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Gaining Power from Others in The Odyssey
Throughout The Odyssey, Odysseus’ power was gained through the power of others resulting in three phases of understanding: self-determination, courage, and having a greater vision in life. In order to understand these three phases, one must be able to conquer predominance from those less useful than others. Although Odysseus was physically strong, he was not who he was mentally, without the help and guidance through the gods. Odysseus was like one who has no friends, but when he meets up with more people, he becomes popular. One who was alone and meets new people, has more friends and finds out more interesting subjects about daily life. They are the ones who have more predominance than others because they know more people and have much more interesting subjects. Odysseus was like this because he didn’t know much without the help and guidance from others.
Once Odysseus has served enough time in a place against his will, he would be determined to leave that place. Odysseus’ journey towards home was now going to be able to be finished. For seven years Calypso held him prisoner on the island of Ogygia and he was determined to leave and see to the rest of his journey. Calypso agrees to let him go and she gives Odysseus some advice and guidance saying, "Only I will not aid [you] on [your] way, for I have no ships fitted with oars, nor crews to bear [you] over the broad oceanridges; but I will freely give [you] counsel and not hide how [you] may come unharmed to [your] own native land"(47). Calypso recognizes Odysseus’ greatness. Calypso says she will give some advice, but Odysseus will have to prove his greatness by making his own ship and understand how he will make it home.
Even though Odysseus was physically strong, at other times he was weak. When the Phaeacians returned Odysseus home, Odysseus not knowing where he was recounted his jewels and gifts. While doing so the Phaeacians were just turned to stone by Poseidon for helping him return home. Odysseus can practically do whatever any god can do but with the help of them. So speaking, Odysseus says to Athena, "And do you stand beside me, inspiring hardy courage, even so as when we tore the shining crown from Troy"(130). When Odysseus was at war with Troy, Athena gave him guidance.
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Once Odysseus hears about something bad, he would be determined to do anything to get rid of that something. As a hawk anticipates catching his pray; so was Odysseus about taking revenge. When Telemachus was with Helen and Menelaus he got the sign of the eagle. On Telemachus’ right flew this eagle and Helen rightly says, "As the eagle caught the goose, -she, fattened in the house; he, coming from the hills where he was born and bred, -so shall Odysseus, through many woes and wanderings, come home and take revenge. Even now, perhaps, he is at home, sowing the seed of ill for all the suitors"(145). Helen, Menelaus’ wife, predicts that Odysseus has returned home. The symbol of the eagle with the goose in his claws symbolizes what Odysseus is going to do to all of the suitors. Once again the eagle is referred to be coming from the mountains and/or trying to kill something. This fits in with Odysseus because he, coming from different lands was trying to figure out a plan to kill the suitors.
Although Odysseus gets very determined, there are times when he was courageous. Even though Hades is the land of the dead, Odysseus has expectations that he can be guided. Odysseus has always been guided under the sunlight and was courageous in knowing that he might be guided in the darkness. Hades was not in the sunlight; it was actually in the darkness. Odysseus was only guided in the sunlight and was trying to find out if he could still be guided in Hades. Hades holds the spirits of the dead and Circe, a sorcerer goddess, once told Odysseus to go there and talk to the dead using a special potion of hers. So Odysseus does what Circe says and talks to Tiresias, a prophet, who predicts what his future might be like. As Tiresias is predicting Odysseus’ future he says, "At home you shall find trouble, -bold men devouring your living, wooing your matchless wife, and offering bridal gifts. Nevertheless, on your return, you surely shall avenge their crimes"(104). This shows that Odysseus can be guided both in the sunlight and in the darkness. He was able to talk to everyone that he knew and he found out about what was going on in his life and what he was missing out on. Odysseus also knows that he might take revenge on everyone who is disloyal to his family.
At many times Odysseus loved to take the hard road, but was sometimes guided not to. When Odysseus and crew were at the house of Circe, she told him what dangers there were going to be one his journey. She told him that there were two paths to take, each with its own difficulties. When Odysseus said that he might take the harder one, Circe said "Foolhardy man! Still bent on war and struggle! Will you not yield even to immortal gods? This is no mortal being, but an immortal woe, -dire, hard, and fierce, and not to be fought down. Courage is nothing; flight is best"(116). Odysseus was just advised not to fight these forces because of the dangers that were involved. It shows that Odysseus just likes to get himself in more danger. But it does show that Odysseus has the courage in dealing with the harder parts.
