"What animal walks on all fours in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs at night?" The famous riddle of the sphinx that has been pondered for many years; it is a universal issue that affects all people of every nationality, ethnicity, religion, or geographic area. We, ourselves, are the answer to this puzzle and yet we fight this explanation with every tool possible. We avoid it, refuse to admit it, read about it, joke about it, and deep down we often dread growing old.
We know that this is an issue in every time period and is addressed by many writers. Growing old does not change, but each age has its own way of dealing with the old. This paper specifically looks at Homer's Odyssey and all the portrayals of old age in this epic poem. I will also look at You're Only Old Once, by Dr. Seuss as a modern example, even though humorous, of old age.
Homer's Odyssey is a text that informs us about many components of the ancient world. We can look to this epic poem as a resource on relationships, attitudes, and actions of ancient Greece and the surrounding area. It represents all the values, customs, and feelings that this culture honored. The specific way we will look at this ancient writing is through the study of gerontology; the following questions might be asked. What was the attitude towards aging and the elderly? How was aging represented in this work? Finally, how is aging viewed by different genders, classes, and age groups?
Old age is seen through out the poem, and is represented in many different ways. The first time old age is addressed is when Athena comes into the house of Odysseus to see the environment the suitors have created. Th...
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...om," where they inform him of all the pills he must take. The catch is that he can not leave until he can repeat al the instructions.
This brings up another factor, and that is the social class issue. Some of the older characters are in the lower class, which tend to increase the level of insult. Homer has different characters like the suitors insult others because of their class and age. Dr. Seuss has the doctors ask about the old man's financial state more than once and ask him to sign for all the bills.
So in conclusion attitudes towards aging has not really changed through the ages. We all want to grow old gracefully and live to a ripe old age. Maybe someday we will beat that sphinx's
Homer. 1989. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Classics.
Dr. Seuss. 1986. You're Only Old Once. New York: Random House.
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