Odysseus: From Naked Stranger To Honored Guest - Trinity School - Essay

1664 words - 7 pages

Odysseus: from Naked Stranger to Honored Guest  
In Homer’s ​The Odyssey ​, after ten years of battle in Troy, the Archaeans, lead by Menelaus king 
of Sparta, finally triumph over the Trojans. Now a renowned war hero known for his cunning, Odysseus 
desires to return home to Ithaca and reap the benefits of ​kleos​; however, unpleasant deviations prompt 
him to stray from his path home and reach Phaeacia instead. Concerned that his reputation casts him as 
god-like to the Phaeacians, Odysseus tells the stories of the House of Death and the Sirens to depict 
himself as a relatable hero. As an admirable equal, he attempts to demonstrate a sense of humanity and 
vulnerability to gain sympathy from the Phaeacians and acquire their aid to return to and reclaim his 
kingdom, Ithaca.  
Once Odysseus and his men regain their strength on Circe’s island, Circe tells Odysseus that he 
alone must journey to the House of Death to gain knowledge of his fate by confronting the ghost of the 
great Theban prophet, Tiresias. As Odysseus tells this story, he and his Phaeacian audience know that 
few mortals are allowed to enter Hades and even fewer return. By informing his audience of his journey 
to Hades and back, Odysseus attains a transcendent status. However, to ensure that the Phaeacians 
perceive him as a relatable hero and not an untouchable God, Odysseus reveals how he grapples with 
humanity throughout his journey to the Underworld. In the beginning, Odysseus describes the journey 
that he and his men embark on, “a fresh following wind ruffling up in [their] wake/ … [they] sat back/ 
while the wind and helmsman kept her true on course”; the phrases “fresh” and “true” denote a voyage 
of ease and security (11.9). Suddenly, his tone shifts as “the sun sank and the roads of the world grew 
dark,” connoting a loss of direction and of Circe’s aegis (11.14). Odysseus abruptly shifts his tone from 
bliss to apprehension to convey fear to his audience. Down in the underworld, Odysseus, unaware of her 
death, encounters the ghost of his mother and reveals, “I broke into tears to see her here, but filled with 
pity,/ even throbbing with grief, I would not let her ghost/ approach the blood till I had questioned 
Tiresias myself” (11.97-99). While “tears,” “pity,” and “grief” overcome Odysseus, by sacrificing an 
emotional reunion with his deceased mother, he makes the conscientious decision to abandon human 
impulse and instead prioritize Circe’s orders, to find Tiresias. Although it is human nature to grieve for a 
loved one, Odysseus displays his strength as he buries intense human emotion and instead follows 
through with his mission as a true leader. Eventually, Odysseus meets Tiresias who foresees,  
‘you’ll come home late 
and a broken man-- all shipmates lost,  
alone in a stranger’s ship--  
you will find a world of pain at home,  
crude, arrogant men devouring all of your goods’ (11.129-132).  
Odysseus emphasizes the sharp sequence of “world of pa...

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