The Development Of Desire

The Development Of Desire

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The Development of Desire

The development of the male warrior, throughout literature, has a direct
relationship with the development of western civilization. The attributes a
warrior holds, fall respectively with the attributes that each society held as
valuable. These characteristics, started by societies ideals, become the
warrior's only reasons for continuing their heroics. The ideals however do
change with each warrior. At the beginning we have a warrior with one mission,
which later the warriors become more challenged and have to change ideas and
concepts to continue. The evolution of the warriors desires becomes the complex
ideals that western civilization develops over time. With this progression of
civilization, from simple to complex ideals, so will the evolution of the ideals
and desires of our heroes change from simple to complex.
     Odysseus is a man who is both strong and smart, but most known not for
the brawn of his body, but the wits of his brain. A man who is loved in every
country, but Trojan, and could stay where ever he chooses, his sailors knew this
to be true as one bench mate to the next, “It never fails. He is welcome
everywhere: hail to the captain when he goes ashore!” (Homer 166). The irony
falls as Odysseus only desires his homeland. ”Begin when all the rest who left
behind them headlong death in battle or at sea had long ago returned, while he[
Odysseus] alone still hungered for home and wife” (Homer 1).
     Odysseus has many opportunities to end his journeys and start a new life.
For instance, if he desired, Odysseus was able to stay with Kalypso who wanted
him forever, “Her ladyship Kalypso clung to him in her sea-hollowed caves- a
nymph, immortal and most beautiful, who craved him for her own” (Homer 1).
Kalypso knows even though she has Odysseus in her home, he is not hers to have. “
Son of Laertes, versatile Odysseus, after all these years with me, you still
desire your old home? Even so I wish you well”( Homer 87). To which Odysseus
replies, “...Yet, it is true, each day I long for home, long for the sight of
home...” (Homer 87). Another chance for Odysseus to start a new life is offered
by the king of the Phaecians to marry his daughter and live there; “...seeing
the man that you are, seeing your thoughts are my own thoughts-my daughter
should be yours and you my son-in-law, if you remained. “( Homer 120). In each
case, Odysseus, only wants to return to his wife Penelope, his son, and most of
all his homeland.

