Temptation In The Odyssey Essay Character Analysis

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The central theme of the Odyssey revolves around temptation and its significance in the book. It highlights how daily temptations are symbolized by food and how Odysseus’ lack of caution leads to his difficult journey back home. Temptation refers to a strong desire to engage in something that one knows is wrong. This recurring motif manifests in various forms and for different reasons, exposing the flawed and mortal qualities of the characters.

Both the “god-like” individuals who receive favor from the gods and regular mortals do succumb to temptation. This includes Odysseus, who is often considered as “god-like.” The Odyssey does not show gods giving in to temptation because it would undermine the significance of temptation on humans. Instead, it subtly portrays that humans, regardless of their achievements or nobility, are flawed and imperfect like mortals and therefore susceptible to all mortal weaknesses.

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We cannot control temptation because of our human nature. In the Odyssey, temptation serves as a reminder of our humanity compared to the gods. However, it also explores how we should behave as humans. Giving in to temptation demonstrates our humanity, but constantly succumbing to it exposes the distinction between a civilized individual and one who lacks civility. Losing our civility places us at a low position in society.

The Odyssey is a guide for living in Greek society, addressing topics such as hospitality, behavior, and the treatment of others. Throughout the text, the theme of temptation, particularly related to food, is prevalent. However, it is important to note that not every instance of characters consuming bread or wine is a result of external temptation. Food also plays a significant role in cultural practices, including celebratory banquets and the concept of xenia throughout the book.

The theme of temptation in The Odyssey is prominently displayed through the portrayal of food and its role in various scenes. The protagonist, Odysseus, witnesses numerous cities and experiences intense internal suffering during his perilous journey at sea. Despite his relentless efforts to save his men, they foolishly succumb to their own recklessness by consuming the oxen of Hyperion the Sun, leading to their demise and negating their chance of returning home. This initial scene foreshadows the later recounting of Odysseus’s expedition to the Phaeacians. Notably, he encounters the island of the Sun, which houses abundant herds of immortal cattle and sheep.

Cerci cautions Odysseus about the Sun’s herds and flocks, stressing that sparing them and staying committed to their journey will guarantee a secure return to Ithaca. Yet, causing harm to these creatures will bring calamity upon the ship and crew. Even if Odysseus manages to survive, his homecoming will be postponed, and he will arrive in a wretched condition after losing all his companions. Despite being hesitant to pause on the island, Odysseus opts to continue through the night due to apprehension that his crew may yield to the allurements of the island.

The crew chooses to take a break and rest, feeling satisfied with their work for the day. The Island is alluring, offering a place to dock their boat and give their bodies the much-needed relaxation. It would be delightful to do so after a long day of rowing, but not obligatory. However, fate dictates that they remain trapped on the island for a month and confront another challenge. They have depleted their supplies of food and wine, causing them to become careless. Now they face a decision: either violate the sacred oath made to Odysseus by touching the immortal animals or endure starvation while hoping for divine mercy in providing sustenance.

Knock, Knock whose there? Temptation! This could have been the last a final test against Odysseus and his crew before they sailed home, but they were tempted by the gods to slaughter the sacred animals and eat their lives away. This event put Odysseus back quite a ways. On the verge of almost being home the greatest antagonist of all; temptation, walks up on four legs and utterly wins again. Although food is prominently the number one source for temptation but it is not the home run, the granddaddy of them all or the big kahuna of temptation.

In epic poetry, kleos is the term used to describe the immortal fame or glory earned through defining deeds. The “god like Odysseus” had a reserved spot for an act of recklessness. Odysseus in the Odyssey is praised for his physical and mental strength, as well as his cunning, rarely making mistakes. While on their journey, Odysseus and his crew encountered the land of the Cyclopes – known as lawless savages who depended on the gods for everything.

Odysseus and his crew discover an untouched island bustling with thriving animals and nature, situated just off the coast. They decide to anchor their ships there overnight. At sunrise, the crew sets out on a hunt for approximately one hundred goats and enjoys a lavish feast throughout the day, all while keeping an eye on the Cyclopes residing on a neighboring island. Odysseus, renowned for his cleverness, suggests that he takes a few of his men and sails towards the nearby island to observe how its inhabitants behave. He is curious to find out if they are uncivilized savages lacking any moral principles or welcoming individuals who demonstrate respect towards the gods.

This is only the start of Odysseus’s momentary recklessness. The scene portrays Odysseus as genuinely intrigued by the opportunity to encounter a Cyclops, a rare chance that may not come again. However, beneath this curiosity lies a hidden motive that Odysseus believes is worth pursuing. Uncertain of how the Cyclops will behave, he optimistically hopes for xenia treatment, just as he has experienced from others in the past. Odysseus desires sustenance and gifts from the Cyclops. It is this temptation for greed that ultimately binds Odysseus on his long journey homeward.

If Odysseus had only desired to explore and observe the land of the giants, it would have been acceptable. However, he was already tempted and had given in. At this moment, they no longer required anything and were indulging in a lavish feast with over one hundred goats and sheep from their initial arrival. They could have eaten and proceeded on their journey. As they approached the elevated cave near the coastline, Odysseus and his crew examined their surroundings and ultimately came face-to-face with the monstrous Cyclopes.

The large size and strength of the Cyclops intimidate Odysseus and his crew, forcing them into a corner. The Cyclops inquires about their identity, to which Odysseus responds arrogantly, revealing the underlying purpose of their presence in the cave. He explains that they are Greek sailors who have been blown off course and requests the Cyclops to show generosity by offering the customary gifts to strangers and respecting the gods. This haughty reply greatly angers the giant, who retaliates by grabbing two of the crew members, smashing them against the rocks, and consuming them piece by piece like puppies.

Odysseus cleverly devises a plan to blind the Cyclopes and successfully escapes to his ship. Upon boarding the ship, Odysseus proudly boasts of his victory, mocking the Cyclopes for being deceived. He boldly proclaims, “Cyclopes, if anyone, any mortal man, asks you how you got your eye put out tell him that Odysseus the marauder did it, Son of Laertes, whose home is Ithaca.” This desire for fame (Kleos) ultimately leads to the numerous troubles that befall Odysseus, his crew, and even his family.

The Cyclopes you blinded did not need to hear your name shouted out, unless it was for pointless glory. Odysseus had already achieved Kleos, being called “God-like Odysseus”. However, the desire for more glory blinded Odysseus and ultimately became his downfall. It is difficult to resist temptation. Both in fiction and the real world, temptation is present in abundance. The Odyssey utilizes temptation to reveal our true human nature and how easily we give in to the allure that the world presents.

Homer employs food as a means to exhibit both the ease of succumbing to temptation and the abundance of allurements in existence. Additionally, Homer illustrates that regardless of one’s elevated status in life, even attaining divine-like attributes, humankind’s inherent flaws persist. This is exemplified by Odysseus’ imprudent behavior amidst the land of the giants. By utilizing food as a literary device, Homer effectively conveys the ubiquitous nature of temptation and our innate susceptibility to it. Furthermore, through Odysseus’ numerous trials and hardships, Homer also highlights that even the most formidable individuals can stumble and falter on occasion.

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