Humans, and sometimes immortals, blame gods for the ill fate of men until kleos is introduced to be a factor in the direction of fate, which leads to the realization by some that the individual’s intentions cause fate when given the ability to make their own choices.
Humans and gods accuse dieties of causing bad luck in the beginning of the novel. When Odysseus meets Elpenor in the Underworld, the shade tells him:
“‘Son of great Laertes,
Odysseus, master mariner and soldier,
bad luck shadowed me, and no kindly power;
ignoble death I drank with so much wine’” (XI, 64-67)
Elpenor blames his shameful death on “bad luck” and “no kindly power”, which means he died because he had no control over the harsh gods. The shade holds the gods accountable, which shows that he, like other humans, often blames the gods. Elpenor’s misfortune, however, occured after he intoxicated himself with wine. Odysseus blames the gods for fate when he tells Polyphemos who he is.
“‘We are from Troy, Akhaians, blown off course
by shifting gales on the Great South Sea;
homeward bound, but taking routes and ways
uncommon; so the will of Zeus would have it’” (IX, 281-284).
Odysseus clearly blames his current misfortunes on Zeus, that reminds the reader how Zeus complained in the first book how mortals always blamed the gods. The way Odysseus says “so the will of Zeus would have it” has a cynical tone, as if Odysseus is annoyed by the god’s will. Zeus blames Poseidon for the fate of Odysseus when he talks to Athena.
“‘Naturally, the god, after the blinding-
mind you, he does not kill the man;
he only buffets him away from home.
But come now, we are all at leisure here,
let us take up this matter of his return,
that he may sail. Poseidon must relent
for being quarrelsome will get him nowhere,
one god, flouting the will of all the gods’” (I, 97-104).
Zeus understands Poseidon’s need to delay Odysseus, but also emphasizes the fact that he must return home and Poseidon cannot stop that, because he is not strong enough to go against the free will of all the gods. The god uses the term “buffets” which means to strike, Zeus makes it sound like Poseidon’s wrath is just reciprocal to the blinding, and understands he must reach home, but will make him suffer for it.
The gods are blamed for setbacks, but the desire for kleos aids the decision of destiny for characters in the novel. Kleos affects Odysseus after he blinds Polyphemos, the Cyclops son of Poseidon.
“‘O hear me, lord, blue girdler of the islands,
if I am thine indeed, and thou art father:
grant that Odysseus, raider of cities, never
see his home: Laertes’ son, I mean,
who kept his hall on Ithaka. Should destiny
intend that he shall see his roof again
among his family in his father land,
far be that day, and dark the years between.
Let him lose all companions, and return
under strange sail to bitter days at home’” (IX, 576-585).
Odysseus chooses to blind Polyphemos and...