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Literary Analysis: The Odyssey

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The Odyssey is a heroic tale of a man on a mission with many obstacles to overcome. When called away from his homeland and his family to fight in a battle against Troy, Odysseus, king of Ithaca, overcomes several different obstacles and portrays many different heroic characteristics over the ten years he is away in order to reach his beloved wife, son, and homeland again. Throughout his journey home, he encounters many things such as an uncivilized giant with one eye called a Cyclops, a witch-goddess that casts spells on Odysseus and his men to make them lose track of time, a nymph who falls madly in love with Odysseus and holds him prisoner on her island, along with the God of the sea, Poseidon, who Odysseus has angered and is making it more than difficult to reach his homeland. Upon his return home, Odysseus is faced with more challenges. Suitors from across the land have made their way into Odysseus’ homeland with the assumption that Odysseus is dead, and with the intention of taking his place and marrying his beloved wife Penelope. In many different situations throughout this amazing tale, Odysseus portrays strength, patience, and cunning intelligence in order to return to his homeland and reach his beloved son, Telemachus, and wife Penelope. In the beginning, Odysseus is recognized as the mortal who conquered Troy by building a huge wooden horse as a peace offering while hidden inside and then striking their soldiers after a feast and, therefore, ending the battle of Troy. This scenario alone shows the cunning intelligence Odysseus holds within and also makes his name a name not to be forgotten and one that is spread throughout the lands. On their journey Odysseus and his men come to an island where they encounter Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant Cyclops, son of Poseidon. Here, Odysseus portrays patience and intelligence in more than one way. Odysseus knows that there is no way he and his men can defeat the huge Cyclops or remove the boulder from the opening of the cave that Polyphemus placed; therefore, he comes up with a plan to blind the beast by shaving his club and making it into a spear so he and his men can sneak out on the underbellies of sheep without being captured and eaten. However, they must first wait until Polyphemus is drunk from wine and asleep to prepare their plan. Odysseus first uses intelligence by naming himself “Nobody” so as not to inform the Cyclops of who he really is and to confuse the other Cyclops when Polyphemus screams that “Nobody” is killing him. Odysseus’ patience comes in when he lies in wait for the Cyclops to sleep even after Polyphemus has already eaten several of his men which surely wasn’t easy to watch and accept. In doing this, he angers Polyphemus’ father, Poseidon, which only enhances the difficulties he faces throughout the journey. Never the less, disguising his men as sheep in order to escape, after having the patience to wait and attack the one-eyed Cyclops is admirably heroic. Strength is one of Odysseus main characteristics--not just physical strength but mental as well. When Odysseus is on Aeaea where the beautiful witch-goddess Circe lives, it takes much mental strength as well as help from Hermes to get off her island. Hermes gives Odysseus a plant to ward off her powers, to get his men turned back into men instead of pigs, and to obtain information from her on how to get home since her plan is to keep them captive. Odysseus shows much mental strength when leaving the island, Ogygia, where Calypso, the beautiful nymph, is holding him captive as well. Upon his departure he tells her that although his wife could never compare to her beauty and the fact that she is forever immortal, he wishes to return home because that is where his heart will always be. He could have stayed with her forever and she could have made him happy, but he had the mental strength to want to go home and be with his beloved Penelope. Upon return to his home in Ithaca, Odysseus shows us his physical and mental strength, patience, and cunning intelligence all in one. When learning that Antinous and Eurymachus, who are suitors after Penelope’s hand in marriage, are at his home eating all the food and harassing everyone in their wake, Odysseus must figure out a way to take his homeland and beloved wife back, as well as finding out if Penelope even still wants him as a husband or has moved on. By lying in wait and not running to his son and wife knowing this could get them all killed, he portrays his heroic patience once again. His physical and mental strength are portrayed upon returning to his home and defeating the suitors that have caused his family wrong doing. By stringing his bow and then beating them in the contest while still in disguise, then killing each one of them, Odysseus shows his heroic characteristics in full force. Although estranged for ten years from his homeland, wife, son and dream life in general, Odysseus shows us how one man can overcome obstacles of any kind when his mind and heart are set on a mission. While facing many difficult situations on his ten-year journey home, he manages to keep his eye on the prize and make it home to his beloved family. Without his cunning intelligence to get him, as well as his men out of certain situations, patience to oversee the situation and come up with a plan, and amazing mental and physical strength to overpower Cyclops, nymphs, witch-goddesses, ill-mannered suitors, and angry Gods he may have been forever estranged from his beloved family.

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