Personal Response to Homer’s Odyssey

Homer’s Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem that chronicles the 10 years of absurd and fantastical adventures that befall war hero Odysseus, is an extremely famous historical work that most people are at least somewhat familiar with. However, due to the density of the text, not many (myself included) consider it for casual reading. So when I ultimately picked up a copy of The Odyssey for the first time, there were a few elements that came as a surprise. The most notable of these was the extremely prominent dissonance between the cultural values of the time The Odyssey was written and those of modern society. Of course, this was not entirely unexpected, as the inequalities of ancient Greek society are rather well known. Still, the dramatic clash was a bit of a shock for me, particularly the attitude towards vengeance and justice, which in this poem are presented as synonymous.

Putting aside the cultural dissonance, there were quite a few things about the poem that I genuinely enjoyed. The writing style, for one, I found very appealing, though this is more likely a factor of the translation rather than the text itself. The characterization of Odysseus I also appreciated. Rather than a flawless hero, the poem’s emphasis on his cunning (demonstrated throughout), his penchant for weaving complex lies, and his apparent lack of remorse, combined with genuinely positive attributes such as unwavering determination and love for his family, make him a much deeper character. Odysseus himself is the main standout of The Odyssey.

While there was a lot of good in The Odyssey, there was one main aspect of the poem that slightly soured my experience. Again, I probably should’ve expected this, but I was quite disappointed by just how little time was devoted to Odysseus’ iconic homeward voyage. Following along with his journey throughout the various monster-inhabited islands of the Mediterranean Sea was easily the most interesting part of the story, and I do wish we were treated to a more detailed account.

Pastiches of Great Expectations

Passage 1:
… That was the time when the truth was made clear, by the dark stars whose light reddened with Lord Eshan’s fury, and by the cathedral, once so opulent, and the monuments built in Her honour, which crumbled to dust; that Kasavionos, Varokira, Azanak, Tesiran, and Ganok, the ancient rulers of Eshara, were once more free to conquer; and that the western countries of Jahion and Cerrus, lands of rivers and mountains and deserts, would soon take up arms in preparation for a war; and that the northern land of Kanar would do the same; and that Eshan the Creator in her anger would not intercede; and that Simon, once named Edward Alder, stood at the center of it all, not knowing what to do.

Passage 2:
A regal man, in a long grey coat, with white streaks in his dark hair and beard. A man with dark eyes, and with a sharp nose, and with mechanical implants in his fingers. A man who had once been a lord, and once been wealthy, and once been respected, and once been powerful, and had once fought, and had once killed; who now watched and listened, and saw and heard; and who always waited in the shadows for his time to come again.

(NOTE: Both of these are derived from the events of a story I intend to write. The first describes the circumstances leading up to the finale, and the second a major antagonist)

Antigone (or Creon’s Rotten, No-Good, All Around Crappy Day)

In Antigone, a tragic play written by Sophocles around 441 BCE, the titular character is not actually the protagonist. Although the actions of Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, do serve as a semi-inciting incident, I interpreted the real main character to be Creon, who I originally expected to fill the role of antagonist. Creon, entirely through his own decisions and actions, loses his son, his wife, and his niece, all over the course of the day.

Despite this, and despite being the play’s protagonist, Creon is definitely not a sympathetic character, meaning he doesn’t fit the generally accepted definition of a tragic hero. This play is a tragedy, not because of Creon’s suffering, but because of the suffering his selfish actions cause the innocent people around him. At the end of the day, almost all of Creon’s family is dead, not through their actions but his own, and the play’s depiction of his grief and regret is extremely powerful.

Initially, I found the narrative of this play extremely underwhelming. The differences between the Creon portrayed in Oedipus Rex and the Creon portrayed in Antigone annoyed me personally, since I couldn’t understand how such a drastic change in attitude could have come about. However, with my new perspective of Creon being the protagonist rather than the antagonist, combined with the punch packed by the dramatic conclusion, this play left an impression on me much greater than the one left by Oedipus Rex.

Response to Oedipus Rex

Although I had never read Sophocles’ original work for myself, I was already quite familiar with the story of the titular Oedipus, King of Thebes, when I was assigned to read it for English Literature class. Nevertheless, the play still managed to surprise me, particularly in its structure and characters.

The play begins well into Oedipus’ personal narrative. at this point, he has long since defeated the Sphinx by solving its famous riddle, married Queen Jocasta, become King of Thebes, and had several children. This was the first thing that struck me as surprising, as I expected the play to retell the whole story, starting with a baby Oedipus being given to a shepherd on the slopes of a mountain. Instead, the play is structured similarly to a classic whodunnit as Oedipus and Jocasta try to expose the murderer of King Laius.

I found Oedipus’ characterization to be largely consistent. He was represented as a brave and sympathetic man, albeit slightly dull and prone to fits of temper. The same can be said for the other characters prominently featured in the play, them being Jocasta, Creon, and Tiresias.

The role of the Chorus also came as a surprise. Originally, I had assumed that they served as a narrator of sorts explaining the events of the play but never acknowledged by the characters themselves. This was not the case, as they were instead written as a representation as the common people of Thebes, frequently interacting with the named characters.

I was particularly struck by the ending. Once the final twist was revealed, the main character emotionally falls to pieces, and the dialogue is so well written that every word Oedipus spoke felt like a punch in the gut. The conclusion of Oedipus Rex was extremely powerful, and provoked much more of an emotional response from me than I expected of an ancient Greek play.

Response to The Slaughterer

The Slaughterer was probably the story on this list that left the greatest Impact on me. Despite the shortness of the story, the gradual degradation of the protagonist’s sanity is truly visceral, leaving an Impression on me that I can best compare to the first time I watched The Matrix. In all, this Is the most compelling argument in favour of veganism I’ve ever heard.