Literary Analysis Essay on The Odyssey by Homer

Published: 2021-08-02
1199 words
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10 min to read
Boston College
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Literature review
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After the Trojan War, Odysseus had an attitude where he was drunk with victory as he came up with the idea of using the wooden Trojan Horse I reassured the ghost, but he broke out, protesting, this is depicted by his words as he says No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus! By god, Id rather slave on earth for another man some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive than rule down here over all the breathless dead.(book 11 547-558) He felt a sense of euphoria, having come up with the single crucial plan that helped the Greeks to win the war that lasted 10 years. Odysseus was naturally filled with this pride and achievement that bordered on arrogance and carried this similar attitude when he encountered the Cyclops. Odysseus attitude and application of xenia is contradictory and created some paradoxical problems that will be explored in relation to the encounter with the Cyclops and offer some insights as to how this contradiction can be understood and reconciled by examining Odysseus behaviour with reference to xenia, through the lens of someone who has just endured a10-years war. It is depicted where he never showed hospitality to Cyclops and blinded Polyphemus during his war in the sea. An act that creates a grudge between him and the god of the sea Poseidon who is the father to Polyphemus.

Homer emphasizes the role of xenia in the Odyssey. In the world of the Odyssey, xenia, or hospitality is essential. Xenia reflects both the moral and ethical outlook of Odysseus. Its proper and improper applications have a direct impact on the actions and choices presented to Odysseus. Odysseus left Troy flushed with victory and the pride, bordering on arrogance, as the victor. Odysseus had a rightful claim in dealing the decisive blow on Troy, as it was his idea, inspired by Athena, to build the Trojan Horse. Before his encounter with the Cyclops, Polyphemus, we were told that Odysseus had A sudden foreboding told my fighting spirit Id soon come up against some giant clad in power like armor-plate--a savage deaf to justice, blind to law (Homer, 9.237-240). This distinctly showed that Odysseus was still in war mod, with his instincts, honed by ten years of war with Troy, still in place and active. His attitude bordered on hubris.During his voyage, Odysseus had a dozen ships and hundreds of men under his command. They were well fed and provisioned. When the troop encountered Polyphemus they had a fierce fight because he wanted to eat them which led to Odysseus blinding Polyphemus. The war created animosity between Poseidon and Odysseus. After the war Odysseus never the Cyclops as human beings and therefore his failure to show xenia as he felt they were not worthy of the hospitality.

IIIn the book, it is clear that Odysseus is focused on him and his mens needs. During peacetime, the needs are detrimental to smooth social interactions as it works against the smooth social interactions xenia is meant to create. The catering of needs is based on transactional reciprocity. Because Odysseus focused on the needs of his men the act is a reflection of his practise of the custom of Xenia. In this instance, the visitor, Odysseus, must have proper etiquette. In return, his host, Polyphemus, should also take proper care of Odysseus, his guest the situation is depicted when Polyphemus says Give me still more, freely, and tell me your name straightway now, so I can give you a guest present to make you happy. (9.355-356). Although it was important to observe xenia Odysseus did not show it to Polyphemus. Odysseus had refused to give way (Homer, 9.256) and leave the cave despite his mens urging. He insisted they stay behind to wait for the host to see what gifts hed give (Homer, 9.258). The gift served as an acknowledgement of the importance of Odysseus-the guest. However Odysseus did not follow the customs and offer a gift in return but it could be because he was not given the chance to show his hospitality. The break in custom and practice seemed very contradictory as it had negative implications for the dignity, morality and ethical principles shown by Odysseus. When confronted with this lack of reciprocity and courtesy, Polyphemus answered back with arrogance of his own. He did not attack Odysseus at all until Odysseus did not introduce himself and demanded his gift, expecting the Cyclops Polyphemus to follow xenia. The situation is ironic as well as paradoxical; the words of Telemachus to the invading suitors could very well apply to his own father it is depicted when he says "Penelope Dismiss these terrors from your mind. The man is not born and never will be, who shall lay violent hands on Telemachus your son, so long as I live " (.Homer, Odyssey 16.435).. As he was still in war mode Odysseus thought and acted as if he was still inactive combat. It affected his perception, outlook, and decision-making process. Odysseus was always ready to fight or fight back. His actions are illustrated when he became angry with the servants and he said "spirit deep in [his] heart [] was stirred by this, and much he pondered in the division of mind and spirit, whether to spring on them and kill each one, or rather to let them lie this one more time with the insolent suitors, for the last and latest time; but the heart was growling within him" (20.6-13).He as motivated, as all combat leaders are, by the following priorities because decisions were boiled down into four basic demands. Thirdly, he must protect his men. Finally, to take into account other considerations, such as xenia.

All these elements affected Odysseus attitude towards xenia. His priorities de-prioritised any concept of xenia he had. With these thoughts in mind, xenia would then be low on his priority list. It had become ingrained over the past 10 years of constant war, where death was a constant companion, where he could die at any time. Odysseus never had a transition period to peace, and old habits die

In Homers world xenia is essential and is the dominant part of a character's morale code: The problem Odysseus is inconsistent in his application and expectations of xenia. Even when a situation calls for his restraint, i.e. suitors at Ithaca act like Odysseus with Polyphemus, yet he delivers death to them. It is problematic suggests a double standard that readers might find difficult to reconcile. However, once we understand that Odysseus is still in combat mode, and this affects the way he perceives things. Any minor disturbance will be seen as a threat to him and his crew. This erratic behaviour caused much of the difficulty he faced on his homeward voyage. It could also account for the paradoxical behaviour and selective application of xenia.

(946 words).

A promising argument, but you abandon the text halfway through to simply repeat the same statements over and over again. You provideno textual evidence for your assertions in this latter half. B-/C+


Homer,The Odyssey. USA: Penguin Books, 1996.

Professor Seo, Greek key terms: the Odyssey -



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