HE217, Western Literature
(Spring Term, 2005)
The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces
Glossary of Literary Terms (click)
Peekaboo, hide and seek--the area of human experience suggested by these common childhood games will be the unifying idea of this course. The theme emerges as perhaps the essential concern of human experience, especially as documented by literature, that quintessential effort to capture the fleeting, the receding, the no longer present elements in our lives. In Western Literature everything begins with something like "the fall," the "loss" of paradise; love, poetry, art, identity--virtually every human endeavor rehearses this seminal story. Our job is not just to trace, but to activate the various permutations of this theme, as we read a selection of works from the Greeks to the Elizabethans.
1. Sample Successful Paragraphs from in-class writing on 10 Jan (click)
2. Assignment #1 (click)
3. List of motifs and patterns and sample paragraphs from writing on 12 Jan (click)
4. Job, Song of Songs, and Jonah Quiz (click)
5. Sample Paper on Assignment #1 (click)
6. Expectations for re-writes (click)
7. Assignment #2 (click)
8. Quiz on Middle Books (and more) of The Odyssey--along with successful answers and paragraphs (click).
9. Successful Essay(s) on Assignment #1 (click)
10, Sample successful paragraphs on Socrates as Hero (click)
11. Oedipus Quiz with sample successful responses (click)
12. Results from Group Projects on Imagery Patterns and Motifs in Oedipus (click)
13. Images from The Aeneid (click)
14. Aeneid Quiz with sample successful answers and paragraphs (click)
15. Beowulf Resources (click)
16. "Draft to Final Paper"--2 examples on Assignment #1 (click)
17. Sir Gawain Resources (click)
18. Dante Resources (click)
19. Assignment for Paper #3 (click)
20. Beowulf Quiz with successful student paragraphs (click)
21. Sentence Variety Exercise (click)
22. Sample Successful Papers on Assignment #2 (click)
23. Sample Successful Paragraphs on the tranistion from pentangle to girdle in Sir Gawain (click)
24. Names in Othello (click)
25. "Hero table" (click)
26. Final Exam Study Guide (click)
27. Point totals--final week (click)
28. End of semester point totals (click)
29. Final Grades and Point Totals (click)
|WEEK||DAY||READINGS||TOPICS AND ACTIVITIES|
|WK1||Jan 7||Introduction to Course||Survey on "Periods"|
|WK 2||Jan 10||Intro, 1-11; The Bible (OT), 47-61||Legend, Myth, Core Beliefs|
|Jan 12||The Bible (Joseph), 61-72||Early Bildungsroman; OT Narrative Structure; Quiz|
|Jan 14||The Bible (Job, 72-88); (Jonah, 95-97);
(Song of Songs, 91-95)
|Hebrew Hero; Curse of the Prophet; Love;
|WK 3||Jan 17||NO CLASS--KING'S BIRTHDAY||R&R|
|Jan 19||Review||Inventory of Themes and Structures|
|Jan 21||The Odyssey, Bks 1-4||Epic; Telemakhos' story; Themes|
|WK 4||Jan 24||The Odyssey, Bks 5-8||Wandering and Home|
|Jan 26||The Odyssey, Bks 9-16||Hospitality; Naming and Telling; Women; Quiz|
|Jan 28||The Odyssey, Bks 17-20||Disguise and Identity|
|WK 5||Jan 31||The Odyssey, Bks 21-24||Lost and Found--the Only Theme|
|Feb 2||Review||Difference between "Plot" and "Story"|
|Feb 4||Open; Paper #1 Due(Click)||In-class editing; empahsizing the verb (click)|
|WK 6||Feb 7||The Apology of Socrates, 726-46||Greek Hero|
|Feb 9||Oedipus the King, 596-640||Making the Self; Quiz;
Group Work on Imagery--Assignment (click)
|Feb 11||Oedipus, cont.||Destiny; Structure; Imagery|
|WK 7||Feb 14||From Poetics, 746-50||Tragedy|
|Feb 16||Lysistrata, 672-726||Men, Women, and War|
|Feb 18||Lysistrata, cont.||Comedy|
|WK 8||Feb 21||NO CLASS--PRESIDENTS' DAY||R&R|
|Feb 23||The Aeneid, 814-825||Roman "Propaganda"|
|Feb 25||The Aeneid (Snow Day--session cancelled)||Once More to Troy|
|WK 9||Feb 28||The Aeneid, 825-47||Duty, Passion, and Women; Quiz|
|Mar 2||The Aeneid, 847-895||"Nation Building" and the Individual|
|Mar 4||The Middle Ages, 1035-39
(Rewrites of Paper #1 Due)--Expectations
|WK10||Mar 7||Beowulf, 1057-86 (Beowulf Resources click)||"The Monster" and Meaning; Quiz|
|Mar 9||Beowulf, 1086-1103||Epic Tragedy? Group Reports|
|Mar 11||Open||Review Group Reports, cont.|
|Mar 14-20||NO CLASS--SPRING BREAK||R&R|
|WK11||Mar 21||Open ("Dream of the Rood" click ; for in class)||Beowulf, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid|
|Mar 23||Sir Gawain, 1458-69||Arthurian Romance; "The Monster" Revisited|
|Mar 25||Sir Gawain, 1469-1512||"The Fall"; Chivalry; Romance vs. Epic; Quiz|
|WK12||Mar 28||The Inferno, 1293-1321 (Dante Images--click)||Romance, Love, and Judgment; Contrapasso|
|Mar 30||Paper #2 Due (Click)||In-class editing; Sentence Variety (click )|
|Apr 1||The Inferno, 1321-42||"The Monster" of the Literal; Woman; Quiz|
|WK13||Apr 4||The Inferno, 1342-61||Poet as Hero|
|Apr 6||The Inferno, 1361-92||Virgil as Guide--Why?|
|Apr 8||The Inferno, 1392-1409||Comedy? Authorial Pride? (Hero table)|
|WK14||Apr 11||Review||Dante's "Development" in Hell|
|Apr 13||The Canterbury Tales, 1512-34||Estates Satire--the Medieval Chaucer; Quiz|
|Apr 15||The Canterbury Tales, 1534-1573||Complex Character--the "Modern" Chaucer|
|WK15||Apr 18||The Canterbury Tales, 1573-85||Dramatic Narration|
|Apr 20||Everyman, 1628; Second Shepherd's Play (click)||Medeval Drama in a Day Unannounced Quiz|
|Apr 22||Othello, 2110-92||Individuality of Characters; Motivation|
|WK16||Apr 25||Othello, cont||War and Women; Remnants of Allegory|
|Apr 27||Othello, cont.||Tragedy; What Happened to the Hero?|
|Apr 29||Review and Concluding Matters; Paper#3 Due(Click)||Discuss Final Exam|
|**||Final Exam (7:55AM!)||Open Note and Open Book Exam|
2. Instruction: Some short lectures, but mainly discussion shared among students and teacher.
4. Office Hours: MWF: 3rd; T: 8-11 & 2-3:30. I read my e-mail frequently and my office phone is 36232.
|Here's a handful of successful paragraphs from our in-class writing on 10 January. These paragraphs succeed because they stay focused on a particular, narrow idea and are not at all stingy about offering examples and explanation of how those examples fit.|
| One pattern that
emerged as I read the Bible stories was the lord's willingness to allow
men free will. He gave Adam and Eve the choice of whether or not
to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. The people of Babel were
allowed the ambition to think they could travel to heaven. He also
put Job through severe torture to prove to Satan that men could still choose
to be faithful under any circumstances. After the flood, God did
not enjoy what he did and made the promise to never repeat himself, no
matter what state men reside in. I keep seeing how many chances men
have to exercise free will and it astounds me. Some people might
ask that if the lord wanted peace and tranquility why didn't he make it
so? I believe he has given us something more with free will, that
is truly being an image of God, able to make our own choices even when
they are wrong. (Jeremy Garza)
I intend to analyze my personal reactions to the several Bible readings. My immediate response to this material was scrutiny and disbelief. I found myself almost angry at the authors from trying to pass off the creation story and Adam and Eve as actual historical truth. This obviously shows I am bringing some prejudice and preconceived ideas to the text, which is probably a bad thing. I thought it was odd that an all-powerful God would need 40 days and 40 nights to destroy his creation. I also struggled with the idea that an all-loving, all-knowing God would need to test men he knew to be faithful, and why to do it in such abstract, arbitrary ways. For example, why make Abraham walk to some other country and climb a mountain to perform a vicious sacrifice? Can these stories really be true and be taken literally? Or were the authors men with an agenda, creating elaborate tales to solidify their power over people? Is the logic behind the story of Job sound? Should a person have blind faith in something? Is that wisdom or ignorance? So it would appear my reactions are laced with doubt and uncertainty as to how to read the material, whether it is true, whether the messages are indeed wise, and so on. (Michael Short)
A pattern within the Bible stories is that man continually mistakes. However, God never stops caring for man, although He does punish man. For example, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. He does not destroy them. Though they are expelled from the garden, he clothes them with animal skins. This shows that He cares. When Cain is driven out for murdering his brother, God places a mark upon Cain to save him from suffering the same fate. This trend builds the image of God as merciful and compassionate towards His creation. A contradiction emerges when the Lord sends a flood to wipe out the evil, but again he saves a few. After the flood he forms a covenant with man promising to never send the floods again. A phrase the Lord continually seems to say to man is "go out, be fruitful, and multiply." This wraps up God's attitude and desire towards man. (Colin Finnegan)
One repetitive aspect of the reading assignment was a minimal or evil role of women. In these stories, Eve convinces Adam to bite into the apple. Jacob's mother comes up with the plan to trick his father into giving him his brother's inheritance. These are really the only two female characters we see and they are painted as conniving. In the other stories females are simply known as the wife of some greater character. Noah and his sons are all named, but their wives are not, depicting them as less important. Abraham's wife has no say in whether or not Abraham sacrifices their son. Most of the important Biblical figures are blessed with sons, who marry wives but none actually has daughters. All of this can be attributed to the fact that these stories were written by a man at a point in time where women were not viewed as significant. (Kait Kempe)
The theme of deception
recurs throughout the Old TEstament, and in some cases is shown in a positive
light, which is quite similar to the glorification of cunning and trickery
seen in epics such as The Iliad and The Odyssey. Jacob
not only deceives his father but also lies to him outright, and yet he
receives his blessing, while the diligent and honest Esau gets nothing.
Jacob also exploits his brother in a wholly unfraternal act of letting
his brother suffer from hunger until he forfeits his birthright, yet Jacob
gains from this and Esau suffers. Likewise, Satan disguises himself
as a serpent, and through such trickery is able to accomplish his goal
of achieving the fall of mankind, showing once again that deception and
guile will accomplish goals. In addition, in the story of Abraham
and Isaac, God deceives Abraham by not telling him he was just testing
him, and Abraham lies to Isaac about what is going to be sacrificed on
the mountain top. (Mat Bridwell)
Write a gracefully structured paragraph in which you do one of two possible things: a) identify a pattern or motif that the Joseph story picks up from earlier OT readings and employs in a meaninful way; or b) concentrate on a pattern or motif in the Joseph story itself that is repeated in a meaningful way. You need to identify and illustrate the motif and explain why and how it is important to the meaning of the story.
Part 1 (6 points). Match the
numbers with the letters so as to identify the speaker of each passage.
You'll have to use one name twice.
Part 2 (4 pts). Briefly and exactly respond to the following prompts.
1. What would you say the literary form of Job is? Put a word on it.
2. What do the counselors/friends do that "earns" them God's wrath and punishment? Be specific.
3.. What is Jonah's dilemma, or his "problem with God"?
4. In a phrase, identify the theme of Song of Songs.
for Paper #1
Audience: your classmates and instructor
General Guidelines: Use one of the approaches below as a guide to inventing a thesis and developing an analytical discussion that will help your classmates and me understand more fully some aspect of one of these two "documents" we have read so far. To read a sample paper, click here. For other examples of successful student papers of different sorts click hereand here--these last two are displayed as going from "ok" first drafts to successful final drafts, so be sure to look at the final drafts
Things to Avoid:
plot summary or retelling of what happens;
1) you can use "I";
Motif, or Recurring Pattern. (Closely related to thematic approach).
Focus on the importance to the overall work of a single strand that runs
through it. Click
for an example of a successful student paper on "grasping" as a mofif in
Sample thesis on this approach: As Henry Fielding said in Tom Jones, The Odyssey is a "great eating poem." Certainly he was right: few pages pass by without some sort of feast. All of this certainly tells us about the Homeric age, about what the elite, at least, ate, about rituals of sacrifice and so on. However, the recurring concern with eating serves as an important marker in the poem of good and bad behavior, as a basis for judging and trusting others.
C. Part to the Whole. Examine the importance of a single episode, a digression, or a minor character to the overall meaning--not just the plot--of the entire work. Why is that seemingly unimportant event or character, in fact, vitally important to our understanding of a larger theme or of a problem related to the main character in the whole work?
Sample thesis on this approach: The beggar at the manor episode in Book XVII of The Odyssey, though in some ways troubling for the way it delays the long-anticipated revenge, is important nevertheless in defining the kernel issue in the poem: the host-guest relationship and the indisputable obligations it requires. Only in working through this issue can Homer represent Odysseus's raid upon his own home and the guests in it as justifiable.
how a structural feature of the O.T. or The Odyssey is important
in developing the poem's meaning
As I read The Odyssey I find it amazing how well the parts seem to fit together--its focus on entry ways, hospitality, eating, and identity, for example, finally all make sense in and of themselves and also as they get mingled in the closing books. However, I can't so easily say the same thing for a lesser but nevertheless quite apparent pattern in the work: that of blindness and vision. It seems that blindness is both a good and a bad condition, at once a kind of power and also a fatal weakness. According to tradition, Homer was blind. In his poem, Homer understandably, then, depicts the highly praised Phaiakian poet Demodokos as sightless, and he also gives Tiresias, the "blind seer," an important and largely positive role during Odysseus' encounter with the dead in the underworld. On the other hand, Polyphemus' limited vision, with the single eye, and then his complete blindness as a result of Odysseus' escape from the cyclops' cave suggest that blindness symbolizes the brutal life and ignorance, everything antithetical to the Greek value system. This apparent problem--that blindness can be both a fault and favorable state--does, I think, have a solution, and that solution emerges from an understanding of man's limited knowledge in relation to the gods.
