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The Odyssey

Oct 09, 2011 1681 Words
The Odyssey
What is the nature of free will? Are gods or humans responsible for what happens?
The Odyssey is a poem which is about a man named Odysseus (also known as Ulysses in Roman myths) who is on his way back to Ithaca where his home is with his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus but is said to be dead. Telemachus goes on hunt for Odysseus because he believes his father is still alive. On Odysseus’ way back to Ithaca he goes through many challenges such as defeating the Cyclops, Sirens, Helios’s cattle, Scylla, killing all of the suitors in his house, and more. The fate of Odysseus and all the mortals in The Odyssey is said to be controlled by the gods and not themselves. That is partially true but the gods do not control everything that goes on in a mortal’s life, but give them a choice of paths that the mortals can choose from and the gods have the power to try and change it, if a person does something bad it can change everything. The gods basically choose Odysseus’ fate for him, that he will not be able to get home. Odysseus goes through thick and thin to get back home and will not be satisfied with the fact that the gods won’t let him get home. Odysseus chooses to control his own life and not let the gods create it for him. Odysseus chose the way he wanted his life to go, everything he did lead up to what his destiny would be.

In the book Zeus says “Ah how shameless-the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own reckless ways, compound their pains beyond their proper share.” (Page 78) Zeus says that the mortals blame only the gods for everything bad that happens to them. He also says they are very care free and reckless and think they are not to blame for their miseries and sadness. Zeus should not have said this because he does have control of what can and can’t happen on earth. The humans blame the gods for what has happened to them because they believe they control and see everything. The free will for the mortals barely exist to most of them.

All of the people have faith and trust the gods for everything. They do not dare to disobey the gods or question them, because they know something bad will happen to them for it. Once a person does lose faith in the gods or something; the gods feel betrayed and are filled with anger. Odysseus made Poseidon very angry and once Odysseus was on his way in the ocean Poseidon did pretty much anything he could to stop Odysseus from getting home. The gods feel as if they do so much for the people that for them to doubt them is one of the biggest insults that could ever be done. Whenever the people barely doubt the gods that they are doing a bad job or anything the gods will send down a message that will warn the mortals of the consequences to come. If the people choose to ignore the sign they have chosen their fate to be punished by the gods.

Also in the book Odysseus goes to the kingdom of the dead and talks to Tiresias and Tiresias strictly warns Odysseus to make sure that he and his men do not kill Apollo’s cattle when they get to Thrinacia Island or they will be killed. “There you will find them grazing, herds and fat flocks, the cattle of Helios, god of the sun who sees all, hears all things. Leave the beasts unharmed, you mind set on home.” (pg.253) Tiresias clearly warns him, to not even mess with the cattle or he and his men will pay the consequences. When a wise person or a prophet tells someone in the book to do something there is usually a catch or very certain steps that they must follow to accomplish what they need to. The instructions that the people are given are very specific and usually if they are not followed something very bad happens for instance when Odysseus’ men do eat Apollo’s cattle they are later on killed by Scylla and the whorl pool. The prophets don’t just give these orders to doom people but to help them out along the way on their journey. If Odysseus’ men wouldn’t have killed and eaten the cattle they could have lived and helped Odysseus get home, but they chose to eat it. The men were not forced or destined to eat the cattle they wanted to. Most likely even if the gods didn’t want them to eat the animals they would have done whatever they could so the cattle would be safe. The men made their own fate by eating the cattle because they thought nothing would actually happen and thought that they deserved to eat them. The people in The Odyssey don’t really understand the difference between what they deserve and what they think they should have. The mortals think they should have so much more than they actually should, which gets them into trouble with the gods or someone else that has much more power than they do. The way they see it is the gods will do any little thing to make their life and fate better, but then they do something bad and think they should be forgiven and escape unharmed. Once the gods have been made angry they are pretty much unforgiving and are very hard headed. The gods will make the life of the mortal very miserable and dreadful. So once the person does something they will pay the proper debt according to their actions.

The gods can control on whether you live or die in a situation. Alcinous says “That is the gods’ work, spinning threads of death through the lives of mortal men…” (pg.210). The gods just do as they please or whatever to make them happy. Whenever the gods are not happy or satisfied they make everyone pay for it. Pretty much everything depends on how the gods see and feel about everything that’s going on. The gods send death upon the humans showing them that they are not all that powerful ad should be scared. They are the most powerful thing that there is and they come second to none and can and will do anything. Death to them is just something that happens to a human and is nothing. If a person dies it is not a big deal and is pretty much meaningless to them.

The gods had brought pain and sadness upon Odysseus, Penelope, and Telemachus, by Having Odysseus gone for so long. “The gods, it was the gods who sent us sorrow- they grudged us both a life in each other’s arms from the heady zest of youth to the stoop of old age.” Penelope tells Odysseus once he has already returned back to Ithaca. She says that the gods have doomed her and Odysseus since when they were young to when they were old that they would both be separated. The gods planned for them to be apart for the rest of their lives. They were never meant to see each other again, but they both pushed through and tried not to be affected by the influences of the negative things the god did, and so they both conquered.

The gods can try and just start a path for a human, but the human can either accept or refuse to go on with this path. There are so many examples of people trying to lead someone into a good path, like Athena. Athena was one of the only gods to help out throughout the whole book. Athena leads Telemachus into doing something and he usually did it, but if he had chosen not to things could have panned out a different way than they actually did. All of the things Athena did were to help out the situation. She also is very good at persuading Telemachus to do what she says. If Athena was not there for Telemachus or anyone who helped no one would have been happy and they would have never found out the truth.

In more than just one way humans have just as much power to control what goes on in their own lives. They also have just as much freedom to do whatever they please. They just take control by just not letting the gods intimidate them too much and fight for the best life they can. They also need to learn to when enough is enough. In the end of the book the town’s people and Odysseus, Telemachus, Athena, and Odysseus’ dad are going to fight each other but Athena tells them to stop. Athena says “Hold back, you men of Ithaca, back from brutal war! Break off- shed no more blood- make peace at once!” (pg. 485) to all the people, than Odysseus falls to her feet in shock and all the men of Ithaca leave. Athena warned all of them because she knew what needed to be done had already been completed. All of the men knew that if they were not to stop they were destined to be killed.

The Odyssey has very many examples of free will versus fate, and who controls the fate of the mortals; the humans or the gods. The humans can do whatever they want because they are free, but once they belittle the gods; the gods can do anything to change their future. Everything that someone does leads into the next thing that happens. They can either choose the good or bad thing to do. If someone had chosen to do something bad everything could have been different. The Odyssey you take your chances or live in fear of the gods the whole time.

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