Obstacles in the Odyssey
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The Odyssey, written by Homer, shows many triumphs and frustrations of human life. Odysseus, the hero, endures battles and obstacles on his twenty year journey home. There is tragedy and victory throughout. Inevitably, some of these obstacles are caused by his men and their desires while others are caused by Odysseus himself. From physical obstacles to emotional obstacles, many parts of The Odyssey represent the challenges in life, such as decision making, temptation, and self restraint.
In “Penelope”, Odysseus displays decision making. He meets his wife, Penelope, for the first time in twenty years. Even though he has had to wait so long to see her, Odysseus knows that in order for his plan to succeed for killing the suitors, he has to keep his identity a secret. Additionally, Odysseus also avoids telling Penelope about his home by lying and saying that it will cause him too much pain to talk about it. This episode illustrates triumph because Odysseus succeeds at killing all the suitors in the end. Hiding his true identity from Penelope allows Odysseus to have the element of surprise on his side when he attacks the suitors. He also learns of what has become of his kingdom and how Penelope feels about him
In “The Lotus-Eaters”, Odysseus’ men show temptation. They come upon an island with lotus plants and there are consequences for eating these plants. “. . . those who ate this honeyed plant, the Lotus, never cared to report, nor to return: they longed to stay forever, browsing on that native bloom, forgetful of their homeland.” Eating the lotus plants makes the men forget about all their troubles. Previous to this event, they endure ten years of searching for a way back to Ithaca. The sweet smell of the lotus, along with forgetting about their troubles, tempts Odysseus’ men into eating the plants. Odysseus eventually retrieves all his men, but this results in frustration because the men delay his journey home.
In “Cattle of the Sun God”, self-restraint is portrayed. By prophecy, Odysseus knows that he and his men cannot eat the sacred cattle because they belong to Helios, the sun god. However, the men are starving. At first, they try to restrain themselves, but once the food supply runs out, the men decide that dying of starvation is not a worthy death. They are desperate and feel hopeless. They cannot leave the island because of Zeus’ storms and see no other way to survive without eating the holy cattle. Their endurance wears out and the men end up eating the cattle, ultimately leading to their death. This is a frustration for Odysseus because he cannot control his men and again his journey home gets delayed.
The Odyssey is a test of the abilities of Odysseus and his men. In the episode, “Penelope”, Odysseus must make important decisions that will not jeopardize his plans to kill the suitors. “The Lotus-Eaters” shows Odysseus’ men facing temptation as they want to escape by eating the plants that make them forget all their troubles. Lastly, “The Cattle of the Sun God” portrays self-restraint as the men suffer from starvation. The epic story depicts these challenges in life using Odysseus and his men, through triumph and frustration.