Odyssey Much of Homer's Epic Poem the Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :


Much of Homer's epic poem The Odyssey deals with the trouble the titular character finds himself in, and the suffering he and men must endure as he makes his way home over the course of ten years. Upon cursory examination, one might think that suffering in the Odyssey has some actual value, in that Odysseus is ultimately rewarded for his long-suffering efforts by being able to go home and murder everyone who wanted to marry his wife. However, this does not take into account the majority of the play, in which Odysseus' men suffer with no reward, being brutally killed and tortured for no reason other than to fulfill Poseidon's curse against Odysseus. This is most clear when Odysseus and his men visit the island of the lotus eaters, and by examining this scene in conjunction with the conclusion of the story, it becomes clear that the suffering in The Odyssey has no real value except to reinforce the biases of the day by arguing in favor of a violent masculinity, and for nearly every single character except for Odysseus, this value is nowhere near enough to recompense for the pain experienced through the story.

One of the first places Odysseus and his men stop is the island of the lotus eaters (just after pillaging a town and fleeing from the angry relatives of the murdered and raped townspeople), and examining the reactions of both Odysseus and his men to the lotus eaters reveals the poem's conception of suffering (9.42-44). Essentially, the poem seems to argue, through Odysseus, that suffering is not only worthwhile, but desired, as long as it is ultimately in the service of the dominant power structure. After surviving the Trojan War, escaping from the relatives of the murdered villagers, "a freak hurricane," and "nine days of bad winds," Odysseus and his men finally make it "to the land of the Lotus-Eaters" (9.70, 84, 86). Once there, the lotus eaters, "who meant no harm," give Odysseus' "men / some lotus eat," so that "whoever ate that sweet fruit / lost the will to report back, preferring instead / to stay there, munching lotus, oblivious of home" (9.93-96). It is important to recall that Odysseus is narrating these events to Alcinous after the fact, so this recollection is undoubtedly biased, as Odysseus attempts to portray those men who wish to remain with the lotus eaters as simpletons "oblivious of home." When considered objectively, however, the fact that some among Odysseus' men wanted to stay with the lotus eaters makes perfect sense, and reveals how the poem, through the character of Odysseus, seems to celebrate a kind of useless suffering as a means of reinforcing the hegemonic social structure.

Considering the following details about the men who wish to stay behind with the lotus eaters demonstrates how Odysseus forces others into unnecessary suffering in order to validate his own attachment to the dominant social structure which gives him status and power. This in turn helps to refute the argument that suffering in The Odyssey has value because Odysseus is eventually rewarded, because it reveals the unspoken assumption regarding this argument, namely, that Odysseus is the one who actually suffers. Firstly, all of the men with Odysseus have survived the Trojan War, and are thus veterans attempting to return home and free themselves from scars of battle, both physical and psychological. Secondly, although they travel and fight alongside Odysseus, they are of a lower class than him, and thus have much less at home to look forward to. Odysseus wants to get home so badly because there he is rich, powerful, and respected. His men, on the other hand, are likely not nearly as comfortable, and thus have…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Homer. The Essential Odyssey. Trans. Stanley Lombardo. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing

Company, 2007.

Cite This Thesis:

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