Why Is Temptation Crucial for the Life Journey of Odysseus?
It took Odysseus ten years to make it back to Ithaca. During this long-term journey, the hero and his crew face many challenges: the murderous cyclops Polyphemus, the deadly Scylla and Charybdis, Circe’s magic, etc. Homer describes these adventures to highlight different qualities of Odysseus’ character: courage, wisdom, cunning, and leadership skills. Various temptations also become a considerable part of Odysseus’ trials and influence the development of the poem’s plot.
When the hero and his crew were the guests of Aeolus, the god of winds, he gave Odysseus a bag with all the winds in it except the fair. The hero’s crew decided that there were gold and silver in this bag, and their captain did not want to share. When Odysseus fell asleep, they opened the sack, and a storm was unfurled. Poor men could not fight the temptation of riches, and, therefore, lost their chance to return home quickly. This twist is essential for the poem as, without this misfortune, Odysseus would have reached Ithaca much earlier.
The representations of temptation in the story
The ghost of Theban Teiresias told Odysseus that on the Thrinacian island, he would “find the sheep and cattle belonging to the sun, who sees and gives ear to everything” (Odyssey, 11). He warned the hero to “leave these flocks unharmed and think of nothing but of getting home” (11). Despite the warning, Odysseus’ crew could not stand the temptation and hunt the sacred cattle. The main hero is the only one who does not harm the animals. Later, Zeus punishes all his companions with the sea storm and “deprived them of all chance of getting home again” (12). This episode proves that Odysseus is a God-fearing and rational man who does not neglect someone else’s advice and can cope with the temptation for a higher purpose.
Sirens make up another representation of temptation in The Odyssey. According to Britannica, “Siren, in Greek mythology, is a creature half bird and half woman who lured sailors to destruction by the sweetness of her song.” Odysseus told the Phaeacians about two Sirens “who enchant all who come near them” (Odyssey, 12). Luckily, the hero stopped the eras of his men with wax and told them to bind him to the mast. Thanks to the Circe’s instructions, Odysseus managed to stay alive, save his crew, and listen to the enchanting sweetness of Siren’s songs.
The concept of temptation is essential for The Odyssey. The hero and his crew are constantly tempted to betray the will of the gods. As a strong and wise leader, Odysseus faces all these challenges with dignity and patience while his companions give in to temptations. Their faults drive the plot of the poem and highlight the positive qualities of their leader, Odysseus. Thus, temptation plays a significant role in the development of the characters and plot and can be considered as a separate topic for studying.
Blumberg, Naomi. “Odyssey.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/Odyssey-epic-by-Homer.
Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Peter Green, University of California Press, 2018.
“Siren.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,24 Apr. 2014, www.britannica.com/topic/Siren-Greek-mythology.
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