Book Review: Homer’s ‘Odyssey’

Posted: 24 May 2011 in Book reviews
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I started this work of classic literature in september 2008 on the way to the airport to begin my semester abroad in England. I only got a few chapters in before I abandoned it to focus on the literature I was studying at Uni. Now, two and a half years later, I have finally finished. I restarted and finished it a while ago though.

For those who do not know the story, it revolves around two characters, Odysseus and his son Telemachos. The tale begins with Telemachos and his desire for his father to return home and rid the plague of suitors from their home. Athena, in the form of a family friend Mentes, persuades him to travel in search of news of his father and whether he is alive or dead. And so he leaves with Athena in the form of another family friend Mentor. He visits both Nestor and King Menelaos and is entertained by them while he learns of the fate of his father.

While this is happening, Odysseus is trapped with Calypso until the Gods command her to let him go. Nearly killed by Poseidon, Odysseus reaches the land of the Phaiacians and tells the tale of his woes to the court of Alcinoos. Once he finishes, the agree to escort him safely back to his own land and home.

Naturally to tell any more risks giving away the ending. I’ll just say this, it isn’t much of a surprise at the end. It is still a clever ending, but you pretty much already know what is going to happen long before you get there. The endings of such stories as this aren’t written to deceive and surprise you at the end. They are written to display a story as fact. That is plain to see with the way this is written. Is is almost a play by play account of the travels of a warrior.

That being said, it is written very well. I love how the male characters are never ashamed to cry. Crying is not seen as a sign of weakness as portrayed in todays machoistic society. It is a sign of compassion and true love, whether it is love for a comrade or longing for his family and home. He is genuine character full of honour and valour. His wife Penelopeia is a most honourable woman as she will not seek to marry another until she is sure of the death of her husband. Telemachos as well is a worthy son of Odysseus. He will not seek to dishonour his mother by throwing her out nor have her wed whom she does not want. He is also disgusted by the inappropriate behaviours of the ‘suitors.’

Now the ‘suitors’ and the complete antithesis of Odysseus and his family. They are rude, violent and disrespectful. The do not care for the feelings of Penelopeia nor Telemachos and physically and verbally abuse him, the servants and guests in the house. They are truly disgusting and disgraceful people. To make it worse, their families know about it yet do nothing to stop it. It is not until Telemachos returns from his journey that anything is done about the miscreants depleting his inheritance.

The sad thing about these men is that not all of them are bad. Some of them are mere victims of association. The problem is that the arrogance of their leaders put them in a state of false security that ultimately led to their downfall. If their story tells one thing, it is that those who boast, who are violent and rude, will lead you only to destruction. There is so much a person can learn from these men, such as the value of respecting a persons house, belongings and family.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It always amazes me how the beliefs of the Greek deities were interwoven into the fabric of everyday life. The fear of repercussion from these jealous Gods kept people in line as well as aiding them as long as they faithfully paid tribute and remembered them. Such a culture is remarkable and a historical treasure. For any person who loves the myths and legends of Greece, Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ is one not to be missed 😉

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