Before looking at that "solution," which emerges from Odysseus' advice to Amphinomos in Book XVIII, I would like to flesh out what I mean by this concern in the poem with vision and blindness. Generally the imagery follows an expected path: sight suggests understanding, awareness and some control of one's circumstances. Difficulty seeing and darkness suggest the opposite. Meneleus, for instance, uses the metaphor to describe his brother Agamemnon's death: he was "tricked blind, caught in the web of his deadly queen" (244). Unwary on his approach home, Agamemnon might as well have been blind. When Odysseus and his men approach the island on which the cyclops live, Homer emphasizes, as if to foreshadow the later weight given to literal blindness in the episode, the crews' limited vision: "Some god guided us / that night, for we could barely see our bows / in the dense fog around us, and no moonlight / filtered through the overcast" (306). Similarly, the remote, foreboding region in the North toward which Odysseus journeys in search of the opening to the underworld almost entirely lacks light: "hidden in mist and cloud," the men in that region never see the "eye of Helios," "ruinous night being rove over those wretches" (331). Soon after this adventure, as Odysseus and his men face the threat of the Sirens, he "levels with them" about the threat they will face, and does so while using the metaphor of sight: "let me tell [Circe's] forecast: then we die / with our eyes open, if we are going to die, / or know the death we baffle if we can" (352). Even though he holds back telling them about Scylla, it is quite clear that entering a risky situation with eyes wide open is admirable, even makes the endeavor more heroic.
In a more concentrated way than these wide-ranging examples illustrate, light (and thus clarity of vision) as opposed to darkness functions as an overarching metaphor within the final books describing Odysseus' homecoming and his plotting against the suitors. The repeated motif of recognition, of course, involves sight--the nurse and Laertes, for instance, have to see Odysseus' scar, get ocular proof, that is, in order to confirm his identity. The fact that Athena, not only Odysseus' immortal backer but also goddess of wisdom, is invisible to all but Odysseus and, at times, Telemokhos also supports this theme: those two can see wisdom, in a sense. Also in this section of the poem Odysseus becomes thoroughly associated with light and vision. In Book XVIII, for instance, he--as beggar--tells the maids to retreat to the female quarters so that he can tend to the light as the suitors revel: "I stand here / ready to tend these flares and offer light / to everyone. They cannot tire me out, / even if they wish to drink till Dawn" (439-40). In Book XIX, as Odysseus and Telemakhos stockpile the weapons for their upcoming attack on the suitors, Athena holds up "a golden lamp of purest light" (443). Telemakhos exclaims, in fact: "Oh, Father, / here is a marvel! All around I see / the walls and roof beams, pedestals and pillars, / lighted as though by white fire blazing near" (444). And Odysseus underscores the importance of Telemakhos' vision by saying, "The Gods who rule Olympos make this light" (444). Essentially, then, Odysseus' return brings a renewed light and a renewed vision to his manor. Appropriately his killing Antinoos is described as an act of cutting him off from that light, that vision: it brings "darkness on [Antinoos'] eyes" (479). Finally, Penelope's words, on learning of the suitors' deaths, underscore the function of blindness: "Blind young fools, they've tasted death for it" (493).
Interestingly, the translator entitles one of these late books, the XXth, "Signs and a Vision." And this title fits with the point I'm trying to make. Not only does Homer associate Odysseus with light and renewed vision in these episodes at his manor, but he also intensifies the occurrences of omens, signs. Some occur outwardly (Zeus' thunder) and some inwardly in such dreams as Penelope has (see 457 and 460) while, interestingly enough, her eyes are closed. First someone has to recognize, has to see, these signs--something the suitors are incapable of doing. And then someone has to interpret, or see through to, their essential meaning. Already in Meneleus' country having proven himself to Telemakhos (399 & 417) as one who recognizes and interprets signs--in that case the one concerning the hawk clutching and plucking a dove in the air--Theoklymenos in Book XXI is referred to by the narrator as "the visionary." In this capacity he delivers a vision of the future to the reveling suitors. Importantly this prophecy unfolds in language that emphasizes his sight and the suitors' lack thereof because of the "darkness" in which they live. He tells them that "night shrouds [them] to the knees, [their] heads, [their] faces" as blood drips from and all round them (466). "And thick with shades," he continues, "is the entry way, the courtyard thick with shades / passing athirst toward Erebos, into the dark, / the sun is quenched in heaven, foul mist hems us in . . ." (466). The suitors' response is funny, as it takes up Theoklymenos' metaphor, but is ultimately misguided and "blind": "The mind of our new quest has gone astray. / Hustle him out of doors, lads, into the sunlight; / he finds it dark as night inside!" (467). Finally, the seer's rejoinder continues this metaphor: "I have my eyes and ears . . . and a straight mind, still with me. These will do / to take me out. Damnation and black night / I see arriving for yourselves" (467).
I dwell on the details in this exchange between Theoklymenos and the suitors because they so clearly display the way in which the imagery of sight and lack thereof underscores the poems' judgment of its characters: Odysseus, who brings light to his manor, and Theoklymenos are good because they can see; the suitors are bad because they remain in the dark, incapable of seeing clearly beyond their basic, elemental desires to consume and possess. In this way, the epic ends by repeating the terms of the episode with Polyphemos, whose limited vision and then total blindness underscore his alienation from the dominant Greek culture described in the poem. Vision and all that it suggests, then, stands as a fundamental value within that culture.
Two more details further emphasize that point. First, the brief description of the Greek ships as they approach the island of the cyclops. As Odysseus recalls this approach for the Phaiakians, he carefully emphasizes the difference between the Greek's forward, progressive, far reaching culture on the one hand and the cyclops' backward, unimproved, random one on the other. He uses his ships as an example: their isle is "unplanted and untilled, a wilderness" that is used only to "pasture goats alone. And this is why: / good ships like ours with cheekpaint at the bows / are far beyond the Kyklopes. No shipwright / toils among them, shaping and building up / symmetrical trim hulls to cross the sea . . . " (306). In a footnote to this passage, our editor points out that the cheekpaint on the bows would normally depict "a huge eye" (for examples, click--scroll down to second image--and click). Not only the sleek hulls, but the eye depicted on the bow seems to mark off the Greek culture, the values that Odysseus represents. Just imagine how rich an episode this must have been to Homer's listeners/readers: the blinded, one-eyed Polyphemos tossing boulders at Greek ships that they knew had eyes painted on them! The other detail is Athena's sudden display of her aegis in Book XXII. Invariably images of Athena's aegis include the Gorgon (see click, click, or click) which looks directly at the viewer, eyes and mouth wide opened. When they see the aegis, the suitors "stampede like stung cattle" (486). Not only does the Gorgon's gaping mouth aggressively mirror the suitors' uncontrollable consumption; those piercing eyes underscore the fact that vision, in all its suggestiveness, functions as their lethal enemy in these final books. Vision also stands as the quintessential value of Greek culture that Odysseus and his connection with Athena--the goddess of wisdom and combat--develop.
Just as this meaning of sight becomes clear, however, the problem with its overall use in the poem looms even larger. If sight is so valuable, why then are such blind figures as Domodokos and Tiresias given prominence? The answer lies in the fact that "wise vision" includes the real possibility that it cannot see all that is important. Look for instance at the key passage in Book XVIII in which Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, addresses one of the more moderate suitors, whom Athena nevertheless chooses not to spare:
"Of mortal creatures, all that breathe and move,
However much pride Odysseus--and the Greeks for that matter--take in the forward looking vision, in mastery of the seen world, that vision has profound limitations, even leads to a kind of misapprehension. The simplest example of this is the episode in which Odysseus is cast upon the sea by Poseidon's storm as he ventures from Ogygia. While he struggles far from land in rugged sees, Ino provides him with help--the veil that will prevent him from drowning (Is it merely a coincidence that the device is a veil?). However, he distrusts her and, instead, trusts his own eyes: "No I'll not swim; with my own eyes I saw / how far the land lies that she called my shelter. / Better to do the wise thing, as I see it." As it turns out, by trusting in his own devices he suffers much more than he otherwise would have. His eyes--and here they represent not only 20/20 vision but also the wariness and self-protective suspicion that is so much a part of Odysseus' character--lead him away from the easier course. Though no one can blame Odysseus for his suspicion in this case, just having gotten free of the crafty Calypso, the episode does display the uncertainty of human sight.
For the very reason
that such sight is limited by the miseries and confusion that gods can
at any time bring on, as suggested by the passage above, the poem depicts
those few who have an enduring perspicacity as blind, as entirely independent
of the human sight that can sometimes get them through trouble but at others
can get them into it! Demodokos' gift from the muse, his ability
as poet, his status as one "whom God made lord of song" (290) is his blindness,
oddly enough an ability that enables others to see through
his poetry even that which is not present to the sight. Similarly,
Tiresias can peer into the future and is "forever / charged with reason
even among the dead" because, it seems, he is not distracted by
normal sight. In fact the narrator says, "of all the flitting ghosts,
/ Persephone has given [him] a mind undarkened" (329). Though not
blind, Theoklymenos shares this vision of the numinous world that mere
Greek awareness of the physical world, as symbolized by the eye on Odysseus'
ships, cannot reach. Because of this emphasis on seeing the unseeable,
dreams occur frequently in the final books of The Odyssey, forewarning
of what will come, of course, but also dramatizing the very limitations
of human sight. Dreams come when the eyes are closed; and though
some are illusory, others "may be borne out, if mortals only know them"
(457), as Penelope says. Because of this at first perplexing imagery
of sight and blindness, then, Odysseus' final triumph as bringer of light
and supplier of vision, remains only a provisional one: after all,
his mind, too, must remain as "the days are, dark or bright, / blown over
by the father of gods and men."
|Preparation for Friday, 11 Feb.
Work in groups to come up with comprehensive lists of passages from Oedipus
the King containing details spelled out below. Each
group will hand in its comprehensive list of passages identified by page
and line numbers on Friday, 11 Feb. I'll post these lists
on our syllabus. We'll devote Friday's class to a discussion of how
these patterns help to develop the major themes of the play.
[Worth 20 quiz points. The criteria are a) accuracy, which means identifying only instances that pertain to the imagery pattern, and b) comprehensiveness, which means identifying all those instances that pertain to it]
of the hunt
of agriculture, planting, and cultivation
of navigation, seamanship
of sight and blindness
and details related to identity
related to elevation and/or fall
Imagery of Navigation: The sea, as an image, conveys the uncertainty of the hardships of life. Moreover, the repeated images of ships in storms forshadow the eventual "wreck" that the royal house of Thebes becomes.
ll. 27-30, 68, 110, 117-19, 200-203, 223,226, 484, 765-67, 877-78, 954, 1010-11, 1336-37, 1451-54, 1498, 1546-47, 1683-84
Imagery of the Hunt: Imagery of the hunt adds to the overall irony of the drama. What is more ironic than a man hunting himself? Oedipus is like a dog chasing its own tail. Technically, three different kinds of hunts occur in the play: priests and people hunted by fear; Oedipus and the people's hunt for the killer of Laius; and Oedipus hunting for his origin and identity.
ll. 11, 120, 123-24, 126, 146, 181, 235, 250, 300, 302, 413, 452, 531-37, 600-06, 625, 692-96, 1322-28, 1386-88
|Language Related to Identity:
Sophocles' Oedipus, identity is conveyed as a central theme. The
plot unfolds from the perspective of Oedipus. Therefore, the audience
knows of every character solely based on his/her relationship to Oedipus.
However, even Oedipus' identity is not concrete: it is based on his ability
to answer a question. Accordingly, his identity is challenged with
the proposition of a second riddle. By identifying Oedipus with these
questions, Sophocles essentially propsoes that man's identity depends upon
the answers to the important questions he is asked. In this sense,
a man can never truly know his identity without being questioned.
With these questions the audience takes the journey of discovery with Oedipus.
As Oedipus' view of himself changes, so does his view of the other characters
in the play. Oedipus believes he knows himself in the beginning;
he prides himself on his well-known fame and glory: "you all know
me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus." In the end, however,
Oediups does not want to accept what he is told, even though it is apparently
true. He must accept his identity, but the King has trouble grasping
this new idea. Oedipus' perception changes the identity of other
characters because his view of the world changes as his perception of himself
evolves. The identity of every character changes throughout the play.
By proposing that every character has multiple identities, Sophocles suggests
that someone's identity is based not so much on who they are as how they
are seen. This is why Oedipus blinds himself--he doesn't want to
"see" who he really is.
ll. 7-9, 118,
280, 300-17, 410, 413, 450-52,
899-907, 1115-1116, 1135, 1155, 1164-68, 1173, 1183-90, 1199-1200, 1205-10,
1215-20, 1335-37, 1491-97, 1511-40, 1539-43, 1677-79
|Imagery of Agriculture,
67, 94, 109, 194, 263, 294*, 307*, 364, 401*, 488, 522-3*, 518*, 542*,
710-11, 739-40, 793-34, 835-8*, 985-86, 976,
1057, 1124-27, 1197-1200*, 1207-11, 1247, 1339-40,
1427, 1494-96, 1531, 1561-64, 1590-94, 1627*, 1635, 1640-44, 1645, 1659-60.
|Imagery of Sight and
ll. 14, 136, 323, 334, 360,
423, 425-27, 463, 470-71, 478-79, 590, 592-93, 625-26, 634, 653-54, 676-78,
793-94, 823, 838, 872, 874, 879, 885-94, 910, 922, 1010-11, 1054-61, 1082,
1094-96, 1099-1100, 1127, 1131, 1147, 1153, 1169, 1190, 1215, 1217, 1221-22,
1227, 1228, 1237, 1278, 1295, 1307 1342-43, 1352, 1366, 1384-86, 1394-1410,
1425, 1430-45, 1434-43, 1450, 1451-57, 1459-64, 1470-73, 1475-81, 1492-95,
1499, 1501-04, 1505-11, 1517-24, 1537-38, 1544-57, 1557, 1566-67, 1575-73,
1611-13, 1620-21, 1622-28, 1633, 1653, 1665, 1683-85
|Imagery of Rising and/or
Falling: The repetitive aspect of the rising or hanging object
in Oedipus suggests both power and truth. The imagery
goes hand in hand with the power Oedipus wields. He can raise up
the nation of Thebes. He did that initially when he solved the riddle
of the Sphinx; and he is asked by his people to do so again because of
the famine. The imaglery is also used to depict the truth.
When Jocasta finds out that truth behind her sins she hangs herself. Oedipus
asserts that he will only know the truth by the moon. When Oedipus
is a baby, Laius tries to hid from the truth by having a shepherd take
Oedipus away to a mountain. The themes of power and truth are important
ones throughout the play and the imagery of a risen or a hanging object
helps to emphasize the theme's importance.
ll.20, 29, 49, 57, 64, 65, 68, 155, 161, 164, 165, 181, 212, 213, 247, 257, 264, 293, 372, 427, 432, 448, 454, 512 531, 539, 604, 735, 792, 891 906 918, 957, 966, 1055, 1130, 1211, 1244, 1286, 1322, 1329, 1377, 1396, 1403, 1620, 1636, 1652,1660, 1681, 1683
grasp \`grasp\ To take or seize eagerly. To clasp or embrace, esp. with the fingers or arms. The power of seizing and holding or attaining. Mental hold or comprehension.
take \`tak\ To get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power, or control.
Grasping or taking are powerful actions. A man does not merely lay his hands upon his object: he takes hold of it; he clasps it and hangs on. Homer plays with this motif in The Odyssey, using gasping and taking as powerful symbolic acts with which his characters take control of their situation. This motif throughout the adventures of Odysseus the hero helps build up the theme of control. Who has control? Who takes control? As I read I see how power and control of the situation are passed from character to character and can match each exchange with some act of grasping.
