Similarity of Themes in Homer's The Odyssey, Tennyson’s Ulysses, and Cavafy’s Ithaca
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The Odyssey: A Timeless Classic
Homer’s The Odyssey has taught numerous lessons that simply cannot be expressed through mere words. The Odyssey portrays a mortal man’s struggle among strangers, monsters, and women in his attempt to return home after fighting in the Trojan War. Through Odysseus’s episodes, readers can relate to their own struggles in life and how these experiences shape who they become. Two poets who have encompassed this theme of learning from one’s struggle include Constantine Cavafy and Alfred Lord Tennyson. In Cavafy’s “Ithaca,” Cavafy urges readers to live life for the journey rather than the goal of living life. Similarly in Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” Tennyson inspires readers to continue to explore life rather than settling and retiring. These two poems bring a more profound and unifying perception of The Odyssey’s main theme of spiritual growth, specifically that of Odysseus.
Odysseus’s spiritual growth begins with one of the major themes exploited in The Odyssey which is the portrayal of Odysseus’s excessive pride or hubris and his temptations. For example, Odysseus was able to escape the Cyclops Polyphemus by wrongfully stating his name as ‘Nobody’ and then stabbing Polyphemus’s eye. Afterward, Odysseus and his men were able to latch under the sheep and safely make their way back to the ships. However, Odysseus yelled back to Polyphemus his actual name which created havoc when Polyphemus prayed to Poseidon to punish Odysseus. According to Cavafy’s “Ithaca,” one should “pray that the road is long, / full of adventure, full of knowledge” (2-3) which is what happens to Odysseus—his temptation to boast delays his arrival home. But because of his hubris and temptation, Odysseus is able to embark on a journey th...
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...mum, of the times that we questioned a higher power, of the times that we lost focus of what is significant and what is not, of the time that we took the road less traveled and was either satisfied or hurt from it. But ultimately, of the time that we regained our focus and found our way back home. The poems “Ithaca” by Constantine Cavafy and “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson both express the importance of the journey and the continuation to pursue adventure. Thus, these two poems highlight the significance of experiences and how they contribute to The Odyssey’s theme of spiritual growth. In addition, these two poems portray Odysseus’s transformation from prideful and lost to temptations to a clever and wise man. Therefore, we should all stop, enjoy, and learn from our journey through life because it is not the outcome that we should live for, but the journey to it.