The Odyssey as a Hero Journey Essays

The Odyssey as a Hero Journey Essays

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"All of us have similar experiences. We share in the life journey of
growth, development, and transformation. We live the same stories…the
trappings might be different, the twists and turns that create
suspense might be different from culture to culture, the particular
characters may take different forms, but underneath it all, it's the
same story, drawn from the same experiences"(Linda Seger, Creating
Myth, 1).

All people face trials and tribulations throughout their life. Thus,
what defines one from one's fellow human beings is not the trials
themselves, but how one overcomes the challenges along the journey, as
well as the psychological and physical lessons one learns from the
actions engaged. Heroes, as depicted in literature, often face the
same trials the common man must face, and learn the same lessons, but
their actions, reactions, and events are magnified to mythic
proportions. Thus, the common man and the mythic hero both follow what
Joseph Campbell calls "The Hero's Journey," which is used as a tool to
describe the framework for many of the most famous myths of all time.
While the story of the Journey first manifested itself in the ancient
myths and legends, it is still relevant to contemporary society, the
basis for almost all of the books and plays we read. For example,
J.R.R. Tolkien's, The Hobbit, an epic fantasy adventure in which Bilbo
Baggins, the connection for the reader to the fantastical world the
book takes place in, is called to action and set in motion on his Hero
Journey by Gandalf, a wizard. Another example of a famous myth
following this archetypal framework is The Odyssey. Homer's epic
story, The Odyssey, of the hero Odysseus and his son Telemakhos
follows closely the cycle of Joseph Campbell's Hero Journey, as
summarized by Linda Seger, both as a physical and psychological
undertaking.

The hero journey begins with a catalyst entering the hero's life, that
calls him to adventure. The hero must be summoned on his journey by
some force, either external (the will of another person) or internal,
(the need for self-growth). The call is followed by the hero's refusal
to leave a safe place, such as his home. He must be convinced that the
undertaking is worthwhile, and must then, and only then, after he has
agreed to take the journey, embark on it.

Odysseus' journey begins twenty years prior to...


... middle of paper ...


...hysical prowess,
but learns the psychological lessons of survival. Using these lessons
he can climb above the rest, a more mature and capable man, able to
use all of his abilities together to lift himself and those around him
closer to greatness. Thus is Odysseus truly a hero, as are all those
who would strive for greatness in themselves and peace and justice for
their homeland and family. "The cosmogonic cycle is now to be carried
forward not by the gods, who have become invisible, but by the heroes,
more or less human in character, through whom the world destiny is
realized. The archetypal heroes become less and less fabulous, until
at last, in the final stages of the various local traditions, legend
opens into the common daylight of recorded time"(Joseph Campbell).



Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 2nd ed. Princeton: Bollingen, 1968.

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles; Intro. Bernard Knox. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

Seger, Linda. "Creating the Myth." Signs of Life in the U.S.A.: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers. 4th ed. Ed. Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. 316-325.

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