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Perseverance in The Odyssey

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Theme of perseverance and determination

Since it takes determination in order to persevere, I have chosen to put both characteristics into one theme that I believe was evident throughout the epic. Had Odysseus not personified both of these traits at all times, there would have been no epic because the hero would never had been able to survive away from home for 20 years before returning. It is only through Odysseus’s sheer determination that the story was able to reach its climatic conclusion. He displayed over and over his ability to simply “grin and bear it” when hardships were encountered. Determination and perseverance were virtues that all of the major characters exemplified some in a physical manner and some through emotional stability.
The following are three specific examples of the theme of perseverance and determination being prevalent throughout the epic:
1. (Telemachos:) ‘If only the gods would give me such strength as he has to take revenge on the suitors for their overbearing oppression. They force their way upon me and recklessly plot against me. No, the gods have spun out no such strand of prosperity for me and my father. Now we must even have to endure it.’ This was in Book 3. Despite Telemachos’s burning desire to avenge himself on the suitors at his house, he perseveres in his patience, trusting justice to the gods’ will.
2. (Odysseus, in his tale:) ‘“Dear friends, surely we are not unlearned in evils. This is no greater evil now than it was when the Cyclops had us cooped in his hollow cave by force and violence, but even there, by my courage and counsel and my intelligence, we escaped away. I think that all this will be remembered some day too. Then do as I say, let us all be won over.”’ This was in Book 12. Odysseus urges his men to have courage because they have persevered through worse dangers. His determination is contagious and is passed on to his men.
3. (Odysseus:) ‘Of all creatures that breathe and walk on the earth there is nothing more helpless than a man is, of all that the earth fosters; for he thinks that he will never suffer misfortune in future days, while the gods grant him courage, and his knees have spring in them. But when the blessed gods bring sad days upon him, against his will he must suffer it with enduring spirit. For the mind in men upon earth goes according to the fortunes the Father of Gods and Men, day by day, bestows upon them.’ This was in Book 18. Odysseus is commenting that when the gods throw misfortune at a man, there is nothing for him to do other than simply endure and hope for the best. He must persevere to survive the pain.

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