The Odyssey 3 Essay, Research Paper
In The Odyssey, the act of storytelling plays a significant role in revealing the story of Odysseus. Each storyteller reveals a part of the past of Odysseus and his heroic deeds. Each of their stories gives insight into what a hero should be, according to the standards of the Greek society, and they each reflect a different aspect of a hero. When pieced together, each story becomes part of a whole, however, each has a different function within the epic. Some may not contribute to the hero directly, but teach a moral or lesson to the audience listening to the story. The audience directed towards is the Greek society and the morals are taught by storytelling. By using storytelling, a hero is often created as the ideal and spread throughout the land to become a legend In The Odyssey, there are many storytellers that contribute to the creation of the hero, Odysseus. Storytelling within the story creates a fictional world in which the characters play in. We, the audience, are in the same position as character listening to the story first hand as well. Each story teaches a different moral aspect that the hero, Odysseus, has to the audience. Although The Odyssey is narrated through Homer, the poet, there are so many storytellers in the story, that the epic becomes a multiple narrative, encapsulating many different aspects of great archaic heroes. Odysseus is the one who reveals the most about his past and where he has been for the years between the Trojan War and the present. Helen and Menelaos tell the stories of Odysseus s tactile ways during the Trojan War and reveal a great hero to Telemakhos, Odysseus s unknowing son. The Sirens, beautiful as their song is, tell a profound story of Odysseus and the Trojan War, which lead men to a potential death.
The explanation of where Odysseus has been is told by Menelaos in Book IV, leaving the audience at Calypso s island. In book IX, Odysseus begins to tell his story from the time of the Trojan War to Calypso s island, approximately eight years. The story of Odysseus, before his homecoming, approximately 18 years, is condensed into the next two books. This condensation is also shown in the storytelling of Menalaos and Nestor when they tell their stories of other Archaen heroes. It is also significant that the entire section of Odysseus s trials is told by Odysseus himself, rather than Homer, the narrator. There are several reasons for this. By making Odysseus a great storyteller, Homer adds to the evolution of the hero s own fame. Odysseus can spread his own fame of how great he is and how much of a hero he really is. For example, the famous story of the Cyclopes, Polyphemus, was only known to his shipmates who traveled with him and Polyphemus himself. Alkinoos would not have known this story otherwise, if Odysseus had not told him. Not everyone knows of all the adventures that Odysseus has been through, except for Odysseus. His entire crew who did travel with him and live through his adventures has been killed. There would be no point in a hero who could not tell his story, because he would not have the ability to reveal the variety of heroic deeds he has done to his audience. What makes Odysseus a hero is the stories told about him that are spread throughout the land to make him known as a hero and a legend. Although Odysseus is not a braggart, he does hold himself in high esteem because he knows of his fame. He demonstrates this by saying, Men hold me formidable for guile in peace and war: this fame has gone abroad to the sky s rim. (Book IX, Line 21) Another reason for Odysseus being the storyteller of his past is because of the function of a poem during Antiquity Ages. Homer knew storytelling was an oral tradition, which involved a live audience, namely the Phaecians. The audience was being told by Odysseus himself, as if the audience, or reader, was part of Alkinoos court listening to his story. Odysseus tells the story in the book because it follows the oral tradition, as if he is talking to you directly, like in the antiquity. The use of Odysseus is also helpful to the audience because it brings the action of the story to us. The audience gets a primary source for the actions that took place, therefore the audience is more involved and the source is more credulous because it involves the primary source, Odysseus.
Odysseus is a tragic hero , according to Aristotle in The Book of Poetics, because of certain aspects that Odysseus has. Aristotle says that a tragic hero is a relatively noble character with one fatal, tragic flaw. The hero is a common man, in between pure evil and pure goodness, and the purpose of the story is to reinforce the moral framework of the society during those ages. A strong example of Odysseus s tragic hero characteristic is in the story of the Cyclopes, Polyphemus. The audience can see Odysseus s tactile ways when he gets the Cyclopes drunk with wine and slowly he falls into a deep sleep, and he stabs in the eye with a spear, and says his name is Nobody. Odysseus finally escapes from the giant, hiding underneath the belly of the sheep. However, as he sails away, Odysseus s pride overcomes him and he mocks the Cyclopes and he yells out his real name. This act leads to his misfortune and costs him several more years away from home because Polyphemus s father, Poseiden makes Odysseus s journey even longer. Odysseus s tragic flaw in this episode is his pride and gloating, even though he demonstrated heroic and clever abilities escaping from the giant.
