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Deception In Homer's The Odyssey Essay

1384 words - 6 pages

Hiding behind a false identity or a false story is sometimes the easiest way to face difficult decisions. Some believe that, if they make others think something other than the truth, they will have an advantage and, in turn, be superior. Stephen Porter and John C. Yuille acknowledge that “deception is the deliberate misrepresentation of facts through words or actions” (450). Deception is a form of disguise used by humans to hide who they are, what they feel, or even what they have done. In the Bible, it states that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light,” showing that, not only mortals use falsehood to achieve what they strive for, but that deities also utilize these methods of duplicity to infiltrate the minds of the mortals who worship them, or even in their own myths, where the immortals trick others for their own advancement (The Official King James Bible Online, 2 Cor. 11: 14). Deception is used for many different psychological reasons and it is used in Homer’s The Odyssey by many characters in the poem, including mortals, gods and goddesses.
Odysseus is a man of many faces: war hero, adventure seeker, devout Hellenist when he chooses to be, and even bloody murderer. The face he is most known for in The Odyssey, though, is a cunning and deceitful face. As he is planning to escape the cave of the one-eyed son of Poseidon, the Kyklops Polyphemos, Odysseus tells Polyphemos that “[his] name is Nohbdy: mother, father, and friends,/ everyone calls [him] Nohbdy’ (Homer: IX, 397-8). According to Ahuvia Kahane, “calling himself ‘[Nohbdy]’ is Odysseus’ strategy for survival in a deadly world of monsters,” and in this instance, Odysseus does survive, along with most of his men by creating a false identity so the Kyklops cannot curse him by the gods (137). In order to regain control of his kingdom, Odysseus takes a guise with the help of the goddess Athena who “touch[es] him with her wand/ shrivel[ing] the clear skin of his arms and legs/ …[and] cast[s] over him/ the wrinkled hide of an old man” (Homer: XIII, 538-541). “Odysseus withholds his identity from the suitors… and reveals it to other characters,” but only to those who prove themselves loyal to Odysseus without knowing he is back in Ithaka (Kahane 143). By doing this, Odysseus ensures the full loyalty of a select few who will help him take back what truly belongs to him, and yet again uses deception as an advantage to his own survival.
The son of Odysseus, Telemakhos, takes after his father, as he too exhibits the qualities of hiding the truth. But, instead of using it to his advantage, as Odysseus does, Telemakhos conceals the truth from the world, and from himself, by hiding behind the image of his father. Odysseus is “[a] man skilled in all ways of contending,” “the master mind of war,” and “[a] kingly man,” and Telemakhos knows that, since he does not have his father’s influence growing up, he will never be described the same way as his father is (Homer: I,...

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