The Importance of Rationality in Homer’s Odyssey
In the epic poem, Odyssey, Homer provides examples of the consequences of impulsive and irrational thinking, and the rewards of planning and rationality.
Impulsive actions prove to be very harmful to Odysseus. His decisions when he is escaping the cave of the Cyclops lead to almost all his troubles through his journey. As Odysseus flees the cave, he yells back "Cyclops - if any man on the face of the earth should ask you who blinded you, shamed you so - say Odysseus, raider of cities, he gouged out you eye." This enrages the giant, and he prays to Poseidon "grant that Odysseus, raider of cities, Laertes' son who makes his home in Ithaca, never reaches home. Or if he's fated to see his people once again, let him come home late and come a broken man - all shipmates lost, alone in a stranger's ship - and let him find a world of pain at home!" In the end, all these things the Cyclops asks come to pass. Odysseus also makes the mistake of ignoring Circe's command. Circe had said to forgo putting on fighting gear, or the monster Scylla will cause his crew harm. "But now I cleared my mind of Circe's orders - cramping my style, urging me not to arm at all. I donned my heroic armor, seized long spears in both my hands and marched out on the half-deck." Because he ignores those orders given by Circe, the six headed monster Scylla snatches six of the crewmembers and eats them alive.
The impulses of Odysseus' crewmembers also impede his journey. The ship had reached the Aeolian Island, home of Aeolus the master of all winds. He gave Odysseus a bag "binding inside the winds that how from every quarter, with the power to calm them down or rouse them as he pleased." The crew, however, is jealous of the prizes Odysseus had claimed from Aeolus. "They loosed the sack and all the winds burst out and a sudden squall struck and swept us back to sea, wailing in tears, far from our native land." The impulses also lead the crew to anger Zeus. The ship lands on the island of the Sungod, Helios. Odysseus was told to refrain from eating the livestock there on the island for fear of angering the Sungod. Odysseus warns the crew of this, but as food runs out, the crew looks to the livestock available. It is decided to slaughter the cattle and eat, and this infuriates Helios. He asks Zeus to pay them back for what they've done, and Zeus agrees "on the wine-dark sea I'll hit their racing ship with a white-hot bolt, I'll tear it to splinters." Zeus does so, and as a result, Odysseus finds himself alone out on the open sea, without a ship.
It is easily seen throughout the poem that planned, rational thinking is the better way. The Phoecian bard Demodocus sings a song of The love of Ares and Aphrodite Crowned with Flowers. A story of Aphrodite, Hephaestus' wife, and her adulterous relationship with Ares, it shows how cunning can win the day. Hephaestus finds out about the adultery...