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      Odysseus, who endures many hardships throughout his journeys, always
seemed to be one step ahead of the reader in knowing what to do to get out of a
situation. The problems during the stories come not from Odysseus judgment, but
the judgment of his men. This became evident more than once when his men would
disobey his orders, which resulted in death or peril. To illustrate, the story
of the men taking the bag from Aiolos from under the deck right when they were
at the sight of their homeland:
Nine days and night we sailed without event, till the tenth we
raised our land. We neared it, and saw the men building fires along shore; but
now weary to the bone I [Odysseus] fell into deep slumber...but while I slept
the crew began to parley: silver and gold , they guessed, were in that
bag....[bench mates] 'Who has gifts from Aiolos? He has. I say we ought to crack
that bag, there's gold and silver, plenty, in that bag!' (Homer 166), with
such greed, by opening the bag, the adverse winds are unleashed with full fury. “
Then every wind roared into a hurricane; the ships went pitching west with many
cries; our land lost”(Homer 166). With these trials of Odysseus, and throughout
the journey, we see Odysseus spares nothing on his return home. He loses men,
ships, and wealth from Troy and the gods. With all the losses he sustains over
the long journey he is unmoved, for his only passion is to return home.
Odysseus's biggest attribute is his personal control of emotions and events.
He has many emotions throughout the story, but always exhibits control in
thinking and actions. Look at the careful planning and patience when waiting for
the time to kill all his suitors. Another duration, Odysseus wants to punish his
men many times over for the greed and stupidity they show throughout their
journeys, “My men are mutinous fools...” (Homer 146), but he controls his anger
and continues on their journey back home. Odysseus, with such control, is the
very model of a leader and king. Control was very valuable in Greek society. A
perfect contrast to Odysseus's' control is the character Antinous. Antinous has
no control over his emotions or actions, as he leads the ban of suitors, being
the most brash of the suitors. Look at the anger he displaces on Odysseus during
a dinner in which Odysseus is in disguise as a beggar:
God what evil wind blew in this pest? Get over, stand in the passage! Nudge
my table, will you? Egyptian whips are sweet to what you'll come to here,
you nosing rat, making your pitch to everyone! (Homer 325).
The desire of Odysseus to returning home is that of pure dedication. This
is easily seen throughout the text, by the rejections he sends to all who give
him gifts to stay. This dedication falls into the ideals of the Greek culture,
and the belief behind community above all other ideals. Wealth, and power would
be nothing without the sense of community behind the individual. A careful look
into the story of The Odyssey, points out Homer's feelings of when the sense of
community can be abused with the presentation of the suitors. A statement
speaks of Odysseus's absolute desire to return home. When he nears Ithacas'
shores which falls asleep from exhaustion, his men doom him by taking the gift
from Aiolos, as mentioned previously in the text, the gloom and despair Odysseus
confesses to as the thought he whispers to himself, “Roused up, despairing in
that gloom, I thought: 'Should I go overside for a quick finish or clench my
teeth and stay among the living?'...”(Homer 166). Such a thought does occur to
our hero, but he fights to return home instead of taking the simple way out, and
eventually becomes triumphant in his desire.
Beowulf becomes a different type of male warrior which surfaces at a new
time in civilization from The Odyssey. Written after the ancient civilizations
of Greek and Rome, dawning in the hour of the dark ages. Our warrior surfaces
during a time when different tribes throughout Europe were trying to keep their
different identities alive. To accomplish such a feat, the warriors of this era
had to have an ideal that connected them to their tribe, but ,above all, the
warriors had to be menacing. The ability to scare away invasions by the rumors
of their warriors is possibly how the story of Beowulf first surfaced. This is
where Beowulf's size and strength become a valuable attribute to the society. He
is the epitome of pure strength and power. He is also a man who is the first
story in which our hero is Christian. In the stories before Beowulf, like The
Odyssey and The Aenied, the stories are between men and gods on an even playing
field[Earth], but different level of players. It would be like a basketball game
between high school players and NBA players. No longer are the events occurring
between the gods and men, instead we have the super human versus those of the
evil realm.
     Beowulf becomes more complex as a warrior, and a character who
transforms throughout the story: To you I will now put one request, Royal
Scylding, Shield of South Danes, one sole favor that you will not deny me, dear
lord of your people, now that I have come so far, Fastness of Warriors; that I
alone may be allowed, with my loyal and determined crew of companions, to
cleanse your hall Heorot As I am informed of this unlovely one is careless
enough to carry no weapon, so that my lord Hygelac, my leader in war, may you
take joy in me, I abjure utterly the bearing of sword or shielding yellow board
in this battle! With bare hands shall I grapple with the fiend, fight to the
death here, hater and hated! He who is chosen shall deliver himself to the
Lord's judgment (Beowulf 64-5). He is a man of honor, and seeks that honor
throughout his life. He feels that the fight shall be on even terms, of no
weapons on each side. This honor is another aspect of the society of the times.