The first act of taking belongs to Telemakhos as Athena stands in the doorway of his father’s house: “Straight to the door he came, irked with himself / To think a visitor had been kept there waiting, /And took her right hand, grasping with his left / Her tall bronze-bladed spear (212).” At this moment, Telemakhos joins his hand with Athena and gasps her spear. Athena’s spear is the symbol of her power and guile; part of her identity is with that spear according to traditional Greek mythology, which depicts Athena with a helmet, winged sandals, and that spear. Telemakhos takes that spear. Athena’s appearance on his doorstep marks the time when Telemakhos assumes responsibility for his destiny and begins to seek a way to take back control of his father’s household. Notice what Telemakhos does with Athena’s spear: he carries it into the hall and places it with his father’s weapons (213). Telemakhos initially takes control, but then relinquishes it to his absent father. This is the introduction of a power play between Telemakhos and Odysseus that I notice at the end of the story as well: Telemakhos initially takes control but relinquishes it to his father.
The next part of the story that has a notable instance of grasping is Odysseus’ struggle to clear the ocean after leaving Calypso’s island. As he is thrown into the rocks, “he gripped a rock-ledge with both hands in passing / and held on, groaning, as the surge went by, / to keep clear of its breaking. Then the backwash/ hit him, ripping his under and far out” (272). Odysseus, at the edge of land, is in a power struggle with Poseidon, the god of the sea. Odysseus seeks to grip the rocks and escape the sea god; Poseidon seeks to keep his grip on Odysseus.
Later, as Odysseus relates the story of his adventures to the Phaiakians, he vividly tells of how the Kyklops grabbed and ate “a brace” of his men in his cave in the evening and two more in the morning (310). From the moment the Kyklops enters the cave, Odysseus is in danger, but is in marginal control of the situation until the Kyklops takes his soldiers. At that moment, all dialogue and pretense of normal hospitality end and the monster is in life-and-death control of the hapless men imprisoned in his cave. When Odysseus blinds the Kyklops, I have a wonderful image of a bleeding, furious brute that despite his might has utterly lost control: “and his wild hands went groping” (312). Kyklops is unable to grasp anything! In fact he has lost all power! Then, to get out of the cave, Odysseus and his men cling to the underbelly of the goats “with fingers twisted deep / in sheepskin ringlets for an iron grip”, back in control and escaping the dread cave (313). Later in the same account, Odysseus takes also the plant “with black root and milky flower” that Hermes shows him on Kirke’s island, thereby failing to succumb to her drugged wine and taking control of the goddess (324). He takes the plant and it gives him power over even a sneaky witch-goddess.
The most resounding and significant acts of taking hold in the entire epic poem come in Book XXI and are centered on one object: Odysseus’ old bow. The attempts by the suitors to use the bow, Telemakhos’s attempt, and Odysseus’ final stringing are the culmination of Odysseus’ retake of his home. First, though, before any of the men even see the bow, Penelope finds it in the storeroom. “Now Penelope / sank down, holding the weapon on her knees / and drew her husband’s great bow out, and sobbed / and bit her lip and let the salt tears flow” (469). Penelope is not in this case taking the power that the bow symbolizes; rather, she is crying over the power that her Odysseus once had over his household but lost through his prolonged absence. She does not know that Odysseus has returned and she believes that in giving the bow over to the suitors that one of them will take the bow and the control that Odysseus once had – control over her, over his house, and over his holdings. She carries the bow in to the suitors and presents them with the bow, if they dare; with Odysseus’ power, if they can. Leodes cannot take Odysseus’ place any more than he can string the bow and he casts it from him declaring it – the symbol of Odysseus’s role – “a bow to break the heart and spirit / of many strong men” (471). Considering the repetition so far of the motif of grasping or taking, I cannot ignore the symbolism implicit in the taking and casting of Odysseus’ bow.
I mentioned before the idea of a power struggle between Telemakhos and his father. I look only at the struggle as it is embodied in these taking actions: first Athena’s spear and then Odysseus’ bow. Both times Telemakhos has power in his grasp and each time gives back to Odysseus. In the first case, Telemakhos puts the spear he took on his father’s weapon rack and in the second, Telemakhos unsuccessfully tries to string the bow thrice: “a fourth try and he had it all but strung – / when a stiffening in Odysseus made him check” (470). He then challenges the suitors: “Take over, / O my elders and betters, try the bow” (471). “Take the bow,” he says to the suitors. “Just try to take my father’s power. Just try and see if you can stand up to him. You will learn that he is in control” (my own). In releasing the bow, he releases power knowingly into Odysseus’ hands. On the bow and on the taking of the bow are centered all Odysseus’ power in the book: the power to reclaim that which is his. The culminating question of who is the most powerful is answered by the man who can take the bow.
This is no surprise
given the buildup of the motif contributing to the theme. Taking,
grasping is assuming power. Homer uses the literal action throughout
Odyssey to create the motif of grasping and taking when assuming power
and asserting control and furthers the control theme of the story.
The question of “who is in control?” throughout the story, when taken in
small pieces, can be answered by “the one who grasped or took”.
Part 1 (5 points). Match the letter with the number.
Part 2 (5 pts). Provide an accurate, short response to each prompt below.
1. Compass direction for getting to the opening of the underworld. North
2. Name two of Odysseus' three mistakes in the episode with the Cyclops (Kyklops). 1)staying in the cave out of curiosity to see Polyphemous, against the advice of his crew; 2) taunting the Cylcops and thus bringing his vessel within reach of the debris the giant hurls at it; and 3) identifying himself to the Cyclops after having inventively disguised his identity.
3. Identify a pattern--if possible one we have not mentioned--that occurs in these middle books.
1) disguise; 2) beastliness as metaphor for diminished humanity; 3) defiance of gods; 4) blood and its potency; 5) parallel within convention of hospitality; 6) the color purple; 7) women trying to possess Odysseus (includes Scylla and Charibdis and feminine symbols, as well); 8) repeatedly being tantalized by closeness to goal, but failing to reach it; 9) "acceptable losses" in conflicts; 10) bathing and receiving new clothes; 11) suseptibility of O's men to trickery and deception, even his; 12) disobedience; 13) caves on confinements; 14) giving into--or the inevitability of giving into--temptation.
Add to those, the following and you have a good sense of some of the richness of this tapestry called The Odyssey:
4. Identify the speaker of this passage:
. . . Two of a kind, we are,
5. What the "shades" from
the underworld need to do before they can speak to Odysseus. Drink
from pool of blood
Part 3 (5 pts). Write a short paragraph (use other side of sheet) in which you analyze the "meaning"--no plot summary needed!--of one of the following encounters: with Circe, with the Cyclops, with those in the underworld, or with Scylla (Skylla) and Charybdis (Kharybdis). Its "meaning" is the way it--and the patterns it contains--contribute to the development of one of the work's important themes.
For sample successful paragraphs click here.
Extra Credit (3 points). With unerring accuracy (body parts, sounds she makes, etc) describe Scylla.
6 heads, on serpant necks;
12 arms/legs; "triple serried rows of fangs and deep gullets of black death";
yaps like a dog constantly.
Odysseus's encounter with the Cyclops is a microcosm of the larger story. Not only do his actions cause the bulk of the plot to follow, but they are also characteristic of his character. First, Odysseus's actions--getting his crew and himself trapped in the cave--are similar to the cause of the whole adventure: if Odysseus had never gone to Troy in the first place, he would never have gotten lost coming vack. Similarly, had he not sought to investigate the cave to see the Syclops, he would have never been trapped. As in the rest of the poem, it is his ingenuity that saves him from a predicatment in which he placed himself. This episode also contains patterns and motifs that run throughout the poem. The cave is a symbol of a "container" (the constant trap in a culture emphasizing wide-ranging freedom of thought and action); his guile is ever-present; and Odysseus's blinding of the Cyclops represents his "sneaking past" all his adversaries, who are blind to his actions. (Michael DeCarlos)
The encounter with Circe runs both parallel and counter to the major theme of hospitality. On the one hand, Odysseus has th prove himself a great man by overcoming the poison before Circe is humbled before him and then treats him to the best of hospitality. In a similar way, Odysseus really had to win over the Phaiakians to ensure he received a trip hom. As evidence for this I offer Athena's speech to Odysseus in the cave at Ithaka in which she says it was she who won the Phaiakians over "to a man." However, the scene with Circe also contradicts a pattern of blind hospitality to a guest without requiring him to prove himself or win the affections of his hosts, as, for example, in the way the way Telemachus is received at Nestor's and Meneleus's, or in a sesne, Odysseus is taken in by Kalypso. There is indeed much more to this complicated pattern of hospitality that I can't get into here. (Michael Short)
The scene with Scylla and Charibdis builds upon the theme of Odysseus's guile and trickery, but in this case he deceives his own men by not telling them that in order to pass through the two dangers, he will pick the lesser of the two evils and basically sacrifice some of his men to allow the ship to pass. The choice itself is unnerving, but unfortunately it is the only way to get home: after all, the men might not have gone forward had they known Odysseus's plan. This decision by Odysseus shows the constant trickery that goes back and forth between him and his men! They disobey his orders when he is not looking, but the reason they do this is that he fails to impart to them the dangers and consequences that seemingly innocent actions will have. He doesn't tell them about what is in Ailios's bag or what will happen if they eat Helios's cattle. This could be Homer's way of saying men should always have absolute faith in their leaders because they know more even if they do not let on that they do. (Matthew Bridwell)
1) If the re-write clearly improves on the original, the grade of the re-write replaces that of the original paper;
2) You will hand in the original with the re-write;
3) The re-write will have sharpened the paper's purpose and thesis;
4) It will have added to, reconfigured, or approached anew its development of the thesis;
5) It will have addressed the problem of dependence on "It is . . .," "There is," structures, on the "passive voice," and on overuse of the "to be" verb generally;
6) And it will not have any of the following grammatical problems:
(a) sentence fragments (click)
7) For two
examples of students going from "OK" first drafts to fine re-writes click
|Assignment for Paper #2
-Due date: 30 March
-Length: 3-4 pages, double-spaced, 12pt font.
-No title page needed, but do invent an interesting, fitting title.
-Audience: your classmates and instructor
-Works you can address: The Apology
-Expectations: apart from the following prompt, the expectations for this paper mirror those for the re-write of paper #1. To review those expectations click here.
-Prompt: as in Assignment #1, I want
you to focus on some detail, some particular episode or rhetorical gesture,
some strand that runs through a work, some problem, repeated pattern of
action or language and to use that "small thing" to open up the work to
an understanding that clearly goes beyond what we would be able to achieve,
say, in our in-class discussions. Remember
one of your three papers this term must address the course
theme of "the lost thing."
|1. Bernini, Aeneas and Anchises
other versions (click)
2. Turner, Dido Building Carthage (click)
3. Dughet, Landscape with Union of Dido and Aeneas (click)
4. Verkolye, Dido and Aeneas (click)
5. Parada, Dido (click)
6. Solimena, Dido Receiving Aeneas (click)
7. Barocci, Aeneas' Flight from Troy (click)
8. Rubens, Death of Dido (click)
9. Allston, Dido and Aeneas (click)
1. First page of manuscript (click)
2. O.E. Edition (click)
3. Resources for studying Beowulf (click)
4. Interior of mead hall (click)
5. Beowulfgeography (click)
Ground plan of Heorot (click)
In both the Old Testament and The Odyssey there is a theme of sexuality, and both works seem to look disapprovingly on a so-called free love displayed by some of the characters. The scene that most clearly shows this admonition to control the amorous passions is Joseph in Potiphar’s house. This scene of success in this area is contrasted in the Odyssey with the scenes where the goddesses capture Odysseus and he lives as their sex slave. His lack of responsibility greatly hinders his journey home and almost brings ruin on his family. In these instances we are shown a condemnation of the indulgence of passion, but there is also proof that the marriage bed is a sacred thing as well by the love of Penelope and the entire Song of Solomon.
When Joseph is given free reign over Potiphar’s house, everything seems to work out in his favor as he gains more and more power in the everyday goings on. Potiphar even has no knowledge of what goes on in his house “save the bread which he did eat.” (Gen. 39:6). Joseph becomes the man of the house, quite literally. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife also sees his power. She is frustrated with the passive husband she has, one who willingly surrenders the reign of his household to this new capable servant. She is not satisfied by her current state of affairs, and a woman longs to be satisfied with a man. That is evident throughout the works. Penelope would not settle for any of the suitors unless they could measure up to her man, Odysseus. Job’s wife is frustrated that he keeps debasing himself instead of retaining some dignity. Rather than sit in the ashes and wail, she disgustedly tells him to “curse God and die.” (Job 2:9). So Potiphar’s wife longs to be satisfied by a real man. She chooses Joseph because her husband will not do.
Joseph refuses, however. He maintains that he cannot do such a thing in the sight of God, nor can he dishonor his master, Potiphar. Surely this woman, using all her schemes, must bring up the point of how much more a man Joseph is than her husband. Surely she plays to his male ego. Surely she appeals to his pride. It is precisely Joseph’s humility, however, that gets him to the top of the world. He learns a hard lesson in humility from his older brothers, all eleven of them, when he tries to tell them the simple truth about himself and how great he will become. Having even a shred of pride got him sold into slavery, and he learns his lesson like none of us should have to. After his younger, rasher days, however, in Potiphar’s house and afterward, he is humble. It is probably this reason that God pours so many blessings on him, because the God of the Old Testament likes to favor the underdog while humbling the proud. So when Potiphar’s wife appeals to Joseph’s pride she is not going to get far. She does not. He maintains his purity and his humility, and because of those two things God blesses Joseph immensely.
Odysseus, on the
other hand, does not control himself in this way. We meet him when
he is a sex slave on Kalypso’s island, and it is only an act of the gods
that frees him from her. Kalypso was missing what every woman wants
as well, alone on her island, until Odysseus comes along. The fact
that he cannot resist her (of course, she is a goddess, which must make
resisting her harder than simply an empty house, as in Joseph’s case) costs
him years of his life, which keeps him from his home, his wife, and his
son, and which also allows the suitors to almost destroy his house.
Kirke, when finding that Odysseus did not succumb to her drink, fell to
her knees in abject obedience. She felt his power when he drew his
sword on her, an action that could easily be taken sexually, and immediately
begs to be his lover. Once again she needs to be satisfied by a real
man, one who is not subject to her witch-powers, and she only finds him
in Odysseus. Had Joseph been there, he might have resisted and went
on once his men were free from the spell, but there is no such luck.
The men must stay on Kirke’s island for the entire year that Odysseus gives
in to the temptation, and while it is not a gulag they suffer through,
they still long for home. It takes a lot of convincing to finally
get Odysseus to leave, and the reason for his reluctance to leave is the
pleasures he was having in the bed of the witch.
