The Odyssey Essay

1257 words - 5 pages

The Odyssey’ places emphasis on cunning and guilefulness rather than
strength as in the former epic; elucidated in Odysseus’ dealings with
Poseidon’s son, the Cyclops Polyphemus. Compelled

Composed approximately in 700 B.C., Homer’s epic narrative, ‘The
Odyssey’ depicts the homeward voyage of the legendary Greek hero
Odysseus. The Epos, commonly known as “The Wanderings of Odysseus” are
the protagonists’ recounting of his perilous misadventures to King
Alcinous of the Phaecians; to date, the most celebrated and noted
section of the great epic. Contrasting ‘The Iliad’, ‘The Odyssey’
places emphasis on cunning and guilefulness rather than strength as in
the former epic; elucidated in Odysseus’ dealings with Poseidon’s son,
the Cyclops Polyphemus. Compelled by curiosity to explore the island,
Odysseus opts to refrain from pillaging a discovered cave glutted with
provisions, choosing to his crew’s dismay to linger and test the
inhabitant’s hospitality rather than scuttling to the ships. Holding
no interest in civility or hospitality, the insidious Polyphemus
entraps Odysseus and his men cannibalistically consuming them.
Utilizing his guile Odysseus initiates through a chain of events his
masterful plan of escape. This passage, illustrating the most renowned
example of Odyssean cunning is vital to ‘The Odyssey’ because it
exemplifies through motifs and literary devices the major themes of
deception and cunning over strength.

A critical component of the passage supported by motifs, the theme of
deception helps to reaffirm the extract’s importance to ‘The Odyssey’
as a whole. Through the employment of deception, supported by the
motifs of lies, Odysseus’ Machiavellian trick ensures not only
immediate, but future security. Questioned as to his name, Odysseus
conscious of the imperative importance to his greater plan of escape
cleverly lies, “My name is Nohbdy” (397); the sole reason for his
survival. Blinded, Polyphemus’ howl beckons the other Cyclops who ask
inquisitively of the screams. Appealing for help he cries: “Nohbdy,
Nohbdy’s tricked me, Nohbdy’s ruined me!” (443) But told that nobody’s
tricked him, the other Cyclops return to their slumber. Had Odysseus
never implanted his initial lie, an act of consummate deception and
deceitfulness, his fate would have been sealed with the Cyclops
brethren entering to identify the attacker. Not only representing the
power of deception, but more importantly supporting the major theme of
cunning over strength, the theme of deception is vital in emphasizing
the extract’s importance.

Essential to the passage, the extensive imagery and repeated motifs
support the underling theme of the extract. Percolating with grotesque
imagery unlike any other in ‘The Odyssey’, it serves to underlie the
affect of cunning and intelligence over strength. A gargantuan
barbarian “[dribbling] streams of liquor and bits of men” (405),
Polyphemus’ cannibalism and dominance over his...

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