Odysseus' Divine Mission Essay

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The range of perspectives from which the Odyssey is viewed produces sometimes essentially incompatible readings. These unreconciled differences derive not only from the different points of view that the poem leaves open to interpritation, but also from the extraordinary richness of its characters. When viewed as simply an action-adventure story, what happens to the hero is accidental, and the interest lies in a series of daring escapes brought about by the hero's cleverness, stamina, and tenacity; all admirable qualities, if not necessities. But the Odyssey, I am convinced, requires that one recognize its great spiritual significance at the same time that it recognizes Odysseus as a complex and typically human character. His success at …show more content…
Odysseus' last encounter with the wrath of Poseidon literally beats him to near death and drives him once and for all out of the attitude of cocky, self-sufficiency which characterized him earlier.

The chief importance of the Phaeacian experience lies in its dramatizing of this new attitude in Odysseus. His emergence from the supernatural world of Lotus-eaters, Cyclopes, Circe, Hades, and Kalypso has invovled a recognition of the conditions of being human: mortality, limited power and wisdom, and the need for divine assistance. Furthermore, the fact that Homer has chosen Phaeacia as the setting for the hero's narration of his "adventures" has more than structural significance. The peace-loving and hospitable Phaeacians who listen to his story serve as mute critics to his behavior. Odysseus begins his tale by describing his troubles as having originated with a raid against unwary townsmen in which the men were slain, the women and children taken as slaves, and a quantity of plunder was carried off. Odysseus' unprovoked attack on the town of Ismarus following his departure from ruined Troy is typical of the acts which cast him out of the world of men. In his twelve fabulous adventures with monsters, nymphs, demigods, sorceresses, and ghosts he sometimes encounters monstrous personifications of his own nature, like Polyphemus and the Laestrygonians, who are gluttons and most inhospitable. In one way or

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