All of this is not to say that sexuality is condemned. The Song of Solomon is a beautiful celebration of the love shared between a lover and his beloved, and rather racy in light of the sacred and religious nature of the rest of the Bible. We see how Adam “knew Eve his wife” (Gen 4:1), as well as other healthy unions that are sanctioned by God. Odysseus is eager to get back to his wife, because she is his wife. It could be argued that she is simply his primary possession or something like that, but the fact is that she is his wife, and their bed was important to him, if not sacred. When she mentions moving the bed, he becomes enflamed with rage. It is this way that she knows he is indeed her husband – the intimacy of the bed, their little secret (Odyssey, XXIII, 204-208). So in all these we see that the marriage bed is pure and celebrated in both of these works.
Both the Old Testament and the Odyssey present some suggestions and guidelines about sex and the indulgence thereof. Both celebrate it as a gift of God or the gods, while both show the virtues of controlling the passions and maintaining the sanctity of the marriage bed. Joseph shows restraint and is eventually blessed with half the kingdom of Egypt. Odysseus indulges and endures many hardships, not the least of which was separation from his wife, and was kept from “crossing into age together” with her (XXIII, 215). I think the lesson is pretty clear.
Sexual Imagery as
a Clue to Odysseus
The Odyssey thrusts two main sexual images at us over the course of Odysseus’s journey from Kalypso’s island to Ithaca. The first is that of the cave, which can represent the female genitalia, and the second is the bed, which is built on a tree trunk, or male genitalia. The struggle throughout is which one will gain mastery over the other, and which is most favorable. The predominant phallic imagery of masculinity and man’s strength is found in a rigid pole or sword, such as the spear Telemakhus takes with him when he firsts stands up to the suitors or the masts of Odysseus’s ships. This theme can give us some insight into the development of the main character in The Odyssey.
The tale of Odysseus begins with a description of the cave he is held captive in, which is Kalypso’s home. There is some strong sexual imagery used to create a mental picture of this “smoothwalled” (V, 74) cave, which serves to steer the audience’s minds toward that most secret and sought after part of the female form. “A deep wood grew outside, with summer leaves/of alder and black poplar, pungent cypress” (69-70). The listeners at the time must have shaken their heads at this and thought “’pungent’ indeed.” There is also a vine running around the cave (perhaps a vein?), and it bears “purple clusters” (75) of sweet grapes, which allude to wine and lovemaking. Further allusions to lovemaking here are the description of the birds that live in the forest as “long-tongued,” (72) while resting on their “stretched wings,” (71) or wings spread wide apart. These images all serve to prove that “Even a god who found this place/would gaze, and feel his heart beat with delight” (79-80). Odysseus, shipwrecked and dying on the sea, could not have felt differently. Indeed, when we meet him shortly after this description, he is weeping for home, desperate to leave now that “the nymph had ceased to please” (161). The fact that she had “ceased to please” implies that she had pleased him at one point, as could be predicted when one sleeps with a goddess.
The time for frivolity is over, however. Kalypso has sung, “that he should not… grow old” (142), but Odysseus pines for a time when he can once again be a man. He is kept in childhood here on the island, for between a woman’s legs lies not only sexual pleasure but childbirth and motherhood. Kalypso has effectively squelched Odysseus’s manhood and made him her child, whom she has complete control over. “Though he fought shy of her and her desire/he lay with her each night, for she compelled him” (162-3). “She turned and led him to her cave” (203). These two passages show how Odysseus has no control and leadership in the situation that he is in, and he has lived in these conditions for seven long years. The man inside of Odysseus chafes at that, and so we first see him weeping, staring off into the distance towards his home, where his tree-trunk bed resides.
Further imagery suggesting infancy comes from Telemakhus, at the moment he stands up to the suitors. It is here where he “drew on his tunic and his mantle/slung on a sword belt and a new-edged sword” (II, 3-4). This is the first mention of Telemakhus clothing himself, and we also see him grasping a new sword in the moment of his coming of age. He has been kept down by the suitors, just as Odysseus has been kept down by the goddess. Similarly, we do not see Odysseus dress himself before the day Kalypso lets him go from her cave (V, 238), and the image of the sword will reappear in the episode on Kirke’s island. Obviously infants are naked and unarmed, lacking the true strength of manhood, whereas grown men are expected to possess both.
When Kalypso allows Odysseus to leave, the gift she gives to him, besides the stores of food for his journey, is the gift of tall trees to make his raft from. After years of living in a cave, or a representation of the female genitalia and even of the womb, his salvation comes in the form of rigid wooden poles, easily seen as the male counterpart to the cave. This reunion of Odysseus to his manhood is the beginning of his long journey back to the ultimate symbol of his sexuality, the bed he shares with Penelope.
Odysseus soon trades his flimsy raft for ships with masts, a much firmer and upright symbol of manhood. Two episodes over the course of his journey that show his adherence to his newly found manhood are Kirke’s island and the scene with the sirens. Although these are both scenes normally called upon to show his distractedness, I think they both aptly display the ways he has grown since his enslavement on Kalypso’s island. First, he overcomes Kirke with his sword, and does not neglect to bring his spear along when first scouting out the island (X, 351, 154). His manhood subdues her, though he is distracted from his quest once he becomes her lover. In the episode with the sirens, his foresight allows him to survive the distraction he willingly undergoes. The act of this foresight is for him to be lashed to the mast of his ship, so that even when he longs to run from his manhood and sit at the feet of those singing goddesses (XII, 197-240), he cannot. Here again the rigid mast is a symbol of his masculine strength, and he is distracted from the main course home to his great bed, but does not completely lose his manhood the way he did on Kalypso’s island.
He comes home. He defeats the suitors. He is once again in charge of his household, a man victorious. Or is he? Penelope will not believe it is him until she tests the true source of his manhood. Sure, he can shoot his arrow through a couple of arrowheads (and he has been doing that with all kinds of promiscuity on his way home), but she only knows it is indeed her man when she asks him about their bed. “Who dared move my bed?” (XXIII, 187), he roars. “An old trunk of olive/grew like a pillar on the building plot/and I laid out our bedroom round that tree” (193-5), he continues, redefining not only to Penelope but also to himself the true, ancient source of his manhood rooted deep in antiquity. It is the bed that reveals all, that reasserts his manhood to the people who most need him to be a man, and it is the bed that no one can duplicate for him. “Could someone else’s hand/have sawn that trunk and dragged the frame away?” (205-6). Even the best efforts of two goddesses could not budge the true source of Odysseus’s manhood, and here at the end of his journey all is restored to him.
So we can see Odysseus’s character developed through the sexual images
given to us by the poet. He moves on a massive quest from the vagina
of Kalypso, even undergoing some kind of experience of being “born again.”
Along the way other goddesses seek to distract him, and while he succumbs
to the temptations he is not completely stripped of his manhood, and remains
in control of his sword or lashed to his mast. When he finally does
get home, it is only his bed that undeniably asserts his manhood, because
it is build around the enormous and deep-rooted trunk of a tree.
It is only after we learn of this sexual detail that we see Odysseus as
the man he always tried to be. He is not the man of the house until
he is reunited with the tree trunk and his great bed – the source of his
Homer in The Odyssey deals heavily with the concept of loyalty and its importance to many aspects of the ancient Greek civilization. Many different forms of loyalty pepper this work, but highlighting just a few specific examples allows for a deep understanding of why and how this concept has such a prominent place in the story. The most prominent form of loyalty exhibited is of course the devotion Penélopê and Telémakhos show toward their absent lord. In fact, the entire household’s varying degrees of loyalty to the wandering master have enormous implications in the justice- and vengeance-ridden conclusion of the epic poem, as Odysseus deals out death to those who fail him during his long voyage. Issues of loyalty pervade Homer’s epic to the degree that their importance is inarguably great. Instances or absences of both domestic and martial devotedness within the story play extremely important roles in shaping its thematic character, for Homer uses the arching theme of many forms loyalty or the lack thereof to build numerous other themes in his great poem.
One important theme of The Odyssey that relies heavily on the concept of loyalty involves the role the home plays in Odysseus’ long journey. His obvious commitment to his home is undoubtedly reciprocated in Penélopê’s devotion to him. Her allegiance is important because it complements Odysseus’ burning desire to return through horrible trials to the one place constantly on his mind: his home. Had she failed to uphold this allegiance, Odysseus would have returned to an unwelcoming manor, not the comforting home he has sought for so long. Penélopê characterizes herself as the ideal Greek wife upholding this home through her powerful expression of fidelity and love for her husband: “If [Odysseus] returned, if he were here to care for me, / I might be happily renowned! / But grief instead heaven sent me—years of pain” (446). After twenty years of separation, Penélopê maintains the kind of loyalty to Odysseus that complements his passionate yearning for her. She, as the wife and mother, is the primary embodiment of the Greek home, and her virtue and devotion sanctify her home as Odysseus tries so desperately to regain it. Homer’s prevalent theme concerning the importance of the home could not have been constructed so well without using Penélopê’s devotion to sanctify Odysseus’ manor.
Another theme which Homer develops by way of his concept of loyalty is the relationship between Odysseus and his son, Telémakhos. Their relationship is unique because they essentially meet for the first time when Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca. Telémakhos’ loyalty in a large part springs from his desire to prove his manliness and strength to a father who has been absent so long. He knows that to do so, he must take an active role in Odysseus’ last challenge to forcibly remove the suitors from the home. Because the situation at hand demands fast action and leaves little time for affection and conversation, Odysseus and Telémakhos get their first impressions of each other through planning and executing a battle. Martial skill is the primary criterion through which Telémakhos can prove his loyalty and Odysseus can assess his son’s worth. Thus, both Telémakhos’ expressions of devotion and Odysseus’ remarks of approval are war-oriented. As the three generations of Ithacan nobles fight side by side against the vengeful townspeople, Odysseus makes clear his expectations of his son: “I count on you / to bring no shame upon your forefathers. / In fighting power we have excelled this lot / in every generation” (512). Telémakhos is prepared to fulfill his father’s hopes as he counters: “If you are curious, Father, watch and see / the stuff that’s in me. No more talk of shame” (513). Loyalty, as proven through battle-bred mutual confidence, characterizes much of the very important relationship between the long-separated father and son. Later, perhaps, they will develop a relationship through less violent means, but for now, skill in fighting is the main link that establishes their initial bond. The importance of prowess in arms is highlighted throughout the poem, and the way loyalties forge the bond between father and son is a reflection of the violent culture Homer describes.
Many of Odysseus’ servants express a kind of loyalty that is of consequence on both the domestic and martial levels. Homer repeatedly emphasizes their unwavering devotion to their master, even after the long years of his wandering. Eumaios epitomizes this devotion as he reminisces to the disguised Odysseus:
“Never again shall I
This is the kind of loyalty that contributes to the sanctity of the home awaiting Odysseus as he returns from war. It will also prove valuable as Odysseus confronts the suitors in armed conflict. Servants like Eumaios also reflect the kind of master/servant or superior/subordinate relationships that are scattered throughout the poem. Speaking respectfully of one’s superior—be it god or human—is one of the many repeated motifs in the story and an important window into the culture the story describes. Eumaios, both by the speech itself and by consistently demonstrating the validity of it, earns the trust and confidence of his master. Loyal words alone cannot win Odysseus’ trust—his followers must stand by their claims of fealty with valiant acts of devotedness.
The importance of this trust that Odysseus shares with his devoted son and servants is nowhere more emphasized than during his battle to reclaim his household. The same trust that sanctifies his home also gains him strong allies in his final battles. In placing both Telémakhos and Eumaios in great positions of responsibility during the fight, Odysseus demonstrates his unquestioning faith in their capabilities. Through this delegation of authority, they achieve mutual loyalty through verbal expression reinforced by faithful actions. The military success they achieve through their devotedness to one another serves as a foil to the complete lack of faith the suitors have demonstrated and the failure it brings them. Homer uses their unquestionable disloyalty to Odysseus to construct another of his important themes: vengeance and justice at the hands of the returning hero. The suitors’ treachery is referred to constantly throughout the narrative. The justification for killing them is built up as numerous characters express disapproval at their incredibly disrespectful behavior. Odysseus justly takes revenge on them for their disloyalty in “wantonly / raiding a great man’s flocks, dishonoring / his queen, because they thought he’d come no more” (511). Just as Telémakhos’ loyalty brings him a powerful ally in the battle, the suitors’ impudence and disrespect bring horrible death at the hands of the great Odysseus. A similar fate awaits the unfaithful maids, to whom Telémakhos proclaims: “I would not give the clean death of a beast / to trulls who made a mockery of my mother / and of me too—you sluts, who lay with suitors” (490). Their ignominious execution reflects the seriousness of their crimes of faithlessness to their master and his wife, and shows Telémakhos’ intolerance of those disloyal to his father. Homer uses their lack of loyalty to the true master of the house to justify their horrible deaths, again using the arching theme involving devotion to construct another important motif.
ability to use the concept of loyalty to shed light on many different themes
is a testament both to his skill as a storyteller and to the importance
of that loyalty in the culture surrounding the epic tale. He uses
the concept to develop themes like the sanctity of the home, the relationship
between a father and son or servant, and the justification for revenge.
Throughout the story, Homer weaves strands of theme involving loyalty and
devotion through the development of many other themes. Homer’s expert
use of this cultural reality allows him to paint a very detailed picture
of Hellenistic life around the time of the Trojan War. Even when
viewed specifically in relation to Odysseus’ homecoming, concepts involving
faithfulness and trust shed much light on important and oft-recurring themes
throughout Homer’s great epic.
In Homer’s The Odyssey, Telémakhos’ coming of age into manhood is a very important theme. Manliness plays a prominent role in Homer’s world of battle and guile. Telémakhos’ journey toward manhood is a process in which he approaches the epitome of Greek manliness: his father, Odysseus. How does this process take place? Telémakhos in fact begins the transformation into a man at the beginning of the poem, and will only complete it at the conclusion of the story. Telémakhos ascends to manhood through a series of both his personal attempts at proving himself and Odysseus’ contributions toward making him the model Greek warrior. His first sea voyage is his own attempt (with Athena’s help) to make himself known as a brave warrior. He further asserts himself through fighting alongside his father and grandfather in deadly battle. Another interesting aspect of Telémakhos’ rise to manhood is the role he plays with regard to women. By subjugating women and declaring his dominance over them, Telémakhos demonstrates his abilities in running a household as master. Through all of these stages, Telémakhos uses both his personal abilities and the already established greatness of his father as a guide.
