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    Personal Responsibility and the Gods’ Role in the Odyssey Essay

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    The gods play an important part in Odysseus’ journey home, bringing him closer and farther from his homeland. They constantly intervene in the lives of the many characters in The Odyssey. Though Odysseus is a hero, the gods control his life. It is as if he were the main character in a video game and the gods are fighting over who controls his life. Personal responsibility is overshadowed by the gods’ eagerness to grab the controller. Homer disregards personal responsibility by showing how the gods take care of everything for Odysseus.

    It was ultimately Athena who begged Zeus to let Odysseus go home by saying Father Zeus….. never let any sceptered king be kind and gentle now, not he ruled remembers Odysseus now, that godlike man, and kindly as a father to his children. Now, he’s left to pine on an island, racked with grief in the nymph Calypso’s house…… He has no way to voyage home to his own native land…. (Homer pages 152-153) < End block quote> Odysseus was not the one who convinced the gods that he should go home.

    In fact, he would “….. sit on the rocks and beaches, wrenching his heart with sobs and groans and anguish, gazing out over the barren sea through blinding tears”(Homer page 157) or “…. In the nights, true, he’d sleep with her [Calypso] in the arching cave…. ”(Homer page 157)]. However, he is not physically capable of getting himself home with all the powers of Poseidon against him for “….. every god took pity, all except Poseidon. He raged on, seething against the great Odysseus till he reached his native land… )(Homer page 78) and no crew or boat. So, with nothing to do, he is left to leave his fate to the gods, as personal responsibility is apparently out of the question. Another example that supports Homer’s lack of regard for personal responsibility as the cause of what our future brings, not the gods, is when Odysseus is shrouded in mist by Athena to walk through the busy streets of Phaeacia to the king’s palace. Since the Phaeacians were xenophobes, they may have hampered Odysseus’ trek to the palace.

    But, Athena leads him to the palace with a mist that keeps the Phaeacians from noticing Odysseus, thus avoiding confrontation. She kept the controller away from Poseidon, protected Odysseus, and sped his journey home fully realizing that Poseidon wanted Odysseus to pay for the many injuries he committed against himself and his son, Polyphemus. Athena’s navigational skills and quick thinking made Odysseus’ victory feasible. She provided a disguise for Odysseus, came up with a battle plan, and kept his anger in check by letting the suitors continue their taunts against him.

    Athena “had no mind to let the brazen suitors hold back now from their heart-rending insults-she meant to make the anguish cut still deeper into the core of Laertes’ son Odysseus” (Homer page 419). Additionally, she helped Odysseus battle the suitors, “looming out of the rafters high above them, brandished her man-destroying shield of thunder, terrifying the suitors out of their minds, and down the hall they panicked” (Homer page 448). Saving Odysseus’ and his servants’ lives, Athena acted against the suitors and, undoubtedly, won the battle for him by scaring off the suitors who were not already dead.

    Though Athena takes the prize for interfering with Odysseus’ life the most out of the rest of the gods, Poseidon also fights and claims the controller, but he prevents Odysseus from reaching Ithaca instead of helping him (please refer to the quote from page 78). Because of Odysseus’ actions against Poseidon’s son, Polyphemus, Poseidon rages against Odysseus for his “immoral” actions. Athena and Poseidon are the main players in the game that is Odysseus’ life, but Zeus ambivalently picks up the controller and begins to toy with Odysseus.

    Zeus, although Odysseus never meets him face to face, plays an active, yet neutral part in Odysseus’ journey back to Ithaca. He sends signs from the heavens that are used to predict Odysseus’ return Farseeing Zeus sent down a sign. He launched two eagles soaring high from a mountain ridge…. wild onslaught of wings and banking down at the crowd’s heads-a glaring, fatal sign….. ‘Clearly Odysseus won’t be far from loved ones any longer…. ’ (Homer page 98) < End block quote> Zeus forces Calypso to free Odysseus. Hermes tells Calypso that “…..

    Zeus commands you send him off with all good speed: it is not his fate to die here, far from his own people” (Homer page 156), and “mounted a thunderhead above our hollow ship”(Homer page 283) to punish Odysseus and his crew for slaughtering the cattle of the son. Zeus helps Athena bring Odysseus home, but he also fulfills his obligations to the other gods by punishing him when needed. He could not interfere with Odysseus’ life, but he chooses to become involved and do what is necessary to get Odysseus home (when he feels inclined to).

    It becomes clear that Zeus and Athena do not think Odysseus could get home by himself without their help when they call a meeting with the other gods to address the issue of Odysseus’ return without Poseidon being present . He did not “…. forget Odysseus? Great Odysseus…. No, it’s the Earth-Shaker, Poseidon, unappeased, forever fuming against him for the Cyclops whose giant eye he blinded…’”(Homer page 79). More or less, the gods’ interference in Odysseus’ journey has shaped the entire story.

    Athough control was passed back and forth between Athena, Poseidon, and Zeus, Odysseus still managed to make his way home. While personal responsibility is a wonderful way to get from Point A to Point B, Homer disregards personal responsibility by hi-lighting the gods’ part in the story. Personal responsibility apparently does not play an important role in The Odyssey, but every one wins the game in the end regardless of the lack of personal responsibility (except Poseidon). Bibliography: Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

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