The belief that what does not kill someone can only make them stronger is especially true in Odysseus’ case. His journey is peppered with temptations that collectively build up his will. Some of them temporarily distract him, while others are meant to seal his doom. And even though he falls down, makes mistakes, and tests the limits along the way, his courage and his yearning for home lead to his ultimate enlightenment.
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