Explication Of a Passage from "The Odyssey"

Essay by Handel26College, UndergraduateA-, November 2004

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Whose Odyssey?

The Odyssey is the story of the voyage home of the champion Odysseus, but it is also the story of the gods. At many points in the story, their interference has a significant impact on the hero. It is the god Poseidon who prevents him from returning home for a full decade, and it is the goddess Athena who helps him finally get there. It sometimes seems as if Odysseus himself has only a supporting role in his own story. But in truth, it is only his heroic quality that merits his safe return.

We are introduced to Odysseus as he languishes on the isle of Ogýgia, a prisoner of the nymph Kalypso. Odysseus owes his sad state of affairs to an incident that had taken place many years before. After sailing from Troy, one of the places Odysseus and his men reach is the land of the Kyklopês.

After an encounter which results in the Kyklops Polyphêmos losing his eye, the giant calls upon his father Lord Poseidon for revenge, and asks that "far be the day, and dark the years between" before Odysseus shall reach home. So far that has been the case, but the other gods, at the prompting of Athena, have decided that it is at last time for Odysseus to be returned home. After seventeen days at sea, Odysseus is nearing the isle of Skheria, and is on the verge of freedom. Before he can make landfall, the source of all his troubles, Poseidon, sees him, and strikes him with a violent storm.

"Here is a pretty cruise! While I was gone, the Gods have changed their minds about Odysseus," Poseidon exclaims when he spots Odysseus "just offshore of that island that frees him from the bondage of his exile." Until this...