Odysseus began his journey after the Battle of Troy and the conclusion of the Trojan War. The moment he and his fleet of twelve ships set sail for Ithaca, they became susceptible to the vagaries of life and must rely on the “winds of chance”-that is, they are no longer in control. This is when Homer’s “stripping down” of Odysseus begins. To start off his journey, he loses seventy-two of his men to the fierce horse-backed Ciconians. Narrowly escaping, they sailed to the Island of the Lotus Eaters. The Lotus Eaters were a people completely ensnared by the power of the lotus flowers that grew on the island, because anyone who ate them was instantly dependent upon them. The flowers represent the power of addiction and illustrate just how difficult it is to break it. After forcibly tying up the men that ate of the flowers, they sailed on. The next challenge Odysseus was faced with was the cave of the Cyclops, Polyphemus the son of Poseidon. It was in the attempt to escape the Cyclops that Odysseus succumbs to his excessive arrogance, or hubris, and taunts the blind Polyphemus. After revealing his true name to the...
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...he reading of this epic poem of Odysseus’ ten-year journey, we also gain a keen insight into ancient Greek society, and the social expectations one might encounter. The Greeks were very hospitable and very welcoming, even to foreign outsiders. There is also a great presence of both aristocracy and patriarchy in action appearing in this tale, both key aspects of ancient Greek society.
Odysseus’ return journey was an odyssey of hardship and trial, which he overcame through perseverance and his quick-witted thinking and left him a changed man by the end. He is a symbol of “every man”, that is a victim of the common hardships of life, but he also stands out from the crowd as a favorite of the gods. Penelope and Telemachus also grow and develop throughout the tale, though the Suitors do not. The Odyssey is a tale of self-discovery, characterized through Odysseus’ journey.
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