The Odyssey


Symbols and Themes


Loyalty, fidelity, and patience

The important values of loyalty, fidelity, and patience comprise a major theme of the Odyssey. Even though Odysseus has been absent for twenty years, his wife Penelope will not choose another husband, and both Penelope and Telemachus still hold out some small hope that Odysseus will return. Odysseus himself never stops longing for home. Even with the offer of immortality and the love of a beautiful goddess, Odysseus remains devoted to his long-lost wife. The swineherd Eumaeus, the loyal nurse Eurycleia, and the cowherd Philoetius also demonstrate unwavering loyalty, and they are all rewarded. Disloyalty, however—as in the case of the treacherous housemaid and the disloyal goatherd—is punished very harshly.


Odysseus has to overcome many temptations to get home, not least of which is the famous call of the Sirens. Odysseus succumbs to some temptations—including those of Circe and Calypso—for a time, but his fidelity ultimately wins out. His most foolish moment of succumbing to temptation—the temptation of pride—is when he tells the Cyclops his true name. His men fall victim to temptation more often than he—the island of the lotus eaters being one example, and their slaughter of the cattle of the sun being another. For the second one, they are harshly judged and punished, and only Odysseus survives the wrath of Zeus as called down by the sun god. Throughout the Odyssey, overcoming temptation is an extremely important aspect of the hero’s returning home.


Disguises and clever tricks

Throughout the poem, the main protagonists often resort to disguises and clever tricks to achieve their goals. Athena assumes many disguises in order to help Odysseus and Telemachus. Odysseus must disguise himself as a beggar in order to return to Ithaca. Both Odysseus and Penelope come up with numerous clever...

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Essays About The Odyssey