Characterization in Oedipus the King and Homer's Odyssey
The characters in a novel or play are attributed certain characteristics by the author. The opinions one might form of a character are based on these; therefore, the characteristics suggested by an author are intrinsic to the reader having a complete and subjective understanding of a work. Characteristics are often displayed through a character s actions, in what is said about them, and what they themselves say, which shall be the focus of this essay. Both Oedipus, in Sophocles' King Oedipus and Odysseus, in The Odyssey of Homer, oftenare spoken of by others, but their own words are telling, as certain emotions and traits can be seen. Traits of a character can often be masked or distorted by favorable or unfavorable descriptions by others, but their own speech, however calculated or controlled, often clearly shows character flaws and attributes that one might not come across otherwise. Strict narration often polarizes a character, casting them as black or white, good or evil. However, in most writings, and certainly in The Odyssey and King Oedipus, the speech of a characterallows us to see the various shades of grey, thus portraying the character more fairly. One might see Oedipus and Odysseus as being in some ways quite similar, but their speech and the characteristics revealed therein is what sets them apart.
Oedipus and Odysseus were both powerful men, each lording over their own small kingdoms. It would seem they should share certain characteristics and one would not be incorrect to say they did. Both showed themselves to be respectful of their duties toward their people. Oedipus, when faced with the people s petition (specifically, the Priest, acting as an advocate for the people) to solve their many problems, responds with words indicating his utmost devotion and duty: "
I grieve for you, my children. Believe me, I know
All that you desire of me, all that you suffer;
And while you suffer, none suffers mote than I." (lines 51-53)
Those lines are telling of Oedipus' character. Through them, we learn that he sincerely has love and respect for his people. Odysseus shares the same love of his homeland, his people, and his wife. He says that it is his "never-failing wish" to see the "happy day of (his) return " (93). Odysseus also, in conversation with King Alcinous of the Phaecians, again shows us his love of his home land: "So true it is that his motherland and his parents are what a man holds sweetest, even though he may have settled far away from his people in some rich home in foreign lands." (140) Although not clearly laid out for all to see, it is no less evident that he feels a certain respect, perhaps even servitude, to his country from which he has been absent so long. Each of our heroes profess this duty, devotion, and patriotism, on an individual and on a larger scale. That they both profess...