The idea of honor to your allies and towns people to help them with their needs
was existent to survive in these times of invasions by other tribes and hoards,
and strengthening the ties leading to the forming of nation states. He is also a
man of God, with this statement, “...shall deliver himself to the Lord's
judgment.” (65) He vows to send Grendal to God for judgment on his evil deeds on
earth. Beowulf as a warrior ,has two levels to his character; an upper level, of
honor and religion, and a lower level of sheer emotion and power. Of these
levels of Beowulf, we see the lower level dominates his personality with power
and emotion dictating his actions and speeches, but later in life, as king,
relies more on his religion and honor to dictate the judgment of what is right
or wrong. No longer do the gods of Rome and Greek mythology dictate what is
wrong or right, with offerings to appease the gods. With the knowledge in the
warrior for what is, and will be, wrong, has an effect of making Beowulf an
extension of God. In all these acts of honor, Gods glory above all is sought.
Sir Lancelot becomes the final touch to the evolution of the warrior. He is
a warrior with all the attributes of the warriors before him. He has the skill
of Odysseus with control of his emotions, thoughts, actions, and the same pure
desire for something. He has the same honor, and belief in God's guidance to
what is right as Beowulf believed. Before Lancelot, the warriors all battled the
likes of monsters, either from the will of the gods or monsters on their own
mission. Lancelot is a man who has no battles with superhuman beings or
arguments with gods, but a fight within himself and the fight for his desire. A
man possessed, he risks pride, reputation, body, and soul, all for the return of
love from his lady Guinevere. His battles and stories are not all physical, as
the previous warriors, but a mental triumph over the various tasks. Look at the
ride in the cart and the battle within Lancelot to obtain the right decision on
what to do: Woe that he did this, and woe that he was ashamed of the cart and so
did not jump in at once, for he would later consider himself ill-fallen. Reason,
which disagrees with Love, told him to refrain from climbing in and admonished
and instructed him not to do or undertake anything that could bring him disgrace
or reproach. Reason, which dared speak this way, spoke from his lips, but not
from his heart. But Love, which was enclose in his heart, urged and commanded
him to climb into the cart at once. Love achieved his desire. The knight leapt
up without concern for the disgrace because this was Love's will and command
(Beowulf 174). Lancelot battles between his heart and mind on what choice to
make. Yet we see Love is much more powerful in his desire, or as he says, “Love
achieved his desire” (174). This is not the only case of such a battle in
Lancelot, and it is not always over love. This tale of honor by Lancelot, who
saves a maiden who holds a deed he does not want to fulfill. Before the night is
long, the maiden is attacked and pleas for help from Lancelot who thinks: God
what can I do? The object of my great pursuit is no one less than the Queen
Guinevere. Having embarked on this quest for her, I must follow have the heart
of a hare. If cowardice gives me her heart and I follow her rule, I shall never
reach my goal. I am disgraced if I stay here. Merely to have spoken of remaining
brings deep shame onto me now. My heart is sad and dark... May God never have
mercy on me if I speak with pride and would not rather die with honor than
disgrace (de Troye 155). The story shows the honor that Lancelot has for what he
believes is right by God, although he knows by saving her will only mean that he
will still have to sleep with her, which he replies “The object of my great
pursuit is no less than Queen Guinevere” (155). Yet his feelings of honor takes
hold and he goes on to save the lady of the castle, and feels horrible for his
hesitation. This sense of honor even goes above Beowulf's honor for what was
Beowulf's desire. Lancelot holds it as something he must do even if it is
against his desire. This is an attribute of the society of these times. The
ideals of the society was that the knights would uphold honor above all other
matters, even matters they disagreed with. Another aspect is this desire for
courtly love with utter devotion to the admired and loved.
     Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Lancelot is the act in which he
hears of the rumor that Guinevere is dead. He becomes so sorrowful that he
     ...My health is good, but you have struck me down. I am crushed, yet the
sole                pain I feel is the grief in my heart. This grief is an
illness, indeed a fatal one, and I           wish it to be fatal (de Troye
165), at this he attempts to commit suicide, and fails. This act is completely
out of love for Guinevere for which he believes is over. The “great pursuit”
(155) for Guinevere, he believes is over, so to than will his life perish, for
his life was nothing without her there. Yet, the passion he displays is nothing
short of amazing, to love so strongly to risk his own personal beliefs for that
love. The last complex piece to the puzzle of the warrior, not just personal
sacrifice in time, or your life, but the ideals and beliefs one holds discarded
for the desire to reach what he wants.
Evolution, over time, has shaped the ideas and beliefs on what the warrior
holds in his journeys. That the warrior tales started with a man trying to
return home, to a man sacrificing his beliefs for the love of a women. The
desires of these warriors have been that of building blocks. Each one builds to
the next ideal. Yet we see that all the desires were pursed with a persistence
unsurpassed throughout literature and history. These men were able to fight
insurmountable odds to achieve what they deemed valuable. It is the act of
