Odyssey Coman Writes in the July 2001 Term Paper

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Coman writes, in the July 2001 issue of Quadrant, that what gives Homer's "The Odyssey" such an eternal relevance is that it defies definitive analysis, thus it retains a sense of mystery that draws readers in by posing more questions that it give answers (Coman pp). This is what both moves and delights readers, for nothing so quickly creates boredom than the recapitulation of solved mysteries (Coman pp). For example, there was a time when the very sight of the moon moved humans in extraordinary ways because it was both totally familiar but totally alien and beyond knowledge (Coman pp). However, today, its sight brings visions of space junk strewn across the stony plain, and "one expects to see empty Coke bottles and McDonald's wrappers" (Coman pp). Coman notes that the transference of mystery to fact is a sort of solidification or petrification of the imagination, and is exactly how Poseidon punished the Phaeacians for having helped Odysseus, "their magic ship, which could travel as thought travels, was turned to stone in their harbor" (Coman pp). Moreover, Poseidon threatened to heave up a mountainous barrier around their country, leaving their imagination to be walled in by the impenetrable crags of mere fact (Coman pp). Homer's great epics mark the birth of the Western literary tradition, and some say, even define the tradition, for his works contain all possible stories as a sort of literary seed-bank (Coman pp). Just as philosophers cannot go far in any direction without meeting Plato, so the novelist or poet, "sailing the seas of the imagination, always finds himself or herself in the wake of Homer's blue-prowed ships," for it is all there, "love and hate, sadness and joy, reward and punishment, hero and villain" (Coman pp).

It is generally agreed that Homer's tales come from an oral or folk tradition which preceded him, going back into the dim mists of antiquity, thus as modern descendants of those common "folk," is the reason why readers today claim the works as their own with their own interpretations (Coman pp). Therefore, it is inevitable that each individual who reads "The Odyssey" will come away with an understanding that is somewhat "colored" by his or her own background and experiences (Coman pp).

Clearly, there would be no story without the Muse's telling of the adventures of Odysseus, and there would be no adventures with the other gods and goddesses throughout the story. As the first lines in Allen Mandelbaum's translation of Homer's "The Odyssey" reads:

Muse, tell me of the man of many wiles, the man who wandered many paths of exile after he sacked Troy's sacred citadel.

He saw the cities -- mapped the minds -- of many;

and on the sea, his spirit suffered every adversity -- to keep his life intact, to bring his comrades back.

Although all are powerful, some more than others, Calypso is the one whose counterpart can be most easily found in today's world. She is basically the vamp, the seductress. She used her feminine charms to hold Odysseus on her island of Ogygia for years, causing him to forget or at least set aside during those years the fact that he was not only a married man, but a family man as well.

Odyssey's affair with Calypso was much like the affair of any married man, whose day-to-day wanderings leads him to forget his family responsibilities. Yet, like Odysseus, most, if they are lucky, come to their senses, and are able to cast off the spell and return to their wives and families. Although Calypso offered Odysseus immortality if he would stay with her, he rejected her and continued his way home.

Once a good friend, Robert, who had a loving wife named Mary and an adorable child, Susie, came under the spell of a beautiful nymph named Arden.

Robert was an executive with a major shoe company, and one day a young and vivacious sales representative walked into his office and he was immediately cast under her spell. Although he and Mary had been college sweethearts and had built a comfortable life together, doting each spare moment to Susie, who gave every impression and promise of being a successful and mature adult in years to come, Robert could not help himself. As easily as Arden had cast her spell on him, he cast aside his wife and family. And so Robert's odyssey began.

Had Robert been a female, who had come under the infatuation of another man, public opinion would have been quite different, even among intimate friends. Yet, to Robert's friends, it was as if no one thought it proper to cast the first stone, so to speak. Perhaps it was due to the 'good old boys club' that no one thought less of him or discouraged him from his involvement with Arden or cast any judgement whatsoever. It was simply accepted. And condolences were sent to Mary.

Robert remained under Arden's spell for several years. They married and had a son. And much like Calypso's promise of immortality, this son represented a promise of lifelong commitment. For many men, a son represents something that a daughter does not. A son is a namesake. He alone carries the family name forward into the next generation, just as his father had carried it from the last. For many, it creates a bond like no other. A son creates immortality, if only in name.

Yet, no sooner had this son, Michael arrived to this union, that Arden's spell began to weaken upon Robert. He became increasingly restless. All the things that had attracted him to Arden began to annoy him. Her little habits, the way she laughed, the way she looked when she first woke up in the morning, the way she cooked, the way she snored at night, all began to numb the passion he had once felt for her. These annoyances, were of course, very similar to the ones he had felt for Mary. Thus, Robert left Arden one snowy day, and the son who meant so much to him, his one and only sign of immortality. The spell was broken. And like Odysseus, Robert continued his journey.

Some critics believe that Odysseus always wanted to leave Calypso, never really intended to stay with her (Marks pp). Yet, he stayed on the island, whether out of true desire of the heart, or mere sexual desire, and exhaustion from wars (Marks pp). But in any case, "he clearly gets bored with this indulgent, entrapped life and wishes to leave" (Marks pp). Like Robert, Odysseus grew restless and all those seductive traits of Calypso became common everyday annoyances.

Robert traveled to the eastern coastal waters where he met another sea goddess, Sharon. Robert was convinced that this goddess was the answer to his prayers. She met every criteria he had set forth in detail, on paper. She was a divorcee with two grown children and was financially secure. Moreover, both her parents were deceased, thus for Robert this meant no in-law problems. She was perfect. And to add icing on the cake, she was socially connected, claiming to be friends with prominent families. Sharon was his dream come true. And so they married immediately.

No sooner had the ink dried on the marriage license than Robert discovered that Sharon's life was not exactly as she had claimed. She was not financially secure, although she was now that she had married Robert. She had no social connections. In fact, all the stories she had told Robert turned out to be totally fabrications. She did not know any of the Kennedy's. She had never rescued a swimmer at sea. She had never written for a famous New York magazine. She did not have an option for a book with a…[continue]

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