Guidance, Fate, and Loyalty in The Odyssey
The Odyssey is an epic poem about a journey. After the Trojan War is won Odysseus leaves Troy for his home in Ithaca. However, the gods decide to test his courage and resolve and send him on a twenty-year odyssey. Odysseus' courage is constantly tested as he struggles with the many obstacles the gods place before him. Although Homer depicted The Odyssey as a self-reliant journey, in reality the gods and other mortals guide Odysseus. It is his loyalty to and his love for his family that keeps him going. The Odyssey depicts Odysseus as he overcomes each obstacle through guidance, fate, and loyalty to his family.
To Odysseus loyalty is the most important quality. He expects his family and friends to be loyal. He especially expects loyalty from his wife Penelope. Odysseus talks to Penelope disguised as an old man, "and as the snow melts on the lofty mountains, when Eurus melts what Zephryrus has scattered, and at its melting flowing rivers fill; so did her fair cheeks melt with flowing tears, as she bewailed the husband who was seated by her side" (187). Odysseus doesn't reveal himself even though he pities his sobbing wife because he knows she wouldn't be able to conceal her love for him in front of all her suitors. This touch of dramatic irony helps the reader sympathize with the struggles of Odysseus' wife.
Odysseus demonstrates his loyal to Penelope during his stay with the Phaeacians. Even with Nausicaa by Odysseus' side because she likes him, he still stays loyal to Penelope. As the Phaeacian woman watch Odysseus as he starts to bathe he says, "Women, stand here aside, while by myself I wash the salt from off my back and with the oil anoint me; for it is long since ointment touched my skin. But before you I will not bathe; for I am ashamed to bare myself among you fair-haired maids" (59). Odysseus shows his purity and loyalty. By Odysseus bathing he is becoming pure and clean which shows he has nothing to hide from his family because of his loyalty. He does not let women jeopardize his mind and stays faithful.
Odysseus tests Eumaeus' loyalty. Eumaeus, the swineherd, is one of the few servants who have stayed loyal for twenty years. As Odysseus tests Eumaeus, Eumaeus finally tires of hearing all the lies and tells Odysseus, "You too, woe-worn man how Heaven has brought you here, do not by lying tales attempt to please or win me; since out of no such cause I show respect and kindness, but out of reverence for Zeus the stranger's friend, and pity for yourself" (139). When Odysseus lies to Eumaeus he refuses to believe them thus passing another one of Odysseus' tests. This touch of dramatic irony helps the reader appreciate the loyalty of Eumaeus who only longs for the master that stands before him.
Even though it's Odysseus' loyalty to his family that eventually gets him home even...