Strength In Mortality Essay, Research Paper
The Strength in Mortality
During his monumental journey, Odysseus grows from a gallant young warrior to a wise and mature adult. Odysseus initially finds himself fighting for a name, this is equivalent, for humans, to the immortality of the gods. Odysseus concludes that the death-defying mortal life, with its danger and relationships of love, is far superior to a purposeless and shallow immortality. Every courageous attempt towards his ultimate goal of returning to Ithaca and Penelope is tempered by the adventurous nature of the event. One important element for Odysseus is recognizing the value of his own mortality. Odysseus grows as a result of the mortal danger involved in each encounter, he gains knowledge and tales to remember, then refocuses on the original goal of Penelope and Ithaca. Odysseus’s journey is actually a timely revelation breaking the myth that the immortal life has more meaning than the mortal life. Mortal life at its minimum becomes all Odysseus can bear to think of, since missing his wife and home eventually overpowers every other desire.
In his journey, Odysseus has many adventures. I will focus on the encounters with the Cyclops and Calypso. The adventure with the Cyclops will describe Odysseus in the beginning of his journey as a warrior. I will then talk of Odysseus and the changes that become apparent in the time spent with Calypso.
It takes Odysseus time to realize that Penelope and Ithaca are part of his innermost longings and happiness. The early acts of Odysseus, such as with Cyclops, show him trying to attain something much different than his warm bed and lovely wife.
On the island of the man-eating Cyclops, the brawn of the Cyclops is outwitted by Odysseus’s clever use of semantics. Gigantic and brutal, Polyphemos is not the brightest creature. However, he is a formidable opponent, and Odysseus, curious eyed, finds him then blinds and taunts him. Acts as this only give Odysseus tales to tell for exclamation of his own name. This prideful episode is followed up by Polyphemos requesting to his father Poseidon for Odysseus’s journeys to be sabotaged. This is Odysseus’s first encounter, teaching him the great lesson of life and how pride and the accomplishments of one’s self must not be chosen over the well being of his friends, family and men. The lesson with the Cyclopes reveals Odysseus’s initial need for his name to be made important and known. His actions in this situation show no control to save himself from future harm or to return home, these acts reflect Odysseus trying to proclaim immortality through his name and actions.
Odysseus soon realizes that these acts of violence are not only unfulfilling but also that they impede him on his journey home. These actions against Polyphemos bring upon him a great curse which ultimately comes to the sinking of his ship and the killing off of the last of his men. After Zeus brings a great storm against Odysseus he lands on the island of Calypso and the last of his men vanished into the water. Here on the island Odysseus faces the temptations of immortality. Calypso is a goddess and in sharing with humans she shares with them the things only of the gods. He is tempted with Calypso’s bed, her food and her direct offer to make Odysseus immortal. Odysseus during this time was quite alone and had no one or thing to turn to, besides Calypso, to occupy his time. Odysseus realized his inner most craving was to see his son and wife once again. The challenge Odysseus offers to immortality is a reflection of the wisdom he gained on his journeys. The worth of his family, their love and support and the name he would pass along with his children is the happiness that the gods, with immortality, can never attain.
Odysseus comes to know that life with its limits is more valuable than immortality with its endlessness. He finally is offered immortality and does not allow this offer to diminish his love and yearning for his family; without his lovely Penelope, life of any kind is not worth living. Each dangerous adventure and flirtation with death makes life seem sweeter. Since gods do not fear the end of life, they do not have a reason to strive to have something to be proud of, such as love.
The wonder of it all is that within a human’s short life, we try to live with the knowledge that every day may be the last. Acting that every day is the last, living for the moment, and the feeling of fulfillment the family gives to humans will live on through their children. And because of this, Odysseus’s existence has meaning and value far beyond an endless stretch of time.