A pattern among the crew and Odysseus is also evident in his story. Odysseus s crew plays a large role in the misfortune of Odysseus and eventually their own deaths. Throughout the story, the crew perpetually disobeys the instructions of Odysseus. For example, when the Odysseus and his men defeated Ismaros, the men stayed on the island to revel in their victory, although Odysseus exhorts them to leave the island. As a result, the people of Ismaros attacked the men and more lives were lost. Another example of this behavior is in Book X, when the Odysseus and his crew land of Aeolus, who holds control of the winds. Odysseus is welcomed there and showered with gifts by Aeolus. Aeolus also gives him a sack containing strong winds, except for the West Wind. The crew then sets sail back to Ithaca. After ten days, when the ship is nearly home to Ithaca, Odysseus falls asleep accidentally and the crew is jealous of Odysseus because of his wealth of gifts. They believe that in the sack contain more treasure, so they open the bag. The strong winds blow them off course and they are sent back to Aeolus s island. As a result of their jealousy, Odysseus does not go home and is away from home another ten years. If they had not opened the sack, Odysseus and the crew would probably be home at the same time as Menelaos got home. Lastly, when the Odysseus and his crew went to the land of the Dead, Theiresias warned him about the island of Thrinacia, where the cows and sheep are plentiful and should not be eaten. Theiresias also told them to make a sacrifice to the gods. However, when they went to the island, they disobeyed Odysseus again and Eurylokhos urged the men to eat the cows rather than starve, while Odysseus was asleep. This resulted in the destruction of their ship by Zeus s magnificent thunderbolts. The incessant disobedience of the crew teaches the audience of human foolishness and the punishments as a result.
Another storyteller is the combination of Helen and Menelaos. Their stories told to Telemakhos form a composite picture of the hero, Odysseus. Each tells a story that reveals a different aspect of the hero. Their function is to add to the fame of Odysseus as well as tell a true account of the heroic deeds of Odysseus to Telemakhos. Helen tells the story of Odysseus tactile ways when he dressed as a beggar and entered the city of Troy to investigate the city and not be noticed. However, Helen had noticed him, but did not say a word. Odysseus also had stopped the men in the horse from making a sound while in the horse as to not give them away tot he enemy Trojans. Although Menelaos did not tell much of the deeds of Odysseus, but more of his own, it is still significant to the epic because it encapsulates the many other archaic heroes of the in the fictional world of The Odyssey. Menelaos tells how he was stranded in Pharos, but cleverly hid under seal skins to trap the god, Proteus, to tell him what he had to do to return home. Proteus then told him that he had to go back to Egypt to make a proper sacrifice to the Gods before departing on their voyage home. Menelaos, disappointingly, did this. This story demonstrates two things. One is the clever Menelaos on how he trapped Proteus. This shows his bravery and his tactile ways. The other is the punishment for not worshipping the gods before voyages. Proteus also told of the whereabouts of Odysseus and other leaders of the war. Menelaos told Telemakhos that Odysseus was held captive at Calypso s island.
Another significant group of storytellers is the Sirens. Although the encounter with the Sirens are brief, it is profound in that the encounter itself was a heroic deed and the story told added to the fame of Odysseus. Odysseus was told to place beeswax on the ears of his crew so they would not listen to the enticing songs of the Sirens, but he himself was to be tied to the post so he could listen to the song. This was a dangerous task because he was tempted to jump and swim to the Sirens because of their beautiful voices. Of course, he had to listen to their song because he was a hero and it would be a great story to tell his audience that he had heard the song of the Sirens and he survived. The Sirens would have eaten him if he had swum to them. Although he could not resist, and he tried hard to break free from the ropes, he survived. To the people, surviving the song of the Sirens is a great deed because almost no one ever survived because they were so tempting they made sailors and soldiers forget about home. The Siren song itself was of the story of the Trojan War and Odysseus s greatness in the war. He wanted to listen to it because like many of the other heroes, he liked hearing of the great glory days of the war and to remember his great friends. The main function of the Siren s story is the great survival of Odysseus when he listened to the song.
When Odysseus is on the island of Alkinoos, Demodokos, the blind minstrel tells of the story of Odysseus, which in the end reveals Odysseus identity to the people. Demodokos supposedly represents Homer himself incorporated into the epic. It is believed that Homer was also blind, creating the connection between the two. The fact that Demodokos reveals Odysseus identity plays an important role because it demonstrates the importance of poetry and the oral tradition. Since the minstrel is a singing poet who tells the story, he solves a great mystery that the king cannot even figure out.
The multiple narrative of this epic encapsulates the tradition of oral storytelling and the fictional world of Greece culture. It also demonstrates the multiple heroic and noble men of the times. Storytelling was a form of entertainment during the ancient times and The Odyssey, along with the Iliad, became the backbone for which the fictional Greek literature was based upon.
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