The Odyssey Disguise To Find True Identity
Disguise To Find True Identity
The Odyssey is an epic that shapes and defines the roles of many great leaders. These leaders are made up of mortals, alive and dead, and immortals. The trip taken by Odysseus is not only a journey of a war hero back to his homeland, but is a journey in all of the characters lives, which develop a better sense of personal identity and selfhood as the epic goes on. It is the many disguises that each character uses that uncover their true identities from their experiences. The revelations of each characters identity are what teach the lessons that Homer is trying to portray to his audience, and what lead to each character’s success in their personal journey. Each character’s identity is constructed by the courage and morality that they reveal, through disguise, by their actions to help or prevent bring Odysseus home. These actions are what make each character who he or she is, whether god or human. Homer uses Odysseus and Athena as the principle identities developed throughout the poem to send his messages.
Homer proves Athena’s worthiness, as a goddess, with all her good deeds to get Odysseus home, protect Telemakhos, and return Ithaka to a flourishing city-state. In the world of Odysseus, one’s most treasured possession is his or her good reputation. One’s reputation is determined by how others view him or her, assessing his or her character, values, and behavior according to the prevailing social standards. As a goddess, disguising herself and others often is necessary for Athena to achieve her goals. It is through these disguises that her and Odysseus’ identities and reputations as great leaders and heroes become evident. She tells Telemakhos about Odysseus:
Well, I will forecast for you, as the gods put the strong feeling in me-I see it all, and I’m no prophet, no adept in bird-signs. He will not, now, be long away from Ithaka, his father’s dear land; though he be in chains he’ll scheme a way to come; he can do anything. (I, 244-249)
The first step towards getting Odysseus home is when Athena disguises herself as Mentes, who motivates Telemakhos to find his father and aide in his return. It is Athena’s revelation of divinity to Telemakhos that spurs his courage and determination that help him realize his dream of revenge. For at first, Telemakhos feels that Odysseus is “gone, no sign, no word of him; and I inherit trouble and tears-and not for him alone, the gods have laid such other burdens on me.” (I, 287-289) However, Athena, as Mentes, reassures him, “Dear friend, you are tall and well set-up, I see; be brave-you, too-and men in times to come will speak of you respectfully.” (I, 348-350) and insists he address the assembly. Homer effectively uses the content and style of the speeches at the assembly to reveal the types and natures of the characters. Encouraged by Athena, Telemakhos takes the speaker’s staff and demonstrates that he...