Before I develop the ways in which Telémakhos rises to manhood, I must first explain his condition before he begins his coming-of-age transition. Homer immediately introduces Telémakhos as an impotent bystander, unable to protect his home and mother from the unwelcome suitors. The boy complains that “they squander everything. / We have no strong Odysseus to defend us, / and as to putting up a fight ourselves— / we’d only show our incompetence in arms. / Expel them, yes, if I only had the power” (221). Telémakhos describes himself as both inept at war fighting and powerless in general. He essentially emasculates himself with his lack of confidence in his own abilities. No self-respecting Greek warrior would ever admit to his own “incompetence in arms.” Confidence and martial skill are essential elements of the Greek male, but young Telémakhos has not yet developed these traits. Telémakhos also demonstrates his impotence through his conspicuous asexuality. All of the story’s main warrior figures—Odysseus, Meneláos, and Nestor—are models of virility and manliness. Each figure has a beautiful wife and a large and devoted household. Telémakhos has neither, and does not gain either within the bounds of the story. As I will address later in the essay, Telémakhos compensates for this bachelorhood through asserting his dominance over women. Until he can overcome the many challenges he faces, however, he remains an emasculated and boyish figure, unable to ascend to manliness.
The goddess Athena, a friend of the house of Odysseus, plays a key role in aiding Telémakhos on his quest for manhood. She inspires him to make his first voyage as a sea captain when she chastises him for tolerating the suitors’ behavior: “You need not bear this insolence of theirs, / you are a child no longer” (216). She knows Telémakhos needs to begin his transition to manhood soon—he will be a strong ally when Odysseus returns to kill the suitors. Athena must act where Odysseus cannot in guiding the young prince into manliness. She protects and advises him on his journey, for “by her design / [Telémakhos’] quest for news about his father’s wandering / would bring him fame in the world’s eyes” (232). Interestingly, Telémakhos begins his transition to manhood through a reflection on a smaller scale of the journey his father made twenty years earlier. Just like his father, Telémakhos gains fame and glory through a dangerous voyage.
Only when Odysseus returns can Telémakhos complete his transition into manhood. It is worth noticing that the pair’s reunion after twenty years is not marked by emotion or introspection, but by planning for more battle. Shared struggle between the father and son characterizes the bulk of Telémakhos’ transition into manhood. Odysseus and his son place almost no emphasis on contemplating the nature of war (as in many modern war movies, for instance) but focus their attention rather on the violent task at hand. While modern readers may have a problem with this lack of emotion, Homer understands that action, not emotion, is needed in establishing manhood. Battlefield prowess and competence in arms define manliness throughout the entire story and are especially emphasized as Odysseus and Telémakhos battle the suitors. Telémakhos again defines much of his manliness as a reflection of that most virile of warriors, Odysseus. As they enter the bloody battle for control of the house, “Telémakhos, true son of King Odysseus, / belted his sword on…in the forefront near his father” (478). Homer emphasizes Telémakhos as the “true son of King Odysseus,” an already established warrior-father figure. Homer continues to emphasize the generational link on the battlefield when three generations of the house of Laërtês battle the townsfolk. In joining his father and grandfather in a shared struggle, Telémakhos establishes himself as their equal. Odysseus has faith in his martial skills: “I count on you / to bring no shame upon your forefathers. / In fighting power we have excelled this lot / in every generation” (512). Laërtês joyously accepts Telémakhos into the brotherhood of arms when he “[sees his] son and grandson vie in courage” (513) together. By sharing a violent experience with his forefathers, Telémakhos completes his transition to manhood by defining both his prowess at arms and his status as their equal.
I addressed earlier the issue of Telémakhos’ impotence and asexuality. Without a wife, Telémakhos does not initially establish himself as capable of managing a household—an essential characteristic of the ideal Greek male. He compensates for this impotence through the forceful subjugation of many women in his father’s household. The first instance of this subjugation occurs when Telémakhos chastises Penélopê for silencing the minstrel. He clearly and directly orders her: “You must nerve yourself and try to listen” (218). Instead of asserting her motherly authority, Penélopê “gazed in wonder and withdrew, / her son’s clear wisdom echoing in her mind” (218). Telémakhos in rebuking his mother fills Odysseus’ role as master of the house (the oedipal implications could fill a much larger paper than this one). The point is, for the first time Telémakhos asserts his power over the women of the household. Telémakhos will again affirm his manly control as he “direct[s] the women” in cleaning up the blood and gore of the battle with the suitors (489). Odysseus places Telémakhos in charge of herding the suitors’ harlots around and eventually disposing of them. Telémakhos actually takes control of the women’s lives as he kills “those who made a mockery of [his] mother / and of [him] too” (490). His dominance over them compensates for his virginity and confirms that he can manage and control a household.
While Odysseus’ return to greatness is the primary focus of The Odyssey,
Homer spends a great deal of time in tracing the transition Telémakhos
makes from boyhood to manhood. In mimicking his father’s journeys
on the sea, Telémakhos begins the transition. He completes
it by assuming an equal place alongside his father and grandfather through
the exercise of arms. This shared struggle interestingly also involves
the subjugation and domination over women. Telémakhos’ rise
to virility, though certainly a personal accomplishment, is also a reflection
of the greatness of the father who came before him.
In Homer’s The Odyssey, Greek standards of manliness play an important role in the development of Telémakhos’ coming of age. Masculinity and the use of power and force are essential for any warrior in Homer’s world of battle and guile. Telémakhos, making his journey toward manhood, uses the epitome of the Greek warrior—his father—as a model to emulate. How does this process take place? Telémakhos in fact begins the transformation into a man at the beginning of the poem, and will only complete it at the conclusion of the story. Telémakhos ascends to manhood by way of both his personal attempts at proving himself and Odysseus’ contributions toward making him the model Greek warrior. He sets out, with Athena’s help, to make himself known as a brave warrior through a dangerous and high-profile sea voyage. He further asserts himself through fighting alongside his father and grandfather in deadly battle. His role with respect to women sheds light on another interesting aspect of his rise to manhood. By subjugating women and declaring his dominance over them, Telémakhos demonstrates his abilities in running a household as master. Through all of these stages, however, Telémakhos relies heavily on Odysseus’ reflected glory as the perfect embodiment of Greek manliness.
Before I develop the ways in which Telémakhos rises to manhood, I must first explain his condition before he begins his coming-of-age transition. Homer immediately introduces Telémakhos as an impotent bystander, unable to protect his home and mother from the unwelcome suitors. Although at a town assembly he takes a staff as a symbol of power and authority, the boy complains to those gathered that “[the suitors] squander everything. / We have no strong Odysseus to defend us, / and as to putting up a fight ourselves— / we’d only show our incompetence in arms. / Expel them, yes, if I only had the power” (221). He describes himself as both inept at war fighting and powerless in general. Telémakhos here throws the staff to the ground and symbolically relinquishes any semblance of control, “his eyes grown bright with tears” (222). He essentially emasculates himself with his lack of confidence in his own abilities. No self-respecting Greek warrior would ever admit to his own “incompetence in arms.” Confidence and martial skill are essential elements of the Greek male, but Homer is quick to stress that young Telémakhos has not yet developed these traits.
Telémakhos also demonstrates his impotence through his conspicuous asexuality. All of the story’s main warrior figures—Odysseus, Meneláos, and Nestor are good examples—are models of virility and manliness. Each figure has a beautiful wife and a large and devoted household. Telémakhos has neither, and does not achieve them within the bounds of the story. As I will address later in the essay, Telémakhos compensates for this bachelorhood through asserting his dominance over women. Odysseus’ boy faces these and many other obstacles along his journey to manhood, and until he can overcome them (i.e. regain the “staff”), he remains an emasculated and boyish figure unable to complete his quest.
The goddess Athena, a friend of the house of Odysseus, plays a key role in aiding Telémakhos on this quest to come of age. She inspires him to make his first voyage as a sea captain when she chastises him for tolerating the suitors’ behavior: “You need not bear this insolence of theirs, / you are a child no longer” (216). She knows Telémakhos must begin his transition to manhood soon—Odysseus needs him as a strong ally when he returns to kill the suitors. Athena must act where the absent Odysseus cannot in guiding the young prince into manliness. She protects and advises him on his journey, for “by her design / [Telémakhos’] quest for news about his father’s wandering / would bring him fame in the world’s eyes” (232). Interestingly, Telémakhos begins his transition to manhood through carrying out on a smaller scale the journey his father made twenty years earlier. Just like his father, Telémakhos gains fame and glory through a dangerous voyage.
Only when Odysseus returns can Telémakhos complete his evolution into manhood. Shared battlefield struggle between the father and son characterizes the bulk of this evolution, and the pair reunites through making plans for more battle, not through emotion or introspection. Odysseus and his son place almost no emphasis on contemplating the nature of war (as in many modern war movies, for instance) but focus their attention rather on the violent task at hand. While modern readers may have a problem with this lack of emotion, Homer uses action, not feelings, in establishing the ideals of manhood. Homer especially emphasizes military prowess and violent strength as Odysseus and Telémakhos battle the suitors. In the same way that he mimics his father’s sea voyage, Telémakhos fights the suitors as a reflection of that most virile of warriors, Odysseus. As they enter the bloody battle for control of the house, “Telémakhos, true son of King Odysseus, / belted his sword on…in the forefront near his father” (478). Homer emphasizes Telémakhos as the “true son of King Odysseus,” a reflection of the already established warrior-father figure.
Homer continues to emphasize the generational link on the battlefield when three generations of the house of Laërtês battle the townsfolk. In joining his father and grandfather in a shared struggle, Telémakhos establishes himself as their equal. Odysseus has faith in his martial skills: “I count on you / to bring no shame upon your forefathers. / In fighting power we have excelled this lot / in every generation” (512). Laërtês joyously accepts Telémakhos into the brotherhood of arms when he “[sees his] son and grandson vie in courage” (513) together. By sharing a violent experience with his forefathers, Telémakhos continues his transition to manhood by defining both his prowess at arms and his status as their equal.
I addressed earlier the issue of Telémakhos’ impotence and asexuality. Without a wife, Telémakhos does not initially establish himself as capable of managing a household—an essential characteristic of the ideal Greek male. He compensates for this impotence through the forceful subjugation of many women in his father’s household. The first instance of this subjugation occurs when Telémakhos chastises Penélopê for silencing the minstrel. He clearly and directly orders her: “You must nerve yourself and try to listen” (218). Instead of asserting her motherly authority, Penélopê “gazed in wonder and withdrew, / her son’s clear wisdom echoing in her mind” (218). Telémakhos, in rebuking his mother, fills Odysseus’ role as master of the house (the oedipal implications could fill a much larger paper than this one). For the first time in his life, Telémakhos asserts his power over the mistress of the household. Telémakhos again affirms his manly control as he “direct[s] the women” in cleaning up the blood and gore of the battle with the suitors (489). Odysseus places Telémakhos in charge of herding the suitors’ harlots around and eventually disposing of them. He purposefully allows his son to take on extra duties and therefore continue to develop as a man. By killing “those who made a mockery of [his] mother / and of [him] too” (490), Telémakhos actually takes control of the women’s lives, not just their behavior. His dominance over them compensates for his virginity and confirms that he can manage and control a household.
While Odysseus’ return to greatness is the primary focus of The Odyssey,
Homer spends a great deal of time in tracing the transition Telémakhos
makes from boyhood to manhood. He introduces the boy as an impotent
and childish figure, throwing down his staff in a tearful rejection of
power. In mimicking his father’s journeys on the sea, Telémakhos
begins his transition into manhood. He completes it by assuming an
equal place alongside his father and grandfather through the exercise of
arms. This shared struggle interestingly also involves the subjugation
and domination over women. Telémakhos’ rise to virility, though
certainly a personal accomplishment, at the same time certainly reflects
the greatness of the father who comes before him.
1. Middle English text of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (click).
2. Essays and articles on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (click).
3. Ian Brown's image of the Green Knight (click).
4. Sir Gawain Meets the Green Knight (click)
5. A beheading illustration from manuscript of the poem (click)
6. Gawain's Temptation (click)
|1. Greek Art and Architecture (click)
2. More on Greek Art and Architecture (click)
-Length: 3-4 pages, double-spaced, 12pt font.
-No title page needed, but do invent an interesting, fitting title.
-Audience: your classmates andinstructor
-Works you can address: The Inferno
Many of you have left yourself the opportunity of examining in some way--theme, style, authorship, relations to past, for instance--the course topic of the "lost thing." In this case you do not have to limit yourself to these final three works.
-Expectations: apart from the following prompt, the expectations for this paper mirror those for the re-write of paper #1. To review those expectations click here.
-Prompt: as in Assignments 1 and
2, I want you to focus on some detail, some particular episode, passage,
or rhetorical gesture, some strand that runs through a work, some problem,
repeated pattern of action or language and to use that "small thing" to
open up the work to an understanding that clearly goes beyond what we would
be able to achieve, say, in our in-class discussions.
|Tim Shaffer, "Having Your Cake and Eating it Too: The Identity of Odysseus" (click)|
|Caitlin Kempe, "Family Ties" (click)|
|Kevin Anderson, The Predator-Prey Relationship in the Odyssey (click)|
|Gregory Nicholas, Hephaestus’s Tale in the Odyssey: A Fiery Digression (click)|
Having Your Cake and Eating it Too: The Identity of Odysseus
by Tim Shaffer
Throughout The Odyssey, I discern a fascinating recurrence of epic epithets praising the versatile skills of Odysseus and emphasizing his duel identity as an “immortally famous mortal.” Unsurpassed as a warrior, thinker, and leader, this man of all ways stands out as the most enviable and unusual hero in the epic because of his unique ability to undermine the conventional win-lose relationship of immortal glory and death. Whether acting in disguise, by force, or through some trick, Odysseus seems to possess an unlimited arsenal of skills and wits that he repeatedly employs to acquire an eternal legacy as a hero and simultaneously win friends, fame, and homecoming as a mortal. A vital episode that establishes the significance of Odysseus’ duel identity occurs at Phaiakia, when the arrogant Seareach taunts “the great tactician” for refusing to participate in a sporting competition (287). Cunningly, Odysseus rebukes Seareach, reminding him, “The gods deal out no gift…to every man alike” (293). Employing this ironic rhetoric and operating under a false identity, “the canniest of men” proceeds to demonstrate his superior intellect and physical prowess, proving that he is never at a loss (293). The chronology, characters, and irony of the microcosmic episode at the Phaiakian games serve as keys to understanding The Odyssey because they create a foundation for Odysseus’ identity and first-person narrative. Confirming him as “that man skilled in all ways of contending,” and illuminating him as an exceptional hero able to undermine conventional heroism, this episode establishes Odysseus’ identity as a man able to “have his cake” of immortal legacy “and eat it too” as a man (209).
