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Professor : Lauren Kozol
26 October 2018
Will of a Puppet
Imagine being stranded thousands of miles away on a foreign land. You have been
shipwrecked and have lost all your possessions and belongings. Such a
predicament would make many people despair and curse their awful fate. But for
Zeno of Cyprus it became the foundation of his life’s work and legacy. He founded
the philosophy ‘Stoicism’ which was built on the foundations of tolerance, virtue and
self control. It has inspired generations of leaders and thinkers all around the world.
‘Odysseus’, King of Troy from “The Odyssey" written by Homer is a living
embodiment of stoicism. Like Zeno, he too gets lost from home unable to find a way
back. Yet he displays stoic virtues which helps us in understanding and analysing
his character on a three dimensional level.
According to the stoics, anything and everything around us functioned by a cause
and effect web resulting in a rational structure of the universe. This resulted in the
creation of logos. We cant control the things around us, we can only control how we
approach these things. For instance, Emily Wilson, in her translation of “The
Odyssey”, begins her narration as :
“Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
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and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home.” (I. 1-10)
The author beings the description of Odysseus as a "complicated man”. Without
revealing too much about the character, the author cleverly makes him seem like an
enigma thereby drawing her readers attention right from the beginning, She gives
us insight into the character as one who is about to face several conflicts for the
rest of the story. This enables us to figure out the physical and mental hardships he
is about to suffer. “The Odyssey” is narrated from a third-person point of view by a
narrator who has invoked the divine authority of the Muse, which allows the narrator
to know everything and understand all the characters’ thoughts and feelings.
Descriptive phrases such as “wandered and was lost” and “pain he suffered in the
storms at sea” further provides more insight towards his strenuous journey. Thus a
recurring motif of story telling is used throughout the poem in a similar manner
drawing on his pain and suffering. The journey he takes has its up and down, twists
and turns, which results in a much more entertaining story for the audience. In this
way the author gives Odysseus greater narrative authority in the reader’s eye as
they are able to sympathise with him. There is only one question that the reader is
left with at the moment. How did Odysseus manage to get through this journey ?
How did he manage to have hope ? Homer uses the story to educate the readers
on the practice of stoicism through its values. One can interpret the three cardinal...