Comparative Literature 358
Second Essay Assignment
Word Count: 1392
LOVE & WAR
The Odyssey vs. The Ramayana
Love is a powerful human emotion as it is able to transcend both time and culture. It is apparent, then, why love is often a theme in literary works including The Odyssey and The Ramayana. Despite having thousands of miles separating the two stories geographically, The Odyssey and The Ramayana have a lot in common. The female characters, Penelope and Sita, play an important role in both Odysseus’ and Rama’s voyage. Both voyages last for many years. Further similarities include that both of these early pieces of literature date back to when stories were passed down orally. Most importantly, both recount a hero’s journey to reclaim their lost kingdom, and ultimately, their wives are the driving force that brings them home.
In The Odyssey, Homer tells the story of Odysseus and his twenty-year journey home after the Trojan War. Seven of those years, he spent trapped on an island by the sea nymph Calypso. During his prolonged absence, many presume he is dead. Thus, Penelope is plagued with suitors trying to take her hand in marriage in hopes of taking Odysseus’ throne. To avoid the invaders, Penelope claims that she must first finish weaving before she will choose someone new to marry. When Odysseus finally returns home out of love for his family, he avenges his honor by killing the suitors and all of those who failed to remain loyal to him. While Odysseus has not remained faithful to Penelope for the duration of his absence, he is concerned with the purity of his wife as he claims that he was always true to Penelope in his heart. However, it is Penelope who tests the purity of Odysseus upon his return. She asks him to tell her the secret of their marriage. After he answers correctly, Homer describes their joyous reunion:
Now from his breast into the eyes the ache
of longing mounted, and he wept at last,
his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms,
longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer
spent in rough water where his ship went down
under Poseidon's blows, gale winds and tons of sea.
Few men can keep alive through a big serf
to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches
in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind:
and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband,
her white arms round him pressed as though forever.
Odysseus’ homecoming exemplifies the love that remains in his heart for his family, even if he was physically disloyal while away. This is similar to The Ramayana because Rama’s ultimate goal, like Odysseus, is to return to his wife.
The Ramayana is a story about Rama, a prince who is exiled to the Dandaka forest for fourteen years after his father, King Dasartha, gives the throne to Rama’s brother, Bharata. In spite of this, Rama’s wife, Sita and brother, Laksmana decide to follow him into the forest and stay with him. During the exile, Sita is captured by the 10-headed demon named Ravana....