something no one would be able to challenge. Take the example of Lancelot and
Sir Gawain, during The Knight in the Cart. Sir Gawain is praised as a noble, and
a Valiant knight, while Lancelot is presented as a less knight than Gawain.
Lancelot's sacrifice of his own beliefs only prove that these were acts above
those of a normal person, even Sir Gawain, a higher more noble person than most,
would not sacrifice as Lancelot . A perfect example of this is the cart scene in
which Sir Gawain approaches the cart and sees Lancelot in the cart; “Sir Gawain
galloped after the cart, and seeing the knight sitting in it, was amazed...He
would certainly not climb in the cart, he said, it would be base in extreme to
trade a horse for a cart” (de Troye 151), he was not ready to sacrifice the same
as our hero Lancelot. These acts by Lancelot could be parallel to those of
Beowulf and his physical fights and sacrifices throughout his story. Or that of
Odysseus and the long journeys he had to endure to get to his homeland.
     The most striking aspect of these warriors is the complexity of the
characters themselves. We see that the travels of Odysseus is purely for his
return for home, and return to the community he loves. He has no realization
that he is anything else nor does he change his outlook on life from his
journeys. Odysseus stays the same from beginning to end of the story even though
time has taken many years from him. The story of Beowulf has a different
development over the story. We watch as Beowulf transforms from a powerful young
man who will go out and fight all;
      Had they not seen me come home from fights where I had bound five
Giants-their blood      was upon me- cleaned out a nest of them? Had I not
crushed on the wave sea serpents by night in      narrow struggle, broken beasts?
(Beowulf 64). A man all-powerful among men, and yet he changes from the
mercenary, to the king, against his wishes but what the town people most desired
from him. This transformation from a man who helped people, for his own pleasure
and honor, to a man who becomes helper of the people, not to the people. Last we
have the change of a man who risks death by fighting, and running after
Guinevere and her capture's on foot, and then sacrifices his own beliefs to be
next to his love. He starts out as a man possessed to save Guinevere. To a man
who is controlled, willfully, by Guinevere. Take the example of the fight
between Meleagant and the stopping of the first fight:
..The last words she uttered, 'To show you my gratitude, I will Lancelot to
halt,' had scarcely left he lips when he would not lay a hand on his
opponent or make a move, even if Meleagant were to kill him (de Troyes
162). He would not defend himself for the sake of breaking this devotion to his
love! A previous line in the text points out why Lancelot would do such an
action during a battle, A lover is obedient; when he is completely in love, he
performs his beloved's pleasure eagerly and promptly. Thus Lancelot, who loved
more than Pyramus- if love more than any man could- was compelled to comply (de
Troyes 162). Such a power dominates his every thinking moment, even during the
fight for his life and the life of those captured. This development of the
warrior is one, close to the transformation of the King Beowulf to his people,
but more complex. Whereas our hero Beowulf still sacrifices himself for his own
honor and to help his people. The actions of Lancelot start as a man of
individual status to one who is immersed in his devotion to the one he loves.
We are to understand that these attributes and actions our warriors have,
are those which each society saw as grand and wonderful that all should strive
for in their society. The strong sense of the homeland to Odysseus is what the
Greeks were to strive for in the building of their empire around the main
homeland of Athens. We see the attributes of Beowulf as important to the dark
ages and the invasions of the Franks where our most important task seen for the
warrior in the culture was to defend your hoard from all intrusion, evil or
human. That the sacrifice for the hoard was the most honorable thing you would
ever be able to achieve in your lifetime to the hoard. Last we have Lancelot,
who shows the attributes most liked during this society is that of courtly love,
honor, and the devotion one gives to their soul mate, with the relinquishing of
his views for that of his lady's wishes. “he performs his beloved's pleasure
eagerly and promptly” (de Troyes 162). The actions are fulfilled with eagerness
and promptly for the love of the person. Although each one has been similar in
the way they are triumphant in there quest, and the men continue to look tough
through all actions, the quality they start to show, subtly, is that of
compassion and willingness to help all people, even if it circumvents their own
desire temporarily.
     The progression of society from the time of less diversified ancient
Greek culture, to the explosion of diversity in tribes and people, creating
identities and forming the groundwork for nation states, the warriors desires
and attributes also rose from a single idea or goal, to that of complex
characters and values. Where the complexity involved the ideas of laws
pertaining to all. These laws, unwritten, developed through Beowulf, and latter
in The Knight in the Cart, as that of honor. Overall, the development of
characters became a way of projecting the proper ideals on the society to uphold.
This became the link between the warriors and the civilizations they represented.

Works Cited

Boyle, Doebler, Lopez-Lazaro and Wright. Hum 301. Tempe AZ. Alternative copy
shop, 1996

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Classics,

Unknown. Beowulf. Trans. Michael Alexander. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Classics,
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