Understanding the timing and chronology of the individual episodes that comprise The Odyssey is absolutely critical to understanding the work as a whole. Homer develops the identity of Odysseus through episodic sketches that invert the chronology of events and draw on several different narrative points of view. The most significant narrative shift in the epic occurs in Phaiakia at the beginning of Book Nine, when Odysseus assumes the first-person narrative and begins to relate the story of his past to Alkinoos. At this critical point, the third-person omniscient point of view, functioning in an expository role for the first eight books of The Odyssey, yields to Odysseus’ own voice. Serving as the vital stepping stone for this narrative shift, the Phaiakian games episode solidifies the identity of Odysseus by providing the first glimpse of him in action as a “man skilled in all ways of contending” (209). Before the reader can hear the story through the voice of Odysseus, that reader must appreciate the complex identity of Odysseus and realize the hero’s capacity to undermine convention. All the heroic descriptions of “the raider of cities” up until this episode are provided either by the omniscient narrator or by other characters such as Menelaos, Athena, and Nestor, and they nostalgically recap the past feats of Odysseus’ legacy as a warfighter and wanderer (315). Heroic accounts like these immediately establish Odysseus as an immortal hero as early as Book One, but the games at Phaiakian highlight his other identity as a mortal engaged in an active struggle for survival and homecoming. Seeing “the great tactician” in action at Phaiakia, employing his gifts of cunning, strength, and speech, helps to “demythicize” Odysseus; the episode is essential to the overall meaning of the epic because it illuminates the duel identity of Odysseus, allowing him to take control of the narration of the story (287).
It is no chronological coincidence that the Phaiakian sporting events are directly preceded by Demodokos’ song about the clash between Akhilleus and Odysseus at Troy. Swift-footed Akhilleus serves as the quintessential model of the immortally famous glory-seeker—undeniably, he “has his cake” of eternal fame and legacy. Homer employs the minstrel’s comparison of the two Greek heroes to introduce the notion that Odysseus is the one man who can “have his cake and eat it too,” and the events that ensue for the duration of the episode representatively accentuate the differences between the two men. A one-dimensional character, Akhilleus possesses strength without wits, and because of his fighting at Troy, he has immortal glory without life. In parallel terms, Homer describes the Phaiakian athletes competing in the games; he gives them “seaside names like Tipmast…and Seareach” and emphasizes only their physical attributes (292). This collection of characters represents the one-sidedness of Akhilleus because their only reputation lies in their physical strength. Laodamas confirms this when he proclaims, “While a man lives he wins no greater honor / than footwork and the skill of hands can bring him” (292). By pitting Odysseus against these glory-seekers in competition, Homer stresses the stark contrast between the man of all ways and the one-dimensional hero. This episode sets the stage for Odysseus as an unconventional hero, so it comes as no surprise later when Odysseus assumes the disguise of a beggar or when he cunningly tricks the Kyklops. Also, the Phaiakian athletes closely resemble the Ithikan suitors as both sets of characters are one-dimensional and shallow, and Odysseus’ victory in Phaiakia clearly foreshadows his later victory in Ithika. Most importantly, this episode confirms that Odysseus, in terms of heroism, stands “quite alone, beyond the cluster,” because he undermines the convention of one-dimensional heroism (294).
Homer employs dramatic irony throughout The Odyssey as a means of accentuating Odysseus as an unconventional hero. For example, it seems ironic that Odysseus should assume the identity of a beggar or claim his name is “Nohbdy” because, as the reader, I know his great identity and ultimate destiny. Nonetheless, these applications of dramatic irony fulfill the identity of Odysseus because they continually reconfirm him as “the man of all occasions” (300). The sporting episode includes one of the best examples of dramatic irony in the epic, and it introduces the pattern of Odysseus saying one thing while planning and doing something else. After Seareach taunts Odysseus for not competing and accuses him of being “a tallier of cargoes, / itching for gold,” Odysseus responds with an ironic speech about the limitations and boundaries of human excellence (293). The reader and Odysseus both know that he is superior to these men in all ways, but instead of rashly and triumphantly asserting his physical superiority, the “canniest of men” first tricks them with his ironic rhetoric (293). He proclaims, “The gods deal out no gift, this one or any—/ birth, brains, or speech—to every man alike” (293). Of course, Odysseus does possess all of these qualities, and his ability to win by a unique blend of cunning, restraint, and physical action in this episode (and every other episode in the story) supports the pattern of Odysseus prevailing in any situation by employing any combination of his diverse abilities.
Three subtle cases of irony in this episode vitally illuminate the duel identity of Odysseus. First, the episode takes place in the only domestic setting Odysseus encounters other than Ithika. In ironic contrast to the more violent episodes in The Odyssey, which depict Odysseus as a larger-than-life hero fighting against supernatural monsters, this domestic episode in Phaiakia establishes Odysseus as a mortal who is just as competent in social settings encountering more subtle, human challenges. This scene plays a vital role in the development of his mortal struggle, and it foreshadows the trickery and patience that Odysseus later employs in Ithika to conquer the suitors. A second ironic element occurs when Odysseus declines Laodamas’ challenge to compete in the games, saying that he comes “only / as one who begs your king to send him home” (293). As I read this, I know that Odysseus is not satisfied with merely returning to Ithika as he claims. He seeks homecoming, but he also seeks glory by employing ironic tricks just like this one throughout the epic. Finally, after Odysseus rebukes Seareach and wins the discuss throw, he boasts of his martial skills, claiming, “Of men who now eat bread upon the earth / I hold myself the best hand with a bow” (294). This quote sums up the identity of Odysseus: He is both an immortally famous hero and a mortal man who still eats bread, wanders the earth, and yearns for his homeland.
This complex dual
identity remains with Odysseus for the duration of The Odyssey,
and it redefines the notion of the Greek hero. The Phaiakian games
episode, where this identity first forges itself and establishes Odysseus
as the hero who can “have his cake and eat it too,” serves as a vital link
to understanding the meaning of The Odyssey. It is often noted
that a great work of literature includes not only a great story but also
elements scrutinizing and challenging the conventions of that work’s era.
Undoubtedly, The Odyssey accomplishes this challenge because of
the ways Odysseus continually undermines convention by proving that he
is not limited to the one-dimensional hero’s bag of tricks. When
“the canniest of men” cunningly defeats the Phaiakian athletes, he representatively
asserts his superiority over the Akhillean hero and the Ithikan suitors
because these characters represent the concept of the one-dimensional glory-seeker
(293). Furthermore, the irony of Odysseus’ rhetoric and patience
at Phaiakian sets the stage for the way he confronts future hardships in
the epic. This irony presents itself as a kernel element of Odysseus’
identity, and it plays a vital role in developing “that man skilled in
all ways of contending” (209). Finally, this episode serves as an
essential chronological stepping stone by solidifying the identity of Odysseus,
allowing him to assume the first-person narrative and relate the fantastic
tales of his struggles and adventures. Odysseus is an eternally famous
wanderer, tactician, and trickster, but he is also a mortal husband, father,
and leader. Until one comes to understand Odysseus’ unique duel identity,
one cannot fully appreciate The Odyssey as a great work which challenges
by Kaitlin Kempe
There is nothing more important to a person than the ties he has with his family. The love of family can drive someone to complete great tasks. This relationship can be something one struggles to attain his or her whole life, or as in the case of Odysseus, something one struggles to maintain. The Greek hero waits twenty years to return to something he already had. The life that he shared with his wife and son in Ithaca is the most important thing to him. Throughout the entire The Odyssey, he fights for the Greek family unit that he once possessed. Homer, in fact, uses the Greek characters that the readers encounter to emphasize the importance of family in the story. He manipulates common Greek characters to explore both the husband-wife and father-son relationships.
In the beginning of the poem, Telemachus sails to find the truth of what happened to his father. He stumbles upon the couple that the war was fought over, Helen and Menelaus. Homer portrays them as a loving couple in The Odyssey, even though their contempt for one another once brought about the Trojan War. Through painting then in the light of a couple very much in love and obliging to one another, Homer makes it clear that they are what the Greek couple should be. Helen, a woman who previously left her husband for another man, refers to Menelaus as, “My lord…” (246) Menelaus; a man who once swore to murder his wife, refers to Helen as “…My Dear…” (248) Homer pretends that what has happened between the two in previous works is insignificant when it comes to them fulfilling their roles as the proper Greek husband and wife. More specifically, Homer depicts the marriage bed as an intricate part of that relationship: “Then deep in the great mansion, in his chamber, Menelaus went to sleep, and Helen, queenly in her long gown, lay beside him” (249). As Helen acts the perfect wife to Menelaus, that is the way that Penelope truly acts towards Odysseus. She loves him and bears his child the way that Ancient Greece expects of her. Penelope will not permit any of the suitors that plague her house to enter her sleeping chamber, or defile the bed she shared with her husband. Just as the span of ten years has done nothing to affect the marriage of Helen and Menelaus, the absence of her husband for twenty years has no affect on the strong bond of love that Penelope and Odysseus share.
Later in the poem, Menelaus tells Telemachus how his brother met his end by his unfaithful wife. Odysseus, in the Underworld, gets the same story in detail from Agamemnon, the victimized husband. Previously in other Greek works, Clytemnestra had been a victim of her husband’s greed. He selfishly sacrificed their daughter so that he could go to plunder Troy. Homer reverses and simplifies their roles in The Odyssey by making Clytemnestra out to be a villain, “...he and my heartless wife, and killed me, after feeding me, like an ox felled at the trough” (341). Agamemnon uses a simile of an ox to depict that he was like an innocent animal eating a meal that was suddenly and violently slaughtered. Since she broke her marriage vow by taking a lover and murdering her husband, Clytemnestra is justly punished. Homer, by not mentioning the fact that Agamemnon may have deserved his fate as he too brought home a lover, is highlighting a belief that it was more important for women to be faithful to their husbands, than vice versa. This is a direct parallel to Odysseus and Penelope. Odysseus is never punished for taking both Circe and Calypso as lovers, but Penelope is faithful to Odysseus for twenty years. Again, it is acceptable for the man to break his marriage vows, but as Odysseus’ reward, Penelope must behave accordingly.
Penelope is not the only one that Odysseus longs for. He also wants to be with his son. The relationship between father and son is portrayed as an important one throughout the poem. When Odysseus goes to the Underworld he encounters the warrior, Achilles. Famous for his legendary kills on the battlefield, Achilles did everything for glory. In the Odyssey, however, Achilles comes to realize that his son was more important than any fame he acquired in life. He asks Odysseus about his son and not about his glory on Earth, “Tell me, what news of the price my son: did he come after me to make a name in battle or could it be that he did not?” (344). Achilles is not worrying about his name, only his son. It now occurs to him that his son was the most important triumph of his life. In asking if his son avenged him on the battlefield, he also implies that he rather that his son had not. He would rather that his son become a farmer instead, “Better, I say to break sod as a farm hand for some poor country man, or iron rations, than to lord it over all the exhausted dead.” (343). Homer paints Achilles’ character in this way to emphasize the significance of the relationship of a father and a son. Through Achilles’ desperate need for any knowledge of his son, we can see the same needs reflected through Odysseus’ desire to know his own son. Homer is saying that all the fame and glory of being a hero does not matter if you do not live to enjoy what really matters. It is clear that Odysseus, through his wisdom to see this, is a superior hero to Achilles.
characters in The Odyssey to get his point across. They are
not simply people, but symbols of a deeper theme. They represent
Homer’s emphasis on the Greek family, Odysseus’ reward. Odysseus
needs these precursors in his journey to keep his ultimate goal to return
to his loved ones in mind. His family is what makes his life worthwhile.
He struggles to survive throughout his journey so that he can return to
a peaceful life as ruler of Ithaca with Penelope and Telemachus by his
THE PREDATOR-PREY RELATIONSHIP IN THE ODYSSEY
by Kevin Anderson
Dogs chase cats. Lions eat deer. Vultures scavenge for those creatures unfortunate enough to find themselves a corpse. In nature, it is the standard that there predators and there is prey. In general, humans remain separate from the system, though, because they are at the top of the food chain, and rarely find themselves in submissive positions. However, with the involvement of the gods, humans certainly accept a role that more closely follows the arrangement. Furthermore, it is not the literal sense of the predator-prey relationship that I am concerned with, but the metaphorical. For this piece, I would like to equate a predator with a character in control of circumstances and prey with a character that depends on some external influence to dictate the tale’s unraveling, usually another character, often one of the gods. Throughout The Odyssey, Odysseus repeatedly finds himself in one of these two positions: either he has control, and is therefore in a predatory position, or he is dependent upon some other being’s control, and is therefore positioned as prey. Viewing the events in the story from this perspective, as opposed to a more complicated one, makes it easier to analyze Odysseus and his character traits and the effect his decisions have on us as readers.
In the story, the examples I focus on will roughly be divided into two groups. Normally, the positional changes in these examples are achieved physically; however, there is at least one example of a change that occurs verbally. The first group contains the situations in which Odysseus finds himself in an inferior position, but through his cunning, manipulates the situation to gain control and become the predator. The episodes with Kirce and the Phaiakians exemplify this group and we see a verbal change in Odysseus’ direct interactions with the Phaiakians. Certainly the Cyclops and Trojan Horse are similar, but they are a little more complicated. The second group contains the situations in which Odysseus begins as the predator, but through disguise, passes himself off as being prey-like. When Odysseus returns home to confront the suitors, we see him doing exactly that. Additionally, there are a few situations that could be placed in these groups, but actually transcend them, and so require separate attention. The Cyclops and the Trojan Horse each represent incidents that fit into both categories. Odysseus, originally in the dependent position, maneuvers himself to become predator and then disguises himself as prey again, either to conceal his own motives or merely the fact that he has gained control. Calypso, Scylla, and Kharybdis are strange experiences, because Odysseus does nothing to overcome the situation. In the first, he is content to remain as he is – in the second and third, he is unable to do anything but remain as he is. Every affair represents something new and different, but taken together, I think that they collectively describe Odysseus’ attitudes, at least for the duration of this poem.
As mentioned before, there are a few situations in which Odysseus finds himself in the position of prey, and then maneuvers himself into the predatory position. In Book X, Odysseus and his men land on Aiaia. There, they resign themselves to surviving on the food and drink that remains aboard their craft. Eventually, they send a group to explore the island and come upon Kirce, her house surrounded by wolves and mountain lions (325). Those predators, the men don’t know, have been morphed by Kirce into prey. A similar fate awaits them, too. When the men don’t return, Odysseus travels after them. He would likely fall for the trap as well, were it not for the help of Hermes. With his aid, Odysseus plays the role of prey, but turns the situation on Kirce so that he gains control. He makes her swear an oath to free his men from their unfortunate fate and then sleeps with her. In that way he overcomes his role and thwarts an evil fate. In the episode with the Phaiakians, Odysseus is challenged by Seareach on the athletic field, accused of having no skill, of being weak. Odysseus silences him with a throw of the discus and a rebuking word. When Odysseus was preyed upon for his reluctance to participate, he reacted to gain the upper hand (293). The throw was enough, but in his arrogance, he made the best of the position, mocking the men for their both their lack of skill in athletics and in intellect. Twice Odysseus maneuvered himself from a weak position to one of strength. A great tactician he was, indeed.
