They sit, entranced in the magic of his words. He pauses. On the edge of their seats, they await in silence his next utterance. The one spoken of is not a bard or man refined in the art of song, but rather a warrior scarred and hardened through intense conflict. He has a special mastery of the spoken language that enraptures his audience and a gift that endows him to command and persuade them without physical force. This man is a manipulator of words, a subtle combatant. The proverbial "He" represents Odysseus in Homer's epic adventure The Odyssey. Youthful Athenian men gained wisdom and admonitions about the machination of words by studying Odysseus's shrewd intellect, and in contrast the use of persuasion by Eurylochus whose ignorance brought about the demise of their comrades.
The art of manipulation is vital to the survival and prosperity of men and women throughout The Odyssey. Odysseus exemplifies this distinctive quality, learning through his adventures how to better meet his needs through cleverly chosen words rather than vehement combat. Odysseus first reveals this gift of the gods, when he used trivial flattery and an appearance of humble supplication in approaching the Princess Nausicaa on the isle of the Phaecians. "At [her] knees," he comes before Princess Nausicaa cleverly appealing to her with questioning disbelief of whether she was "some goddess or a mortal woman." He then proceeds to draw upon her desire to wed with words that left questioning his own marital status, and sounded as though he were envious of the "most blessed among [the Phaecians] who with his wedding gifts would win [her]," the awe inspiring Nausicaa (89). At this moment in his life, Odysseu...
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...e, the ability to manipulate words for the means of persuasion do not always have positive results. In the hands of the ignorant and irrational, persuasion becomes an evil that plagues all those who come in contact with and conform to it, but when used by the knowledgeable and thoughtful, manipulation can provide for the betterment of a society, such as the peace that ensues Odysseus's vengeance when Athena persuades them to stop the futility. Homer teaches young Athenians to be aware of the dangers of manipulation, rhetoric, and persuasion, but he also shows that a man who can do such effectively is deemed a leader, and that those who cannot are mere followers.
Works Cited and Consulted
Crane, Gregory. Calypso: Backgrounds and Conventions of the Odyssey, Frankfurt, Athenaeum 1988
Homer. The Odyssey. trans. Robert Fagles. Penguin Books. New York. 1996.
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