Friday, March 18, 2016

Odyssey, More Observations - Homer

It makes sense that the voyages of Odysseus would be the part of the story that is most remembered and retold.  That's where the bulk of the action is.  The episodes of trouble are incredibly rich and memorable.  But they make up very little of the story that we have now.
One of the repeated themes of the Odyssey is that of hospitality.  Every place that Odysseus lands he is either given princely hospitality by people or his life is threatened by monsters (or monstrous goddesses).  There was simply an expectation that if some strangers blew up onto your shores, you treated them well. 
On the contrary, the suitors wooing Penelope abused all notions of hospitality and were bad for eating Penelope and Telemachus out of house and home.  They had their own nearby homes and should have stayed there eating and drinking.  Instead, they abused propriety.  They were also cruel and obnoxious and they died for these faults.
Another theme is that of growing up.  Telemachus is trying hard to grow up to be worthy of his father, who he doesn't know.  He wants to be heroic even though he isn't certain what he has to do.  He is guided (literally) by the advice of Athena, in various guises.  Even near the end, she guides him so that he can share part of the heroism of the slaughter of the suitors.
The other theme that I want to mention is just how much interplay the gods have with the lives of these mortals.  Telemachus is guided at every step by Athena.  Odysseus is helped by her too, but not always and not directly.  He was cursed by Poseidon and she was limited in how much she could counter that.  It's hard for me to think of the Greek gods as being that involved with each mortal life.

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