The episode with Polyphemos, found in Book IX, and the one concerning the Trojan Horse, which is briefly mentioned in The Odyssey, are two more events that serve to further illustrate the previous process of prey becoming predator. They are special, however, because Odysseus purposefully returns to the semblance of prey after initially escaping the position. Upon first arriving in Sicily, Odysseus enters Polyphemos’ cave, eats, and awaits the beast’s return. He expects hospitality, but realizes as Polyphemos rolls the door shut that he is trapped. Though several men die first, Odysseus devises a plan to overcome the situation. After gouging out Polyphemos’ eye, he offers the name ‘Nohbdy,’ and grasps for the first time a predatory role, despite remaining trapped inside the cave. Remember, predatory, in the sense that I am implying, does not necessarily carry a negative connotation. By taking the giant’s sight, Odysseus has leveled the playing field between his own wits and the brute’s size. However, to escape the cave, Odysseus ties each of his men, and himself, to the giant’s sheep. He uses his own dependence on Polyphemos’ strength – the sheep share the same dependence – to get free (314). It is quite a clever trick, as is the Trojan Horse. Though that deception really occurred in The Iliad, it is alluded to once more in this story, and ties in to the metaphor of predator and prey very well. Again, Odysseus and his comrades find themselves in a seemingly helpless situation. Troy will not fall and everybody is growing tired of the perpetual struggle. The only choice, it seems, is to leave, because the troops have no power in the situation. The scheme that solidifies itself in the form of the Trojan Horse offers, however, a mechanism by which power can be captured. The Greeks leave the Horse as an offering (secretly carrying the men inside) and pretend to leave as had been planned, disguising their attack – a predatory move – as a retreat – a prey-like move, with similar results to those we saw in the Cyclops’ cave. Odysseus was able to overcome – or help overcome – these conflicts by pretending to remain as prey while really in a predatory role. He was able to change the circumstances, but keep those changes hidden, so that his adversaries followed courses of action that were based on flawed understandings of each situation.
Three episodes serve as examples of situations in which Odysseus’ actions do not fit into either of the two groups I’ve delineated for this analysis. These episodes remain separate because Odysseus is essentially powerless and unable to change that fact. Because of that, he satisfies himself with existing in the middle ground between predator and prey – he must satisfy himself with that. In Book V, Odysseus finally leaves Kalypso, after being distracted for so many years. His unwillingness to leave seems both a function of the inviting atmosphere Kalypso creates for him and a contradiction to his usual character. This is, perhaps, the only time when Odysseus seems uncertain, or at least reluctant to affect his position. Through his neglect in action, Odysseus undermines the predator-prey relationship that we usually see when he interacts with an external force – he is content to exist in a neutral state. In Book XII, we find Odysseus’ encounters with the Sirens (352 – 53) and with Scylla and Kharybdis (354 – 55). Their power is too great for Odysseus to manipulate, especially given his confinement to a ship. Because he is unable to change the circumstances, he merely does his best to, again, exist somewhere in between. He can do nothing to thwart the Sirens if he has the choice to pursue them, so he orders his crew to tie him up to the mast so that he is unable to give in to the temptation. Unable to gain power for himself, he does, however, succeed in taking the ability to exercise their powers from the Sirens. When passing Scylla and Kharybdis, Odysseus navigates as best he can, with special care to follow Kirce’s instructions, so that the effect the two creatures have is minimized. He cannot fight Scylla – and Kirce warns him not to try – so he accepts the loss of six crew members in order to prevent the loss of the ship to Kharybdis. In each episode, Odysseus is neither predator nor prey, because he does not have the choice. He does manage, however, to prevent or minimize the existence of any other predators, which creates a neutral environment in each case.
As a final consideration, there is one obvious example of Odysseus, a predator, taking the form of prey to overcome his adversaries. In the final books, beginning with Book XVII, Odysseus, with Athena’s help, takes the form of a beggar to fool the suitors (423). By taking such a subservient role, he is able to infiltrate his own home, unsuspected, and test each suitor and every maid for loyalty and civility. The suitors, unaware of the deception, act foolhardily and treat Odysseus with disrespect. He judges them for that, and when the time comes that he sheds his disguise, he wastes no time in punishing them. Their surprise is as great as their guilt, and they all pay dearly for it. Had Odysseus returned outright, he may have been challenged, and might not have been able to overcome the suitors in a combined effort. The role reversal, from predator to prey, actually serves him better – he gains insight into the situation, claims a defensible position, and then executes his purpose. Once more, we see the motif of the predator-prey relationship and Odysseus’ own command of the instrument at work.
Odysseus’ ability to change roles, to switch back and forth between predator and prey, is what sets him apart from other men. He has not only the capability to understand the difference, but also the wit to manipulate it. All the other men in the story seem stationary within their roles, save one. Telemakus, Odysseus’ son, also makes a change, though it is fundamentally different from those we perceive in Odysseus. At the beginning of the story, Telemakus fulfills perfectly the role of prey, being dependent upon the suitors’ states of mind. By the end of the story, he embraces everything about the predatory role, although his own wisdom is underdeveloped due to his lack of life experience. Furthermore, the change we see in Telemakus, unlike those we see in Odysseus, is authentic. His role changes as a direct result of a change in his character. As his confidence grows, his position morphs, so that he no longer depends on the whims of the suitors, but claims authority over them. Odysseus, on the other hand, changes often, but only superficially. As a result, he seems inconsistent and we, as readers, become unsure and untrusting of him. He changes so easily and so often from predator to prey and back again, that we are led to question the validity of his character. Ironically, then, the one trait that perhaps perpetuates his own survival the most is also the trait that illustrates his greatest weakness besides arrogance.
Though his efforts
to return home are complicated by the intervention of the gods, Odysseus
still seems to retain at all times a certain level of control, for the
entire duration of the story. Although he is at the mercy of Poseidon and
the other gods, his cunning continuously thwarts their efforts to command
him. This control comes from his ability to exist on both ends of the predator
– prey relationship. Notice the trend Odysseus sets in the events mentioned
above; it seems to be Odysseus’ goal to switch roles, whether from predator
to prey or vice versa. While this could simply be a derivative of the purposes
served by role reversal, it might also represent, when we consider the
theme of free will, a rebellion against the gods and against circumstances.
Athena recognizes the affinity for deception within him, and respects it
– in fact, she may admire him as much for being her near equal in deception
as for his passive defiance of the gods. Odysseus, though obviously appreciative
towards the gods, especially in sacrifice, actually seems to rebel from
them, in what may be yet another manifestation of his arrogance. He refuses
to succumb to the events the gods lay out, because of his own ability,
however small, to affect them himself. In this respect, Homer presents
an intriguing dilemma, one between the concepts of free will and predestination,
or fate. Odysseus’ decisions, when viewed on a lesser level, actually seem
to imply a sort of influence on a level that is greater even than the context
of the story itself.
Hephaestus’s Tale in the Odyssey: A Fiery Digression
Throughout the Odyssey, cunning is essential to the success of Odysseus. Moreover Odysseus, himself a work of craft finely honed through years of toil and hardship, keenly uses cunning to overcome obstacles. Nowhere is this theme more evident than in the Hephaestus story of Book VIII. In Book VIII, the brief lyric sung by Demodokus, bard for Alkinoos, regarding the affair between Ares and Aphrodite illustrates the importance of cunning and craft in overcoming obstacles. The vignette of Hephaestus provides an indirect vision of the true nature of cunning and its importance in the context of the poem. By drawing parallels between the cunning of Hephaestus and that of Odysseus, one can better understand what Odysseus’ survival truly demands of him.
In The Odyssey, cunning relies upon a strange balance between polar opposites, e.g. ugly and beautiful, male and female and physical and mental skill. The nature of cunning, particularly the notion of surprising, explosive skill is the main tool for success in the epic realm. Similar to the opportunistic warriors in Troy, the nature of those who Odysseus meets on his wanderings is somewhat deceptive. Therefore in order to survive, Odysseus must remain a whetted tool.
It is important to note that in line 293 of the song describing Hephaestus, Demodokus attaches cunning with a feminine ending. The fact that a word is subtly feminine while being used to describe Hephaestus, a masculine god, gives the reader the subtle hint that cunning is an androgynous characteristic. Just as Odysseus must embody both feminine and masculine traits to overcome his obstacles, similarly Hephaestus’ cunning becomes something of which there are both masculine and feminine uniqueness. The androgyny of cunning, borne out first in Odysseus’s ability in sport and later in his crying like a woman at the poignant work of the Harper, underscore the meaning of Odysseus’s character, while helping to advance the importance of cunning in the narrative.
Odysseus is foremost, as stated in the first epithet in the epic, “skilled in all ways of contending.” He is not the quintessential man, whose strength intimidates others. However, he is neither the thinker, who seeks answers through mainly rational means. Odysseus balances a measure of each characteristic, applying one or the other when necessary, but taking on no full classification of either.
Similarly, Hephaestus’ success depends equally upon his skill in craft at the forge as it did upon the craftiness of his plan to trap Ares and Aphrodite in bed. Just as cunning involves both masculine and feminine characteristics, so too does it require an amalgam of mental and physical skill. Hephaestus’ snare trap, which captures both male and female in intercourse, was the product of androgynous, both male and female, thinking.
Cunning throughout The Odyssey is marked by a paradoxical, dual nature, which tightly balances opposing values, such as mental and physical skill, in order to give potency to the hero. Odysseus’s dual nature, his true cunning, lies hidden in the contrasting epic similes found in Book VI and Book VIII. In Book VI, Odysseus is compared to “mountain lion, rain drenched and buffeted, but in his mind at ease with burning eyes.” However in Book VIII, Odysseus weeps “the way a wife mourns for her lord on the lost field where he has gone down fighting the day of wrath that came upon his children.” By using the epic simile to flesh out such drastically different sides to Odysseus, Homer draws attention to the nature of Odysseus as an androgynous hero. As exemplified in the differing epic similes, Odysseus is successful because he embodies, both feminine and masculine qualities, and has both the keenness of mind and strength of body. The versatility of his spirit allows him to adapt to his surroundings and overcome the obstacles he faces.
Similarly, the marriage of Hephaestus and Aphrodite, involving both the ugliest and most beautiful of the gods, fulfilled the dual nature of Greek society. Therefore the crisis of Ares and Aphrodite having sex was not only that it violated marital vows, but that it violated the order of the dual nature of humanity. The act of intercourse between two attractive gods, in violation of the established dual nature of the marriage, was a denial of the whole nature of humanity. The fact that such a denial of humanity’s wholeness was overcome by androgynous thinking, i.e. Hephaestus’ trap, reaffirms the fullness of humanity and reaffirms the dual values that Odysseus embodies.
Craft is essential to the success of cunning because it is the outward
unity of mental and physical prowess. When crafting, one must not
only use the intellect to conjure up the ideas, but must also have physical
skill, in order to finely complete the forethought task. Hephaestus wrought
a chain to entrap the two lovers and accomplished such through the mental
keenness and physical skill required for cunning actions.
Similarly, Odysseus does not appear physically tough, for even Seareach, a Phaikaian hot shot, thought to challenge him in a discus throw. However, Odysseus’s appearance masks his true abilities. He easily out-throws the young brute and does so, despite his rather ragged exterior. The notion of appearance being a distortion of reality, as seen in Hephaestus and Odysseus, is also displayed by the gods, such as Athena, who come down from Olympus and take on the form of humans. Each god, though appearing mundane, full embodies the sublime. Odysseus, by being far superior to his looks, takes on the role as a larger than life hero.
After hearing the tale of Hephaestus, Odysseus lets out a sly laugh. Odysseus
finds such pleasure in this tale because it illustrates the triumph of
cunning and craft over the superficially powerful ideals of strength and
beauty. Ares, god of war, could have easily defeated Hephaestus in battle.
However, the true power of cunning is that, through foresight and planning,
brute force can be outmatched. Moreover, Odysseus can relate to Hephaestus
because he himself is often disregarded as a meaningless wanderer. The
achievement of Hephaestus’ vengeance gives him hope that, if Penelope has
betrayed him, he is still capable of outmatching any supposed lover, on
account of the power of cunning.
Steps to take with any paper, late in the drafting process:
1. Circle all occurrences of to be verbs, except those in quotes.
2. Count all the to be verbs you have circled.
3. Count your sentences, excluding quotations.
4. Divide the number of to be verbs by the number of sentences.
40% and below suggests that you have probably taken the time actually to think about and choose the verbs in your sentences. You have avoided the following structures:
the passive voice
for some examples of how to turn to be sentences into active ones.
Read about the passive voice and active verbs in your Handbook, as well.
a) Off the coast of Lisbon, variances
of kindness are shown when a storm strikes
the protagonist's boat and an earthquake strikes the mainland.
b) It is
Candide's simplicity which entices the reader to care even a bit as to
what happens to him.
c) Clearly human
offensive to Gulliver.
d) Excrement for
representative of part of his dislike for mankind.
e) Despite the
detrimental effects produced by each violation, something is
gained from the horrific act which ensues . . .
d) This kind of
the very essence of the Englightenment.
| The notion that
Socrates and Odysseus are alike is false. Odysseus, the man skilled
in all ways of contending, survived through the keen amalgam of wit and
brute strength. Socrates, however, a man bound by his moral fabric,
meandered through life on the basis of his intellectual capability.
Moreover, the concepts of honor held by Socrates and Odysseus are polar
opposites. For instance, Odysseus often fled dangerous situations,
e.g. Kyclops, and used any means necessary, even deception, as with the
Trojan Horse, to accomplish his mission. Socrates, however, would
not even flee Athens when faced with execution for crimes he could not
logically commit--corruption of the youth, having false gods, and denying
existence of god. Believing his honor and loyalty to Athens to be
more important than his own well-being, Socrates willingly went to trial,
knowing execution to be a possibility. The contrast in heroism between
Socrates and Odysseus represents a sea change in Greek thought. Odysseus'
heroism involved self-preservation. Socrates, with his disregard
for his own well-being, became the archetype for the new Greek hero.
The rise of the Socratic hero and the fading away of the Odyssian hero
correspond directly to the excesses of the Homeric age. Uncertain
for the future, Greek society began to eschew the outright violence and
debauchery presented by The Odyssey and exhibited in Athenean culture,
and turned to the principles of a man who was willing to sacrifice himself
for somthing greater. (Greg Nicholas)
While Socrates and Odysseus draw upon slightly different sets of abilities and values, they both represent the Greek hero who undermines societal conventions. The scale of the “worldly standard” becomes essentially inadequate when looking at these two heroes because their stories either contradict worldly standards or introduce the possibility of perfecting and superceding the standards. For example, just as Odysseus is able to undermine the Achillean notion that a hero must die in battle to gain immortal glory, Socrates is able to confront death as something that is possibly an “unspeakable gain.” Conventional wisdom fears death, but Socrates redefines this wisdom by classifying death as an unknown, whether good or evil. A parallel between the heroes exists also in their persistence. Odysseus never gives up on reaching Ithika, and likewise, Socrates proclaims, “I shall never alter my ways” of questioning conventional wisdom. Trickery certainly characterizes both men; Socrates warns the judges that he is not “eloquent” on a courtly standard, but goes on to deliver one of the most powerful arguments in literature. These heroes achieve fame by defying convention, and they are able to do this because of sets of unusual abilities, insights, and persistence. They redefine and reclassify heroic potential by undermining “worldly standards” and pursuing their goals irrespective of societal restraint. (Tim Shaffer)
In order to answer this question we must ask ourselves if Socrates and Odysseus share character traits. Odysseus’ most notable heroic quality is his cleverness. Socrates most definitely proves his ability to outwit and mentally entrap his accusers. This would seem to show we have two similar heroes. However, I believe Socrates is an “internal” character, and Odysseus, an “external” one. Let me explain. Anytime Odysseus finds himself in a conflict, he looks outward for solutions; he uses his resources, he uses tools like his sword or wood to build the Trojan Horse. In conflict, Odysseus feels as if it is up to him to make things happen. He is indeed an existentialist. Conversely, Socrates turns inward when he is faced with conflict. Odysseus would have tried to survive and overcome his trial. But Socrates believes everything happens for a reason and he lets them take his life; he is a stoic. Odysseus tries to fight off his conflicts while Socrates embraces them. For example, Odysseus is bent on survival and escaping death, but Socrates says why should we fear death? We know not whether it is good or evil. (Mike Short)
Odysseus, is another form of the Greek hero; however, he is a very different
type of hero, so very different a hero that it seems they might come from
entirely different cultures. Socrates is a more worthwhile hero.
