Homer Essay, Research Paper
In the selected passage of book five, there are many different themes present. Many of these themes can only be appreciated once you look deeper into the meaning of the text and take the whole book into account. These passage from the book five describes Odysseus? actions once he has washed up on shore after eighteen days at sea from the island of Kalypso. He exhausted an old tired and broken man and it takes all the energy he has left to find shelter and sleep.
Immediately in line 474 a major theme is present. Homer writes “In the division of his heart this last way seemed best,” referring to Odysseus? dilemma of which way to go for refuge. Odysseus is the great thinker. He is constantly being refereed to as the resourceful Odysseus. Even at a time such as this when any normal man would simply collapse in exhaustion, Odysseus refuses to stop planning. He is constantly searching for the best and most clever way through each situation. This theme is most prominent in book thirteen when he is finally home. Instead of running right up to his palace walls and proclaiming his arrival he begins to lie and weaves a web of secrets around himself in order to test those around him and see what kind of situation he is really in. Athene comes to him disguised and is the first one he lies to . After revealing herself to him she praises him in line 298 when she says “since you are far the best of all mortal men for counsel and stories, and among all the divinities I am famous for wit and sharpness;”.
Here Athene likens his skill to hers and thereby confirms a major theme in the story: Odysseus is second only to the gods in his craftiness and foresight and it is this gift more than any other that has allowed him to become the hero that he is.
In the next few lines Odysseus makes his way for the woods by the water where he finds an olive bush intertwined with a shrub . It is under these bushes that Odysseus makes his refuge. So , it is obvious that the olive tree it will use as a theme in the next books.. The olive tree is present in Book Twenty Three, lines 190-204, when Odysseus explains to his wife, how he made their bed out of an olive tree the was growing where their home now stands. This is the final proof of his recognition by Penelope. Also, The olive is important because it is the symbol of Athene, the agricultural staple for the Greeks and also gave it name to the biggest city of Greece, Athens. Athene is also the patron god of Odysseus. Therefore, when Odysseus saw the olive bush when he was washed up on shore or any other time in the epic he knew that he would be safe because he was protected by Athene.
Also, a theme that is clearly displayed in the passage is the interaction of gods and humans. This is so common throughout the story that it is almost taken as a matter of course. After the Greeks sack, pillage and rape the city of Troy many of the divinities are displeased with them, not so much because they are destroying the city and its inhabitants, but rather with the method and brutality with which they do it. As punishment several of the Greek heroes are delayed during their journey home. This is the case with Odysseus, he is blown off course and takes nearly twenty years to return to Ithaca. Along the way several gods try to hinder him, while others try to help him return to his home. In particular the goddess Athena champions Odysseus? cause with the other gods while also helping him directly throughout his journey. And in the closing lines of Book V, Athena grants her mortal prot?g? a moment of peace from his arduous adventure with the lines ” and Athena shed a sleep on his eyes so as most quickly to quit him, by veiling his eyes, from the exhaustion of his hard labors”.
Finally, an important theme that appears is the meaning of xenia. When Odysseus walks into the forest he finds two bushes growing so close together that they appear woven together, providing an excellent shelter for the night. There is ample space, enough for several men, and prodigious quantities of leaves to provide him warmth throughout the night as he takes a respite from his trying journey. This is in stark contrast to how Odysseus and his men are received by many other people. One of the turning points of the story is when Odysseus lands on the islands of the Cyclopes and goes to the home of Polyphemos. Instead of being given food and a place to rest as is demanded by xenia, Polyphemos imprisons Odysseus and his men and starts to devour them one by one, Book IX lines 287 through 306. This is the antithesis of what xenia represents. Another situation where xenia is broken is when Odysseus and the last of his crew arrive at the island of Circe after having a majority of their comrades killed by the Laistygones. Eurylochos and half of Odysseus? men come upon Circe?s house while exploring the island. She then invites them inside and mixes them a potion to drink which turns them all into bigs, all except Eurylochos who had suspected treachery, Book X lines 229 through 243. In light of these two examples, the simple glade in the land of the Phaiakians which we see the true meaning of hospitality.
These themes are far and away the most prominent themes in the passage. But like any other passage in this epic, they are not the only themes apparent. Almost every word that Homer writes seems to intertwine with other themes. It is this richness of symbolism and depth of meaning that has enabled this work to outlive almost three millennia of change. Perhaps it is this change that has strengthened the value and meaning of the work. Perhaps that was Homer?s ultimate point: everything changes and nothing can remain the same. The Greeks believed strongly in metamorphosis and from Ovid?s writing on the subject to now, from Homer?s depiction of Odysseus to our very societal beliefs, everything has and will continue to change. Perhaps that is why the Odyssey will be as timeless 3000 years from now as it is today.