Essay, Research Paper
The Odyssey is a Greek word meaning the tale of Odysseus. Odysseus, the King of Ithaca; husband of Penelope; father of Telemachus; and son of Laertes was not able to return home after the war he was once in: the Trojan War. Stuck on an island, he is presumed dead. In his absence, suitors for his wife ruin his house with lavish feasts. This epic poem, by Homer, describes how Odysseus, with the help of the gods, gets home and regains his kingship. Justice is always harsh in the Odyssey; there is either no justice or a lot of it; the punishment however, is always severe. Justice in the Odyssey plays out among these characters: Odysseus and his crew, the suitors, Poseidon, Aeolus, Hyperion, Agamemnon, Aegisthus, Melanthius, Melantho, Telemachus, and Polyphemus. Each one of these characters does something wrong and receives a harsh punishment. In the Odyssey, justice, when done, always allots a large punishment, never a small one.Aegisthus courted Agamemnon s wife and then killed him. The justice of the Gods is a swift and powerful one. However, Aegisthus had been warned: we ourselves had sent Hermes, the keen-eyed Giant-slayer, to warn him neither to kill the man nor to court his wife (pg. 4). Aegisthus ignored the warning, killing Agamemnon and courting his wife. Orestes, Agamemnon s son, killed Aegisthus to avenge his father s death. The gods saw this as swift, fair, and powerful justice: And now Aegisthus has paid the final price for all his sins (pg. 4).The suitors, led by Antinous and Eurymachus, expect justice to be served when Telemachus sails to Pylos without telling them. [The] Suitors had embarked and were sailing the high seas with murder for Telemachus in their hearts (pg. 69). They eventually found him, however they did not kill him like they sought out to. This is a case in which justice did not happen at all.The adventure of Odysseus and Polyphemus, the cycloptic son of Poseidon, showed good examples of justice. Polyphemus ate four men of Odysseus crew and in return, Odysseus and his remaining crew administered justice: Seizing the olive pole, they drove its sharpened end into the Cyclops eye (pg. 135). In doing this, they were able to escape and they set sail. Odysseus, carried away in his pride, announced his identity to Polyphemus. When he had heard Odysseus name, Polyphemus called upon his father, Poseidon, to administer justice on Odysseus for harming him so.Poseidon sought out justice for Odysseus because he had harmed one of his sons. When Odysseus departed from Calypso s island, Poseidon noticed and wrecked havoc using his powers of the sea: [Odysseus] heard the thunder of surf on a rocky coast. With an angry roar the great seas were battering at the rocky land and all was veiled in spray. There were no coves, no harbours, that would hold a ship; nothing but headlands jutting out, sheer rock and jagged reefs (pg. 81-82). Also after the Phaeacians had helped Odysseus, Poseidon punished them for their kindness to his enemy.Hyperion, the sun god, loved his cattle and told Odysseus and his crew not to eat them. When the crew was starving, they slaughtered and ate Hyperion s cows. Hyperion demanded justice from the gods: Father Zeus and you other blessed gods who live for ever, take vengeance on the followers of Odysseus. . . They have criminally killed my cattle, the cattle that gave me such joy every day as I climbed the starry sky and as I dropped down from heaven and sank once more to earth (pg. 190). Zeus answered Hyperion and killed all of Odysseus crew.
Aeolus had given Odysseus a large leather bag, which contained the strong winds that could set them off course. Odysseus crew got curious and opened the bag. All the strong winds hurried them off course, and they eventually landed back to Aeolus island. They went to Aeolus and asked for help. However Aeolus was very mad for the crew s carelessness and demanded that Odysseus and his crew leave the island: Get off this island instantly! The world holds no one more damnable than you, and it is not right for me entertain and equip a man detested by the blessed gods. Your returning like this shows that they detest you. Get out! (pg. 144). They were forced to travel without any benefit of any winds.When Odysseus first returned home, he was disguised as a beggar. He checked up on his servants to make sure they remained loyal. However some were very much corrupted during Odysseus absence. Melanthius, the chief goatherd, was disloyal and an appeaser of the suitors. Melanthius insulted the beggar, which happened to be Odysseus, calling him a nauseating beggar and plate-licker (pg. 261). Another disloyal servant to Odysseus was Melantho. She was a maidservant of the household, however she became the mistress of Eurymachus. All the disloyal servants were killed after the suitors. Melanthius body was mutilated.The suitors led by Antinous and Eurymachus were eventually killed. The Justice was well planned and powerful. The suitors had many warning before they were punished for their actions. The first warning was made from Telemachus: I pray that Zeus will bring a day of reckoning, when in this house I will destroy you. . . In answer to his words, Zeus the Thunderer urged two eagles into flight from the mountain-top (pg. 21). Odysseus warned Amphinomous, the kindest of suitors, of what will happen; however he refused to believe it. And finally, Theoclymenus, a soothsayer, warned the suitors of their fate: I see advancing on you all a catastrophe which you cannot hope to survive or shun, no not a single one of you with you brutal acts and reckless plots here in the home of godlike Odysseus (pg. 314). No suitor listened to the warnings, and they were all killed except for Phemius the bard and Medon the herald. These two were not killed because they were forced to side with the suitors. The person who committed the most crimes was the first person to be killed: Antinous. Eurymachus tried to avoid the justification of his evil deeds: the man who was responsible for everything lies dead already, Antinous here, the prime mover in these misdeeds . . . We will each bring a contribution to the value of twenty oxen, and repay you in bronze and gold, till your heart softens. Meanwhile, no one could blame you for your anger (pg. 330). However his soft-talking did not effect Odysseus, and he killed Eurymachus.Justice in the Odyssey can go either way: crimes are either too severely punished or not punished at all. This is so, in the example of the Antinous Telemachus conflict. Antinous sought to kill Telemachus because he never told him that he was leaving Ithaca. They found him, but they never actually executed the punishment. A prime example of when justice was served in a harsh manner was when Odysseus stabbed Polyhemus in the eye, blinding him forever for holding him captive. Thus the punishment did not always match the crime, and justice was done arbitrarily.