Odysseus and His Personal Growth
Throughout the Odyssey
By Sam Stubbins
The Odyssey, written by Homer, is the story of Odysseus and how he faced misfortune in his attempts to return home after the Trojan war. From these misfortunes he learned to be a better man and became able to regain his place in his homeland of Ithaca.
During his journeys Odysseus often makes the mistake of lingering around longer than necessary so that he can boast to his enemies but learns that doing so gives his opposition a chance to seek retribution against him. After leaving Troy Odysseus attacks the land of the Cicones. Instead of leaving after his victory, he stays to celebrate until a force is rallied against him and he must flee with many casualties. Afterwards Odysseus and his crew land on the island of the Cyclops. They are attacked and some are eaten by Polyphemus. After intoxicating the great Cyclops, Odysseus and his men blind the monster with a heated spear. The men could have made an escape without incident but Odysseus mocked Polyphemus and shouted out his real name, when before Odysseus had told him that his name was “Noman.” With this new information Polyphemus prays to his father Poseidon to have Odysseus and his men punished. Having angered Poseidon, they must wander throughout the sea slowly dying one by one. Odysseus learns that bragging can have ill effects and uses this knowledge on the island of the Phaecians and Ithaca when he does not openly boast of his deeds and his journeys.
Odysseus also learns to pay close attention to the instructions of the gods, or he might have to face a terrible price. When Odysseus and his crew landed at the island of Aeolus, they were given a parting gift that would have helped them greatly if they had paid heed to the warnings of Aeolus. He gave Odysseus a bag full of the bad winds that would keep them from their home of Ithaca. Odysseus and his crew were in sight of the homeland they had waited so long to see, when a band of rebel crewmen opened the bag creating a great gale that blew them back to Aeolus. When Aeolus saw this he believed that Odysseus was cursed and banished him from the island. This is not the only time Odysseus was betrayed by his men and suffered a great price. When they landed on the island of Hyperion, bad winds prevented them from leaving. Food soon became low; and when Odysseus fell asleep, the crew killed the cows of Hyperion against numerous warnings. Hyperion was infuriated to see this and has Zeus kill all of Odysseus’ in a great storm. Throughout these journeys Odysseus learns that the gods must be respected in order for any man to succeed.
During his journey Odysseus uses what he has learned from his mistakes to return home and kill the suitors. On the island of the Cicones, and with his encounter with Polyphemus, Odysseus learns that bragging can bring damaging circumstances. On Ithaca Odysseus never brags to the suitors and is able to enter his house without the suitors knowing his real identity. He takes the punishment of Antinous and the other suitors without saying a word and is able to observe those who have invaded his home. Odysseus is able to see who is loyal and who is not and take his revenge with the suitors never knowing who he was until the final moment. Odysseus also learns to respect the gods. When he landed on Aeaea, the island of Circe, he follows the instructions given to him by Hermes so that he can overcome Circe and free his men. Odysseus follows the instructions that Circe had given him very closely; entering and leaving Hades without misfortune and using wax in the ears of his crew to pass the Sirens. Odysseus becomes a better man through his journeys and is able to return to his homeland to restore his name.
Throughout his wanderings for home, Odysseus becomes a humbler and more respectful man. The once boastful man learns that his bragging can bring people against him, and is quieter than before he left for Troy. He also learns that the immortal gods of Olympus can be merciful and bring great prosperity, but they also punish those that disobey their wishes. Every time Odysseus has not been respectful he has been severely punished and his trip home delayed. Out of this great tragedy he has become a greater man to regain his kingdom and live a long life.
By Sam Stubbins