He wins the minds of people, whereas Odysseus seems to excel more in the
gift of physical prowess and ability. Socrates works to better society
and mankind. He demonstrates wisdom, wit, and the gift of speech.
These traits are actually so far from the Greek ideals of true heroism
that Socrates is tried and killed by the Greeks. Odysseus, on the
other hand, lives for himself. His entire adventure is about him
finding his way home. It is about his honor, his courage, and his
good or bad fortune. As a leader, he cares little for his men or
any others. Odysseus is the typical materialistic, shallow Greek
hero. He is admired because he is brave, strong, beautiful, rich,
and has it all. Both men claim gifts from the gods, yet it is Socrates
who actually possesses virtue worth admiring. This virtue and wisdom,
however, is too “un-Greek” for the Greeks to accept and he is put to death.
Only posthumously are Socrates and his ideas appreciated and claimed as
belonging to Greek culture. Thus Socrates achieves the heroism that
Odysseus’ brand of heroes search for, the consolation prize for death,
the glory of being remembered. (Maria Summe)
Oedipus Quiz (10 points)
Part 1 (4 points) Unambiguously identify the following items.
1) Where Oedipus grew up. Corinth
2) The origin of Oedipus' limp. Having been shackled at infancy by Laius and Jocasta.
3) The three crossroads. Spot where Oedipus kills Laius.
4) Where exactly Jocasta hangs herself. In the bedroom she has shared with both Oedipus and Laius.
5) What the Delphic Oracle tells Oedipus when he visited it. You kill father and marry mother.
Creon when he visits it. The soundness of Thebes
be restored once
7) What happened to
the "lone survivor" of Laius' murder, or the reason he left Thebes? He
was exiled by
8) Mt. Cithaeron Place where the shackled infant Oedipus was found and where he returns at the end of the play.
Part 2 (2 points). Construct a
family tree(s) out of the following characters (indicate unknowns with
x for male and y for female):
Part 4 (5 points). Write a paragraph
in which you identify what you think is an important imagery pattern
or repeated motif (not a theme) and explain how it contributes to
the play's overall meaning.
Sight is an important imagery pattern because Tiresias knows all, but cannot see, and even when Oedipus learns all, he gouges out his eyes so he cannot see. Also, when reporting what Oedipus had done, the servants report that no one would want to see it, so they describe it with words. It is as if words reduce the potency and power of actions or a scene. The importance of sight is strange because it is sight (or lack of it) that drives the plot. The sight of a helpless infant forces the shepherd to spare Oedipus; the herald's lack of seeing Oedipus at the crossroads causes their collision and thus Laius' death; and Oedipus is attracted to the physical beauty of his mother. (Mathew Bridwell)
Extra Credit (3 points). What does the name "Oedipus mean? Swollen foot
Quiz on the first two reading assignments from the Aeneid
Part 1 (4 points). Short Identification.
Specifically identify 3 "signatures" of the epic genre that you encounter
in the selections you have read from the Aeneid.
6. Who is the queen of the Carthaginians? Dido
Whom does Aeneas see approach the queen while he observes from within the
cloud obscuring him from sight?
Part 2 (5 points). On the back of the sheet write a paragraph on one of the following options.
a. Identify a repeated pattern of imagery or motif in this section of reading and explain how if functions to develop a theme.
b. Focus in on a single, small episode or detail and explain how we ought to consider it is vitally important to the poem's meaning.
to see three representative samples of fine paragraphs.
Part 3 (3 points). Make a family tree out of the following characters.
Venus, Ascanius (Iulus), Cruesa, Anchises
Venus ---------- Anchises
Part 4 (3 points). Identify the characters I indicate in the projected painting.
Anchises, Cruesa, Ascanius, Aeneas
Extra Credit (3 points). Just after Aeneas witnesses Pyrrhus killing Priam, he sees someone lurking beyond the doorway into the room of the Vesta. Who is it? Helen
|Aeneas losing Cruesa is vitally important to the story. As he reaches the tree, he realizes she is the only one who did not make it. He rushes back into the city to try to find her. There he witnesses her ghost. This apparition of Cruesa gives Aeneus a sense of closure. She tells him not to mourn her because his mission is eslewhere and there a new wife awaits him. This signifies Aeneas's new life--the degree to which he will have to let go of the past and begin to let go of earthly attachments in order to pursue his destiny. Such is the case when Aeneas leaves Dido so as not to neglect his divinely appointed duty. His life, his emotions, and his will seem to no longer be his own. Aeneas losing his home and his wife are only the first in several necessary hardships he will have to bear in carrying out his duty to found Rome. (Maria Summe)|
|Priam's attempts to continue fighting are vitally important to the poem's meaning. Priam dresses for battle in the final moments of his life despite the imminant destruction of his city. His wife must plead with him to remain by the alter of Apollo with her. The episode illustrates the two most important vehicles for both the action and themes of the poem's religion (i.e. the impact of the God's and Goddesses) and heroism. Priam is torn between the legacy of valuing honor and courage over life and the respect for Apollo as his only means of salvation and the controller of his destiny. The dramatic action surrounding Priam's wife's plea and his ensuing death emphasize the importance of this conflict. This sense of maintaining heroism and the conflicts involved with heroism echoes that same thematic conflict in the main plot. Aeneas's struggle with leaving the city and its consequences for his manhood nearly stops him from fulfilling his destiny as father of the Roman empire. (Clay Magee)|
|The image of flames, used first in the depiction of the fall of Troy and later of Dido's love for Aeneas, conveys the idea of a burning, self-destructive force. The danger posed by Dido's passion for Aeneas is foreshadowed by in this motif. The image of flames, first experienced by the reader in the fall of Troy and later echoed in the description of Dido's love, is only completed when Dido jumps on th epyre as Eaneas departs from Carthage. (Greg Nicholas)|
| The characters
in Beowulf are respected or rejected based on perceived borders.
Grendel is described as a creature with no borders, of the fens and the
swamps. Because of this lack of distinction, in terms of social structure,
Grendel is despised and rejected by the tribes of men. The exclusion
isolates him and causes the jealousy and envy that eventually makes him
an enemy of mankind. Taking a different spin on this idea, Grendel
is considered a monster because he shows no limits--there are no borders--in
his animosity or his inability to come to peasce and settle his feuds.
Beowulf, on the other hand, is first considered a coward and is isolated
himself because his borders are too excessive. His thoughts and the
little violence he expresses are too controlled and earn him disrespect.
He overcomes this position when he stretches his borders and challenges
Grendel. Borders seem to determine an individual's social position
and, to some extent, even his actions. (Kevin Anderson)
The motif of watching is clearly repeated throughout Beowulf. When Beowulf and his men land on the Danish shore they are stopped and questioned by a sentry on watch. Again, when all the warriors go to bed in Heorot, they lay their shields and weapons next to thm because they are always on "watch" or on standby for the possibility of war. The author remarks that this is both fitting and necessary for a strong nation. This pattern indeed conveys the notion that eternal vigilance is necessary to preserve the freedom and sovereignty of a nation-state. However, there is irony at work, because despite the Danes' constant watching, they are still ravaged by Grendle, their vigilance thus proven useless. The author implies that they are watching or guarding in the wrong spirit. By this I am referring to the theme that they should be placing their trust in the one God as Beowulf does, rather than pleading with the forces of darkness or turning to the strength of man. Indeed, God is "watching" or "gaurding" over the Danes if they would only place their faith in his vigilance. (Michael Short)
The motif of eating in Beowulf shows an important aspect of the poem's society. First, the manner of eating reflects the characteristics of the individual. While the men eat in marriment to celebrate their victories with much mirth and gift giving, Grendel eats in the dark, at night, alone, and vioently. This shows that his character does not fit in with society, but instead contrasts it as that of the outsider. The fact that the entire conflict arises from and revolves around the construction of Heorot, where eating is done, displays eating as a focal point of the poem and it imagined society. (Michael DeCarlos)
Light and dark play a major role in the development of the themes of good and evil in Beowulf. Beowulf, a Geat, begins his journey from Geatland, a place of light and order. Grendel, contrastingly, begins his journey in the fens, a deep, dark place of evil and ignorance. The two meet in Heorot, a darkened mead hall, permeated only somewhat by the light of day. When Beowulf defeats Grendel, the light returns to the hall. This return of light serves as the micorcosm for the victory of knowledge and good over evil and ignorance. The mead hall, moreover, serves as the universal setting for this struggle. The battle between a good man and a monster in a mead hall serves as the allegory for the universal struggle for justice we see in everyday life. (Gregory Nicholas)
Write a thoughtful, coherent paragraph on the following prompt. One way of seeing the plot of this poem is in terms of two of its "props"--the pentangle and the green girdle. Gawain goes from being a wearer of the pentangle to being the wearer of the girdle. What does this transition say about how we are to understand Gawain's development as a character?
1. Identify all "regular sentences," those unfolding in the order subject-verb-(object). Do this by drawing an inch-long line beneath the beginnings of the sentences.
Here are some "regular sentences":
Notice that it doesn't matter how long the sentence is, what form the subject takes (the gerund, for instance, in the second one is a bit unusual), or how many words occur between the subject and verb (the long phrase modifying "Dickens" in the third example).
2. Identify all "irregular sentences," those delaying the subject-verb-(object) pattern. Mark them by putting a squiggly line about an inch long beneath the beginning of each sentence.
Here are some sample
--In order to get
readers to slow down and think about words and their meaning,
Treat all questions
as "irregular sentences"
3. Total the
two kinds of sentences and figure the ratio. You're looking for a
balance in your prose, something in the area between 60:40
outcome, the grade that goes to one and all! The trio of heroes--Mike
(aka Hercules, performer of impossible tasks), Colin (aka Achilles, the
brooding, athletic warrior), and Greg (aka Odysseus, the cagey tactician,
always searching for the lost thing)--"laid it on the line," "stood up,"
"came through," "showed grace under pressure," etc. What a feat!
Everyman and Second Shepherds Play Quiz
Part 1 (5 pts). Short Answer.
1. In what kind of costume would you dress Goods if you were directing Everyman?
We would dress "Goods" like a rich King. He would wear god, silks, rings, and all the markings of material and worldly wealth. (Terrific answer! 1 pt.)
2. Identify the central metaphor of Everyman. The central metaphor would be the dominant pattern of language that is used to capture the central character's experience of having to face death and the value of his life. For instance, the language of the hunt or the language of seamanship pervade Oedipus.
The central metaphor of Everymanis a journey. The language of travel consistently permeates the play in words such as "flee," "pilgrimage," "go," and "depart." The central metaphor serves to emphasize the them of the play: a journey from life to death. (Terrific answer again, even though I had in mind the metaphor of the ledger sheet. But the trio's answer might be better, especially since it shows an understanding also of the dominant metaphor of the Middle Ages--pilgrimage.--1pt.)
3. Which character stays with Everyman to the bitter end?
Good Deeds (Spot on!--1 pt.)
4. Identify Mak from the Second Shepherds Play.
Mak is the thief who steals the lamb from the shepherds. (1 pt.)
5. What decision actually causes the Shepherds to find their lamb?
When the shepherds first go to Mak's house, they are decieved and believe that their lamb in the cradle is actually Mak's baby because his wife dresses it up as such. The decision to go back into Mak's house and give their blessings to the baby allows them to uncover the trick. Then they only punish Mak midly by bouncing.throwing him in a sack. (1 pt.--fine answer: it's the old paradox of finding what you've lost only when you stop trying to seek it and operate by charity. They go back to give the baby a gift and the actually receive what they've been looking for. The allegorical value of this episode, I think, is unmistakable.)
Part 2 (5 pts). Paragraph. Write a coherent, sharply focused, and well-developed paragraph on how the theme of loss works in either one of these plays.
The theme of loss is most prevalent in the religious work Everyman. Clearly our main character, who represents us all, experiences loss immediately when Death comes and notifies him that he is about to lose his life. Gradually, Everyman loses everything that made him most secure in his life: his possessions, his friends, his strength, and his beauty. However, in the midst of losing all he knows, he is on the path of recovering that which is of infinte and eternal worth: the redemption of his soul. As the Biblical saying goes, it is much harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle. The Bible teaches that it is the poor and wretched, those who lost everything, who will inherit the kingdom of God. Thus, the man who loses everything of material possession gains everything in heaven. Loss, in this play, extends mainly to the physical realm. Called by death, Everyman seeks help among those people and things he once held pysically dear. However, each thing he seeks to find meaning and support from, e.g. kindred, cousins, goods, beauty, strength, and fellowship, provides Everyman with no help. In this way, Everyman represents a loss of significance of those things associated with the physical realm. Ironically, this loss of significance of the physical is accompanied by heightened awareness of the spiritual. Caught in Death's grip, Everyman gains support from Confession, Knowledge (faith), and Good Deeds--all spititual things. Therefore, Everyman represents a key transition in Western Civilization in that it contradicts the medieval convention of physical religion, as exhibited in the grand cathedrals and the sale of indulgences, to underscore the supremacy of such spiritual things as confession, faith, and the caring attitude associated with good deeds. Everyman shows a dying away of the physical to the spiritual in the same way that Jesus physically died but spiritually gained new strength in the crucifixion. Therefore, Everyman," in its depiction of loss, can be viewed as a renewal of the spiritual virtues of Jesus. Similarly, Everyman allegorically in its depiction of loss, can be viewed as a regeneration of spirituality. (It's hard to find anything wrong with this answer; it makes all the important points.--5 pts.)
Extra Credit (3 pts.) Correctly name the gender of both Good Deeds and Knowledge
Good Deeds = Male
= Female (Knowledge
is Good Deeds' sister--no extra points)
|Alpha #||Quizzes, etc.
End of Semester Point Totals
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Final Grades and Point Totals
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