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The Odyssey, By Homer Essay

1511 words - 6 pages

The monsters of Homer’s The Odyssey as written by Robert Fitzgerald all share traits in common, but there is always the small differences which make each close encounter more gripping than the last. When the not-so-glorious Odysseus, son of Laertes just manages to elude the cannibalistic clutches of the blinded Kyklops (IX) and takes to the high seas, he becomes arrogant and taunts his nemesis. He does not realize this, but the very words he uttered then sets the holy executioner upon the necks of his crew. Every island he passes or makes port at, his men become feasts for native monsters; however upon the beautiful island of Aiolia his men are not eaten, nor do they die at the hands of any mortal or immortal foe. What is so significant about Kirke and what does she represent? Is there any value in dominance? The hidden truths that lie within her are things only the Muse of Minstrels could tell until now.
Odysseus encounters multiple higher beings in his travels, but few are in their true form and reveal their intentions making Kirke and Polyphemus oddities. Kirke is simply introduced by Homer as a goddess, with her, “beguiling voice” drawing Eurylokhos’ men into her home where she weaves cloth comparable to that which is woven by goddesses in heaven (X. 244-6). In The Odyssey, Goddesses almost never make their presences known, show or use their powers in view of man, nor demonstrate their great power. However, Kirke is different from the start. Notably, as heavenly as she appears to Odysseus’ men, she converts them into livestock before they even receive a proper meal. It seems slightly repetitive that Odysseus’ men are always eaten by male brutes, but now they are being saved possibly as tomorrow’s dinner by a female goddess. Pleasantly unlike the mighty Kyklops Polyphemus, she does not immediately beat their brains out in her living room and eat them raw; moreover she goes through the trouble of physically transforming them into wildebeests. By definition, cannibals are brutes, cruel and uncivil who carelessly eat their own kind or man, which is also the description of “… Kyklopes,/giants, louts, without a law to bless them.” (IX. 113-4). Kirke made men into pigs, and displayed her power or dominance, by herding them into a pigsty, “she flew after them/ with her long stick and shut them in a pigsty” (X. 263-4). She will not kill and eat the mariners raw as men like the cannibalistic Kyklopes would, but only (presumably) when they were no longer man thus they are now pigs). Upon the surface, this transformation appears to be an act of mercy towards the men, however when the men are described to have minds, “… unchanged”, it appears to be less for mercy (X. 265). Her actions have revealed her to be a cruel and cannibalistic witch, but she maintains her civility and heavenly innocence because it is in her nature to live both lives. Just as a Kyklops is wild and uncivil, Kirke is tame and civil. Though through their similar habits and...

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