As the long-tried royal Odysseus wants to tell who he was, he was courageous in knowing that it is best for not saying who he really is. As Odysseus was standing in his house, in the shape of a stranger, he realizes that the people who are very close to him don’t recognize who he is, but his dog Argos, does recognize his master. As Odysseus was conversing with Eumaeus he sees Argos nearby and wonders, "Here lay the dog, this Argos, full of fleas. Yet even now, seeing Odysseus near, he wagged his tail and dropped both ears, but toward his master he had not strength to move"(167). Odysseus feels very sad for his dog Argos, but, he does feel happy when Eumaeus tells him, "…you would be much surprised to see his speed and strength. For nothing could escape him in the forest-depths, no creature that he started…"(167). Argos the dog symbolizes Odysseus. The stranger, Odysseus, was old, just like the dog. Argos was covered with fleas while Odysseus was covered with old rags. Also, Odysseus was loyal to the truth and honored destiny. Odysseus now realized that he saw himself in his own dog, Argos.
Even though Odysseus was courageous, he always finds the greater vision. Although Odysseus has the gods help, his greater vision in life always comes first. As one sees a barrier in the middle of a path, one must work hard to get around it trying to avoid the consequences made by others; so Odysseus finds the greater vision in his journey homeward. Odysseus’ crew only worried about their hungriness and not about the journey homeward for Odysseus. When Odysseus was put to sleep by the gods he did not know what happened that day. He found out that "For six days afterwards my trusty comrades feasted, for they had driven away the best of the Sun’s kine; but when Zeus, the son of Kronos, brought the seventh day round, then the wind ceased to blow a gale, and we in haste embarking put forth on the open sea, setting our mast and hoisting the white sail"(121). Odysseus was upset that his crew had betrayed him and that they had set out for the open sea that day. He remembers about what Circe, a sorcerer goddess had once told him about what would happen to them if they killed the Sun gods’ cows. But it was too late; they were on their way once more into the wide-open sea.
As the gods betray one another, Odysseus never loses the greater vision in his journey. Odysseus rarely ever loses vision of his great journey. When Odysseus and his crew land on the island of the Sun god, his crew was tempted to slew one of the sun gods’ cows. Odysseus’ crew betrays him and slaughters the best of them. Odysseus was upset because his crew was just worrying about their hungriness and not at all about his journey back home. When Odysseus and his crew are back at sea, a storm hits them and Odysseus explains what happens when all of a sudden, "Out of the ship my comrades fell and then like sea-fowl were borne by the side of the black ship along the waves; God cut them off from coming home"(121). Once again destiny takes place in the ship. Odysseus was thankful that he did not join in with his crew in eating the cows because God washed them away. Odysseus on the other hand was left alone to make the journey home by himself.
Even though Odysseus was protected by the gods he was also self-reliant. As Odysseus’ ship was torn to pieces, he managed to hang on to some of those pieces. Though Poseidon made it tougher on him with the storm and waves, he was able to float off into the winds. When Odysseus was thrown off the ship he said, "I myself paced the ship until the surge tore her ribs off the keel, which the waves then carried along dismantled. The mast broke at the keel; but to it clung the backstay, made of ox-hide. With this I bound the two together, keel and mast, and getting a set on these, I drifted before the deadly winds"(121-122). Odysseus shows that he was able to help himself while other gods were trying to kill him. He was self-reliant because Athena was not there to protect or even help him. He was now on his own to finish his journey homeward by himself, just like Zeus had once said.
As one can see, Odysseus’ power was gained through the power of others, especially the gods, resulting in three phases of understanding: self-determination, courage, and having a greater vision in life. Odysseus’ journey home took courage, determination, and seeing a different view of things, or a greater vision. The gods guided Odysseus in order to make his journey home. With the help from Athena and being physically strong, he killed the suitors. Then he was united once more with his family. Once again, Odysseus’ power was gained through the power of others.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bloom, Harold , Homer's Odyssey: Edited and with an Introduction, NY, Chelsea House 1988