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The Odyssey by Homer: A Greek Poem Analysis

Introduction

Although Odyssey is an Ancient Greek poem, it is interesting to read even nowadays, when people got used to twisted plots. There are several basic topics in the poem, several of which are still actual for a modern person. The first topic is free will, which is reflected through the theme of gods’ intervention. Fate is always preferred by the author since some events in the poem are imminent, and the characters are trying to escape it, but they cannot. Topics of honor and glory are also widely addressed in the poem. Besides, such values as bravery, adventurousness, and loyalty are referred to by the author. These topics make it a classical work that is interesting for modern people.

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However, the values and themes addressed by the author are not the only reason why Odyssey can be read by a modern reader. The poem has an interesting plot and a rather bloody culmination. Odysseus pretends he is a beggar and comes to his house in disguise. He participates in the archery competition, reveals himself and finally kills all the suitors. This resembles modern books, such as The Game of Thrones, which also have such motives of massacres during weddings and feasts. Such plot twists are dynamic and anticipated by readers since, for the whole story, the events create certain suspense, which needs to be released in a catharsis.

Telemachus: development of the character

Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, is one of the important characters of The Odyssey. Throughout the plot, he undergoes significant changes, becoming mature and brave. When Odysseus left his home, Telemachus was only an infant, whereas, at the beginning of The Odyssey, he is about twenty years old. As well as his father, Telemachus takes a journey to his true self, building up his personality.

At the beginning of the plot, the reader learns that Telemachus is a weak young boy who does not have a word in his own house. The suitors of his mother live in his place, eat his food, and give orders to his slaves. It is a disgrace, and a young boy cannot prevent it because he is not strong enough to fight an army of suitors. Telemachus’ immaturity is reflected in his attempt to ask the suitors to leave. He does it in a very irritated manner, whereas the suitors regard it as a childish outburst and do not listen to the young boy.

However, Athena guides Telemachus like she guides his father Odysseus. The goddess becomes a mentor for the youth, inspiring him by turning into an old man and giving the young men some advice. Telemachus learns how to be mature and deserves the right to be called Odysseus’ son. In the first episode, he gains strength when he tells his mother to go to her quarters. Doing so, he tries to get the authority of a man, not a youth. Thus, he starts to give orders in his house, as it suits the son of Odysseus. After that, he starts a journey to find his father and get him back.

Throughout his journey, Telemachus tries to prove that he is not a boy anymore. He sacrifices his safety in order to show that he has inherited his father’s courage. He meets Nestor, willing to learn more about Odysseus and ready to know the truth about him. At the end of his journey, he fights more than a hundred suitors with his father and several herdsmen. Thus, he finally takes revenge and reunites with Odysseus, becoming a true prince of Ithaca.

Odyssey returns home

Disloyal slave girl

Most of Odysseus’ servants and family members demonstrated loyalty to him. His dog has been waiting for him for 20 years and recognized him in disguise. His wife Penelope has also been waiting for him, refusing all the marriage proposals and hoping that Odysseus would come back alive. Philoteus and Eumaeus, two servants, helped him to kill all the suitors that lived in his house and wanted to marry his wife. However, one slave girl, Melantho, was disloyal to Odysseus, having become the mistress of Eurymachus, one of the suitors.

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Melantho is an example of a treacherous slave who is disloyal to her mistress despite the fact that Penelope was good to her and cared about her. She supported Penelope’s suitors and was involved in the relationship with Eurymachus, one of them. Her brother, Melanthius, gives weapons and Odysseus’ shields to the suitors. After the final battle of Odysseus with the suitors, Odysseus makes the traitors clean up the blood of the suitors. After that, he hangs them, which creates a sense of catharsis.

The free will of the characters

The question of free will is one of the key topics of the poem. On the one hand, there is fate, to which the characters are doomed. On the other hand, the will of the characters helps them to overcome the obstacles that occur on their way. For example, Helios cursed Odyssey and his friends after they had eaten the best of his bulls. According to this curse, Odyssey should have returned home alone, on another ship, and not soon. Despite the fact that Odyssey knew that it was dangerous to abuse Helios, he cannot escape his fate, and his friends die.

However, mortals can be regarded as mere toys in the hands of gods. Different gods choose different heroes to act for them, and all events can seem as their interplay. The whole Trojan war was the result of an argument between gods. However, Greek gods are not omnipotent, and for this reason, it is interesting for them to take part in such competitions. They are passionate and jealous of people, and they sometimes are surprised by people’s deeds.

As for Penelope’s suitors, they are, on the one hand, guided by some gods, which lessens the extent of their free will. On the other hand, they act relatively freely and could be more decent. Perhaps they could have survived if they could be less rude and respected than Telemachus and his mother. However, gods in The Odyssey can speed up and slow down certain processes, for example, Poseidon creates obstacles on his way home. There are still some points in the characters’ fate that they cannot escape. Odyssey is doomed to successful returning, but he still does it by putting much effort and having suffered a lot. Thus, it is difficult to say whether fate in the Odyssey defines all the events, up to the very smallest. It seems that the way the heroes achieve their goals is sometimes hidden even from the gods. However, they choose them as the ambassadors of their will, somehow knowing that this certain person is able to become great.

There is also a certain hierarchy of fate in the poem. Gods can intervene in the mortal’s lives, can turn into people and give advice, but there is fate that cannot be changed. For example, Zeus accepts that Odysseus is predestined to return to Ithaca. He understands that fate is more powerful than himself. The curse of Polyphemus creates the storm that kills Odyssey’s friends and prevents him from getting home soon. Polyphemus, in his turn, was to be blinded according to another old prophecy. Thus, Polyphemus and Odyssey are just agents of some curses and prophecies, lacking their own will. It does not diminish the efforts and bravery of heroes, however.

Conclusion

Thus, The Odyssey is one of the greatest classical Greek poems that are still interesting to read nowadays. A twisted plot and topics that are actually in all times make it immortal. Among the themes addressed in the poem, there are loyalty, fate and predestination, bravery, and maturity. Some characters, such as Telemachus, change greatly, having made a great path to their new personality. Some are more stable, such as Penelope, who is an example of an ideal Greek wife. Odyssey himself has undergone many adventures and metamorphoses, having come back to his own identity as the king. The poem can still serve as an example of values shared by many people and an interesting and dramatic plot.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, November 23). The Odyssey by Homer: A Greek Poem Analysis. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-odyssey-by-homer-a-greek-poem-analysis/

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