The Odyssey Books 9–14
As I read more into the Odyssey I am starting to see why Odysseus is going through so many hardships. He is a very cunning and tricky man. Of course there are various benefits to being able to think quickly and con your way out of situations but I would say Odysseus takes it to a whole new level. For example with the situation involving Polyphemus the cyclops he was able to save most of his men from the monster’s feasting by coming up with a plan for their escape. Although his plan is very successful, minus the casualties of a few digested companions, he chose to take the opportunity to boast. I didn’t necessarily figure him to be a humble guy but to basically reveal your entire life to the being whose eye you stabbed and tricked is probably one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Granted that he probably did not figure Polyphemus to be the son of the god of the sea, still I can not find a logical reason to give up one’s entire personal information to a stranger. In fact, he was no ordinary stranger; Polyphemus was a towering man who literally ate a bunch of your men. Maybe it was an ego thing since he was such a great warrior, and the captain of his men and was so loved.
One reference we often discuss in class that I find very relevant to the Story Odysseus is telling of his journey is Maui from the Disney animation Moana. Maui was a trickster who brought doom to the Island of Motuni without directly meaning to. He was a shapeshifter who used him powers and charm to get whatever he wanted. He was very full of himself and knew how to work whoever was in the way of him getting what he wanted. Obviously until Te-fiti, the giver of life, became tekai and put him in a solidarity for a thousand years. Similarly, Odysseus is able to maneuver his way through life until he meets the wrath of Poseidon. This then creates a great level of despair within Odysseus which I would consider good for the growth of his character similar to Maui. Nevertheless, given the history of greek epic’s, I do not think Odysseus will ever truly change.
This is one of the reason why I believe Odysseus agrees to tell the Phaeacians his story. Not only is he wanting to simply share his journey, I believe he wants a little bit of glory for who he is and how far he has come. He does have a great story and it honestly what is a great story without an audience to receive it. One can always think that their own life story is great or eventful or even the best tale in human history but it does not matter in feeling glory without the verification of others. For this reason exactly, choosing the hill was very strategic. Firstly in examining the significance of a hill, it is key to examine what a hill is. According to merriam-webster, a hill is a “ a usually rounded natural elevation of land lower than a mountain”. Being on an elevated platform of land gives one a larger power to speak. In looking at great speeches throughout history, it is usually on an elevated platform in order for everyone to hear. Odysseus wants everyone to hear him. He wants to be continually revered. Being on a hill allows him to know his voice is heard and respected.
In thinking of the word, “civilized” there are various things that come into mind. In some senses that word is like a prized possession for many third world countries, in present-day as well as in the past. However, for this same reason I find the word degrading and unnecessary in certain connotations. I did not really see this view point until recently when in my intro to African history class we discussed how detrimental that word can be. There is always a push to decide what is civilized and what is not. Civilized simply means an area or people that make up a civilization. Instead many have taken that to mean people must follow certain rules and conducts of society to be considered correctly civilized. This then puts pressure for certain societies to conform and create a sense of marginalization. I do think that there is a greater focus on how the word civilized can be manifested in comparison to what it actually is. Personally I would find it very offensive if someone were to call me uncivilized or in turn tell me how civilized I was for several reasons. In the modern world, virtually every culture has an established civilization. Even if they might not be they most interactive with other people or have western first world technology, they still operate as a unit and have their own sets of rules that work best for them. Therefore civilized should not be something to refer to any person or group of people as.
In discussing the the land of of cyclopses, they are seen as uncivilized. They galavant over their land, tending to their sheep and living mindlessly. I do not consider this a bad things if they are happy and content with how they choose to live. Understandably, seeing an entire land of one-eyed giants roaming around would be very shocking and frightening, but it is important to remember that is it their land that Odysseus and his men are intruding on. Yes, they were seeking refuge from traveling for days and they wanted to do their best to be hospitable to Polyphemus especially because it is what they had always known. In greek culture, hospitality is a huge deal because it shows respect for the the guest or the owner of the property as well as exhibits how well mannered the giver of the hospitality is. For the cyclops they did not see things this way. This was heavily due to the difference in culture. When meeting new people or creatures, you are prone to speak to them or act towards them the way you are used to in your own environment. Therefore I think the anger shown from the Cyclops is neither his or Odysseus’s crew’s fault. Things just did not mesh well.
Among other people that Odysseus meets, they are all different than things or experiences he’s used to. The goddess Circe, Ailoes, King Antiphonies and the people of Kikonians are all key parts of his journey. I wouldn’t consider any of them uncivilized except for Circe because she seemed to truly be more a loner not really having a civilization to stick to. All these characters just had their own way of doing things. Just as in today’s world many cultures and countries have their own set of laws differing from that of neighboring nations in the global community. He has to adjust himself to each new person. Thus continuing build his character.
I find it very enchanting discovering all the people Odysseus meets on his journey. It feels less dreary as he continues. Sometimes I have to remember that these events are actually fictitious and are told for enjoyment. The only hang up I have thus far in the poem is how long it feels. The chronology of the events seems so drawn out and at times lacking a little luster. Another interesting thing I made note of was the heavy presence of mythical creatures. Although some might argue that the gods and goddesses can be considered mythical themselves, but I feel as though the concept of gods are way less far-fetched than witches, cyclopses and bags of wind. This could be a result of living in a culture that seeps a lot of religious aspects into everyday life but stil gods are less of an astronomical thing to worry about. The poet certainly had a vast imagination in telling this poem. Even though I am a person who believes in God and partakes in religious ideals, I do believe in mythical creatures. I think they exist because why not, honestly! There is so much of the Earth much less the universe that has not been discovered by man and I think that it is awesome!
In thinking about Odysseus and his discovery of life through visiting the underworld, I consider how when people have near-death experiences it can alter their perception of life. In brushing an encounter with the end, it brings far more awareness for appreciating life. For example in my personal life, I have had a few near-death experiences and I think it has made me much more of a realist in turn grasping to more of the positive factors in life. I think Odysseus has a similar encounter within himself. Being a man not unfamiliar with death’s decree, the underworld might now seem to be a huge deal. However, the underworld is far different than what is seen on Earth in regards to death. Seeing how souls are kept and battered can do a lot to anyone. Odysseus’s courage and strength in braving the journey showed another trait I do not think was very evident before. He is a very willing man. He will do whatever it takes to achieve his goal of getting home. Many people lack this, perseverance. It takes a lot out of anyone to always be able to stick things through when all odds are against you.