The Odyssey – Personal Response

Similar to all the ancient Greek literature we’ve covered in this course, I really enjoyed reading The Odyssey. Fitzgerald’s translation of Homer’s epic poem was very fanciful and melodic, making for a pleasant and insightful reading experience. The continual themes of hubris and the consequences of rejecting the gods have been a driving force that pushed a religious narrative I hadn’t expected but surprisingly enjoyed, despite not being incredibly religious. But the topics I enjoyed most prominently were Odysseus’s wisdom, his deception and trickery.

Throughout the story, we’re told that Odysseus is the wisest man on earth. His abilities only get shown off later in the poem. One of my favourite examples of this is Odysseus’ escape from Polyphemos. Odysseus sets up a very clever trick where he lies to the Kyklopes about his name, calling himself Nohbdy. Later, when Polyphemos calls out for the help of other Kyklopes, the following occurs, “Out of the cave / the mammoth Polyphemos roaded in answer: / ‘Nohbdy, Nohbdy’s tricked me, Nohbdy’s ruined me!’ / To this rough shout they made a sage reply: / ‘Ah well, if nobody has played you foul / there in your lonely bed, we are no use in pain / given by great Zeus. Let it be your father, / Poseidon Lord, to whom you pray” (p. 157). This is one of the first big examples of Odysseus’ trickery and certainly not the first time he’s hidden his identity.

Watching Odysseus enter a new environment throughout the poem is one of my favourite aspects, as we get to watch his mindset evolve. Passages where he creates lies to hide his identity or discern what move is the best one to do in any given situation like when he chooses not to embrace Nausikaas knees are incredibly amusing to watch.

She faced him, waiting. And Odysseus came, debating inwardly what he should do: / embrace this beauty’s knees in supplication? / or stand apart, and, using honeyed speech, / inquire the way to town, and beg some clothing? / In his swift reckoning, he thought it best / to trust in words to please her—and keep away; / he might anger the girl, touching her knees. / So he began, and let the soft words fall: / “Mistress: please: are you divine, or mortal? (p. 103).

This thorough consideration before making a move is really entertaining and reminds us that Odysseus is human. He has to think through his actions, he doesn’t just automatically know what to do.

I know that the Oddessy is going to be a poem I’ll remember for the rest of my life, even if I never get to read it ever again. I can say with confidence that I’m going to continue to reflect and bring new meaning to the story as I grow up, whether I like it or not. I believe this of all the greek literature we’ve covered. I know that someday in the far future when I’m stuck on a film project, unsure of where to take it, Odysseus will help me through it the journey, even if I lose some men along the way. It’s a comforting thought.