The epic poem by Homer called “The Odyssey” is not only a fictional story full of mythological monsters, captivating adventures, and brave characters, it is also, in a way, a manual of moral behavior, advice for better decision making, description of the qualities that lead a person to happy life and glory or to sufferings and misfortune. Multiple characters and storylines of the poem are filled with deep philosophical sense and logical conclusions. The main characters of the poem represent several different personality types and qualities that are being presented in various situations, showing how the characters deal with their problems and challenges and describing the results of their decisions and behaviors.
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Penelope is an example of ultimate loyalty and devotion. She has a strong opinion, and she never changes it, she is determined to wait for her husband, even if she has to live in a city taken over by the traitors, dealing with all the dangers of being the missing ex-ruler’s wife. Penelope manages to find ways of behavior with all the suitors. She remains loyal to her missing husband for years. Another example of perfect loyalty is Odysseus’ son Telemakhos, together with his mother he does not lose his faith and starts to search for Odysseus, carefully following all the instructions given to him by Athene, Menelaos and Nestor. He is purposeful and devoted to his mission.
Odysseus is a person, who definitely was admired by ancient Greeks, yet the modern idea of loyalty, especially the one that is supposed to be present in a marriage, is very different. Odysseus is extremely loyal to his goddess, Athene, in return, he has her entire favor, and she even says, “My own heart is broken for Odysseus” (1, 60). Another aspect of Odysseus’ loyalty is his love for the motherland and his determination to find a way back home to Ithaca through all the difficulties that keep rising on his way. His desire to reunite with his family never is everlasting. Loyalty one of the five main principles of living the wisest life possible presented in “The Odyssey.”
The next quality that is portrayed in the poem quite often is spirituality. It is a well-known fact that ancient Greeks were worshiping many gods. This is why these gods are always present in ancient Greek literature works such as Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Gods in the poem are equally important compared to other characters; gods have personalities, features, emotions, make decisions, and create a massive impact on the lives of people. There are gods that protect certain characters, and there are gods that create challenges and punish the same characters. Homer was trying to show how important it is to be in good relationships with the gods and what can happen if a person upsets a god. Basically, all of the troubles and sufferings Odysseus has to go through are sent to him by Poseidon, the mighty king of the oceans and seas.
Odysseus’ poor decisions lead him to more challenges. Odysseus ends up suffering a lot of loss and pain, though it is impossible to say that Poseidon punishes the king of Ithaca unfairly. For example, when Odysseus blinds the Cyclopes and tells him his own name experiencing an attack of sudden pride – he gets punished for this selfish deed later, his egotistical behavior lets him down. This is why Orestes says: “My word, how mortals take the gods to the task!” (1, 40). Homer shows unnecessary pride as a vice. If only Odysseus had enough self-control at that moment.
Self-control is an extremely meaningful and useful quality, according to Homer’s “The Odyssey.” The main characters’ self-control gets challenged quite a lot. All kinds of temptations arise in their ways. Odysseus fails to deal with some of them with enough self-control. This is why he ends up cheating on his wife with several other females. It is interesting that the majority of horrible monsters in the poem are female. It seems like, according to Homer’s opinion, sexual temptations are the hardest of the challenges a man would ever have to overcome. The male characters of the poem, including Odysseus, keep failing this challenge. To survive under the influence of the dangerously mesmerizing song of the Sirens, Odysseus has to be tied up in order to prevent himself from following their “lovely voices in ardor appealing over the water” (12, 230).
Another principle brought up in “The Odyssey” is being aware of the difference between the outer and inner sides of people. Many times it is shown in the poem that most of the things and people are not the way they seem. People and gods disguise their true faces. The most charming and beautiful women turn out to be evil, selfish, and controlling monsters, the lotus, “the honeyed plant,” turns out to be a bliss that leads to loss of memory of home (9, 90). In the end, Odysseus shows up in Ithaca disguised as a helpless beggar who wins the bow contest. Homer teaches his readers that one of the wisest ways to live their lives is to try and see what is beneath the surfaces of the things, have a deeper look, understand the contents of the shapes.
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One more principle that Homer carries through his poem is the desire for revenge and the ability to be compassionate. The author shows the wish for revenge as an essential part of the characters of people and gods. Poseidon is driven by rage and vengeance, he keeps striking Odysseus with more and more troubles, Telemakhos wants to punish the suitors that are trying to take his father’s place: “I’d be revenged for outrage on my insidious and brazen enemies,” and so does Odysseus (3, 220).
The ruler of Ithaca takes his vengeance; after all, he kills all the suitors and all the disloyal servants that betrayed and insulted him when he was pretending to be the beggar. Homer shows negative consequences that appear after the revenge, he portrays it as a bad decision, though he lets Odysseus be saved from the negative consequences by Athene. Odysseus has his soft side too, under the hard shell of a warrior, he is a kind and loving man; this is what Homer sees as an important and necessary feature of a leader.
Modern understanding of these five qualities is almost the same as the one Homer presents. Loyalty and devotion are still one of the most wanted qualities all over the world. The world’s biggest modern religions are monotheistic, yet spirituality is highly important in the world of nowadays. Self-control is crucial for contemporary people who face many emotional challenges every day. The ability to see what is beneath the surface and analyze is called critical thinking and is of high value at most of the workplaces and in personal relationships. Compassion is the force that directs our modern world’s most influential, kindest, and wisest people. I think these five qualities can be considered the base for shaping a harmonious and virtuous person at all times.
Homer. “The Odyssey”. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. Web.