This paper applies sociological and religious approaches in analyzing The Odyssey. Homer’s The Odyssey is a poem about vengeance, because social and religious beliefs and behaviors in the epic justify vengeance as an appropriate punishment for people who do not respect the traditions of hospitality, loyalty, and centrality of the family. …
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The Odyssey is an epic poem that narrates Odysseus’ voyage to his homeland after the Trojan War. It highlights his struggles in his journey to his home, Ithaca, so that he can get rid of his wife’s suitors, who disrespect his house by using up his resources and courting his wife. This poem is written in the seventh century B.C., which makes it one of the oldest Greek epics. The Odyssey explores Odysseus’ love for his family and the hospitality, or lack thereof, of the people around him. Due to these main driving forces for the warrior-king Odysseus, the poem also illustrates the mores of ancient Greece.
Family. The Odyssey shows that the Greeks value their families, and so the bonds between them are expected to be long-lasting, which means that only death can sever them. Odysseus goes through great lengths to be reunited with his family, which includes exacting vengeance to those who obstructed him from this goal. Kalypso can easily captivate him with immortality, but he declines it, because he intends to go back to his family. Cyclops and Poseidon want to punish and kill him, but Odysseus uses his cunning and strength to outwit them. Odysseus wants nothing more than go back to his home and be with his people and family. Homer shows the inextricable link between a man’s existence and his family:
And as welcome as the show of life again in a father is to his children, when he has lain sick, suffering strong pains, and wasting long away, and the hateful death spirit has brushed him…so welcome appeared land and forest now to Odysseus, and he swam, pressing on, so as to set foot on the mainland. (Homer 5.394-399). This simile shows the centrality of a family in ancient Greece. Homer exhibits the propensity towards family life through an epic that he focuses on a family in the process of unification. For him, Odysseus’ family and the power of their bonds to each other depict strong family values that are sought after in Greek society. These bonds exist, not only between husband and wife, but also between parents and their children. Penelope loves Telemachus dearly and fears for his life. She says: “…and now again a beloved son is gone on a hollow ship, an innocent all unversed in fighting and speaking, and it is for him I grieve even more than for that other one, and tremble for him and fear…” (Homer 4.817-821). In Greek society, the bond between mothers and their children is strong too, as strong as the bond between husband and wife. Parents are revered in ancient Greece, and one of the reasons that Odysseus is enraged against his enemies is when the latter contribute to the death or shame of his parents. Telemachos sets out to find his father, because he knows that the latter will help him set order in his house and empire, at all costs. With the belief that his father is alive, the son prepares to help his father return to their homeland. Furthermore, Odysseus learns that his mother has died while he is away. When he sees her spirit, he desperately tries to take his mother’s “shade” in his arms. He feels acute pain for not being able to touch her again. Odysseus narrates this feeling of loss: “Mother, why will you not wait for me, when I am trying to hold you…? Or are you nothing but an image that proud Persephone sent my way, to make me grieve all the more for sorrow?” (Homer 11.210-214). As the poem ends, Odysseus illustrates his devotion and duty to his family by right away leaving to see his father, after his poignant meeting with his wife. He says: “
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