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The value system of Homer in the Odyssey

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            The value system of Homer in the Odyssey is very well reflected in the book through the characters of the poem. They in themselves show us  the Greek mind over the centuries as life is seen through these persons, then we see life through their ideas .

            Penelope, who is the key unity of the poem, shows in the opening divine council that determines Odysseus’ return, Athene states her plan for Telemachus Penelope’s son:”I shall send him to Sparta and Sandy Pylos to inquire of his father’s homecoming, if he may perhaps hear, and that good fame among men may possess him”. Thus we can see a mother encouraging her son’s confidence, to journey to the land of Troy and Menelaus’ after having heard that Odysseus was alive but was held on Calyso’s Island, this all may seem ends in themselves as description of the youth’s maturing.

            We see that there is a great sense of responsibility and strong family bonds exist. Telemachus through his able performances among eminent people he in fact begins to show himself as his father’s devoted and true son.

            Telemachus’s new independence inspires Penelope to a choice that uniquely offers Odysseus his success .Athene acts in all the three events, which at the same time issues from the three human agents and it reveals their natures.

Sleep and dreams are thought to be marks of interpolaters.It has been said that as Penelope grieves for Odysseus she is put to sleep by Odysseus .Then she is said to have slept six times and dreamt three times. And when she had slept her second sleep, in her dreams she was addressed by Athene in the guise of her sister wife of Eumelus of Pherae. In her dreams she is assured the safety of Telemachus as Pallas Athene accompanies him. Then in her other dream about Odysseus, she enquired if he is alive or dead? Thus dreams are the intensification of night and it is from their moods that Penelope finally draws her choice. The language of night and dreams mounts in the roughly two hundred lines surrounding her mysterious decision for the test of the bow.

            In the poem, the way of seeing human posture as issuing from events rather than events as issuing from sharply defined personal consciousness appears is some similies. Before the dream of her sister Penelope ponders like a huntsmen-encircled lion her son’s possible escape or death on return from abroad. The common trait of these similies is that age, sex, and state of kinship, usually fundamental to identity, drop out before more universal emotions that in turn relate to the poem.

 The overarching theme declares that as a mortal Odysseus must somehow unite the immense, immensely varied world with his inborn identity. That he does so makes him the jointly enduring and emerging hero that he is .Odysseus shrewdness emerges besides his several traits including his cleverness which win him knowledge and survival, again marks him in Illiad.Its seen that desire of wealth and yearning for both describe Odysseus. Odysseus had lost his loot which he had brought from Troy but it gets compensated by the Phaecian’s free gifts. Odysseus’ curiosity reflects his speed of mind that they variously describe. His ardour at once hurts and saves him. He meets the test of returning with endurance but also sees that there was no other place  on this enormous place like home .

            Thus this poem shows that to stay at home will, by a man’s loss of wealth and reputation, undermine home and obscure relation to the God’s wide world, yet on venturing out they reveal enormity and danger which make return unlikely.

            Odysseus’s double character as both wise man and hero both reduced and effective man persists in the climax. The sorrow is that, given human desires and the brevity of life, these securities are perishable. Odysseus’ outrage through the later half of the poem is that this minimum, brief as it is ,is disordered  and unvalued. He is the Hero defending the last human possibility .After all that has gone by he is not simply vindicating property or common civic order. His anger in the suitor-slaying is not at least a mental anger. He understands as tested man but must still act as powerful man. His two sides meet in the scene.

            Odysseus approached the Phaecians with a notable reserve, his eagerness as a beggar to differentiate his story of Penelope’s husband from the other venal people whom she gave gifts made him reject soft treatment towards him but then, his eagerness to add that he would let his feet be washed only by some old woman who has suffered like him. His this power of survival leads over to another class of epithets,-much-enduring-“poluthas”,great-spirited-“megathumus”,and great hearted ” megaletor”

Natural elements play a significant role in the poem too. The engulfing sea is Odysseus’ peril apart in the ‘Odysseus’ and fire becomes benign. But fire is more commonly a mark of habitation and human life .The fragrance of burning Cedar spreads from Calypso’s hearth ,Circe’s servants heat the water to bath him ,at Ithaca he sits by Penelope in the fire-light, and the final recognition she takes her place by hearth. As contrasted to the fire of the Iliad the water of the Odysseus imports time and disappointment and chiefly asks endurance.

            The characters thus become as descriptive of the world as are seas and mountains .The step is not taken that might make of them mere figures of imagination, rather, they once existed or, in the case of Gods still exist.

             The poem recounts not only experience of the wide world and capacity to cope with it but quite of mind as goal. They show the possibilities of human life, by hearing of them ,one knows what it is .But as auditors gain touch with guiding reality by tales of great events, so do the characters by living the events.

            Zeus’s opening speech in Odyssey was taken to show the change. Mortal he says, unjustly blame the gods for evils that they bring upon themselves by their own follies. The first lines of the poem announce the nexus.’ Achilles’ wrath and the resulting dreams of many mighty heroes fulfill Zeus’s plan. The wrath and deaths and plan constitute a kind of mirror-image, same action from two sides. This shows the anger of the same action from two sides. This shows the anger of the characters.

            ‘Odyssey’ by contrast is certain that he belongs in Ithaca, his earth rooted bed and the fruit trees of his youth declare him to Penelope and Laertes.But Ithaca are an island, so his final understanding of it is got from the sea. Though mortal, he has to acquire, compulsorily and by God’s tuition, knowledge of the place of home in the vast world. It is this knowledge that distinguishes him from the suitors and will make Ithaca flower. What may be judged is the aristocratic tone of the Iliad, its concern with victory and glory, is less aristocratic than heroic; the brief glint of half divinity on earth. Homer gathers in the brief days of the Iliad suggestion of the ten years. The fact makes evident his long absorption with death and loss.

‘Odyssey’ is chiefly a mental, not a moral, poem. It is the history of the one survivor of Troy and the woman who effected his full survival, who traced to a farther stage the sudden truths shown in the fighting .Odysseus becomes, as it were, a fulfilled hector in learning the conditions under which a home and family may be kept. Homer the great Poet sees farthest into these mortal axioms, as taught by Muses he is the inspired Geometer of human state.


  • Homer’s Odysseus by-John H Finley,Jr Havard University Press -1978.
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