The Odyssey: Challenges in Travels

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In The Odyssey, Odysseus had to face many challenges during his travels; a fewof these difficulties were a cannibalistic Cyclops, huge whirlpools, determinedsuitors, along with many hardships. Odysseus fought constantly to return to hishomeland of Ithaca, but to accomplish this Odysseus had to be clever,resourceful, and have great leadership qualities. Odysseus proved throughout thestory that he was very clever. When he was faced with having to get out ofPolyphemus’s cave, Odysseus first told the Cyclops, “My name is Nohbdy: mother,father, and friends, / everyone calls me Nohbdy”. (pg. 452, 341-342) Odysseustold him this because he knew if the other Cyclopes would come and ask who waswith him, they would think that “Nohbdy” was there. In another episode,Odysseus outsmarted the Sirens; he wanted to listen to their sweet song, but heknew he would try to jump overboard. It was then he got the notion to tell hiscrew, “you are to tie me up, tight as a splint, / erect along the mast,lashed to the mast, / and if I shout and beg to be untied, / take more turns ofrope to muffle me.” (pg. 459, 536-539) This and telling the crew members to putwax in their ears ensured that Odysseus, alone, could listen to the Sirens’ songand not die. When Odysseus had to figure out how he could kill the Suitors whowere staying in his house, he had Athena disguise him as an old beggar and thentold Telemachus, his son, to hide all of the Suitors’ weapons and armor. Ifthey asked Telemachus what he was doing, he was to tell them he was storing theweapons so that none of the suitors would kill each other if they got into afight. Many times throughout the story, Odysseus had to be resourceful enough toaccomplish a task by using surrounding things, whatever was at hand. When hewas drifting back towards Charybdis, Odysseus grabbed onto a nearby fig treeand held on until a piece of driftwood shot out of the whirlpool; then hegrabbed a hold of the driftwood and soared to safety. In order to escape fromthe Cyclops’s cave, Odysseus wanted to blind the Cyclops. To do this, he carveda large stave which he planned to use against the Cyclops and poke his eye out.

But in order to keep this stave a secret from Polyphemus, he had to hide it in aplace where Polyphemus would not suspect. It is here he hid it, “under / oneof the dung piles in profusion there.” (pg. 451, 303-304) To make this stave,Odysseus first had to find a tree which he could cut down, “an olive tree,felled green and left to season” (pg. 451, 293) Odysseus also had to find away to prevent the suitor from knowing that he was back, so he prayed to Athenato disguise him as a beggar. Odysseus had to be a good leader in order to maketough decisions about what he and his crew should do. When passing through thestrait between Scylla and Charybdis, Odysseus chose to lose six men to Scyllainstead of risking losing the entire ship to Charybdis. Upon the Island of theLotus Eaters, Odysseus had to get the men who had eaten the Lotus off the island.

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“I drove them, all three wailing, to the ships, / tied them under their rowingbenches,” (pg. 445, 97-98) On the island of the sun god, Helios, Odysseuswarned his men not to kill the cattle which belonged to the god; but,unfortunately, his men disobeyed him and slaughtered the cattle, which theyfeasted upon. Zeus later punished his men with death. Trapped inside ofPolyphemus’ cave, Odysseus knew he had to be a good leader if he was to gethimself and his men out of the cave. Originally he was going to kill Polyphemuswhen he ate two of Odysseus’s men; but when Odysseus was about to stab him, herealized that he should not kill him, because “I had touched the spot / whensudden fear stayed me: if I killed him / we perished there as well, for we couldnever / move his ponderous doorway slab aside.” (pg. 450-451, 273-276) Duringhis adventure Odysseus proved that he was smart, and able to deal with adversityskillfully. He proved an able leader despite all the troubles that heencountered on his adventure. In the end, Odysseus proved he could surmountthe challenges which might have prevented him from getting home.

Category: English

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