Fear of the Unknown, Cunning, and Hospitality in Homer’s Odyssey
Although one may not believe it, in our everyday world contrasting to that of ancient Greece, heroic-like trials can be found in the most mundane of events. Though I may not be a beefy Greek warrior living in the twelfth century like Odysseus, I have had my fair share of taxing experiences similar to that of Odysseus’ in Homer’s Odyssey. To achieve his goal of going home to Ithaca and to achieve my own goals, Odysseus and I had to overcome fear of the unknown, utilize cunning, and determine how to treat others hospitably
Fear is an emotion that can be found in any being, so it is not surprising that both I and Odysseus had to overcome it to reach our individual goals. In order to participate in a floor routine at gymnastics competitions I had to, learn how to do a back handspring which terrified me. Similarly, Odysseus was terrified at the thought of traveling to Hades, Land of the Dead, which he shows when he cries, “This broke my spirit.” (10.519) After Circe tells him of his fate, Odysseus is forlorn, for he is traveling into the unknown, which obviously scares him. Likewise, doing a back handspring scared me, because being unable to see where I was going before flipping over backward is what I considered to be the scary unknown. Nevertheless, both of us accomplished our goal, I managed to start practicing on a trampoline, and Odysseus and his crew mustered up their courage and sailed to Hades in the end. Fear is simply and emotion that all humans have in common, but what Odysseus and I shared was the ability to overcome it, but it is the use of a trait, cunning that that makes us all the more alike.
Cunning is a trait that Odysseus is most often remarked upon, but it is also a trait that we have both utilized in similar situations. Just over winter break I participated in an escape room with my friends, and it was a situation where we all had to use our wits to get out. Odysseus’ circumstances were decidedly more life-threatening but still similar to mine, for he had to use his mind when attempting to outsmart the cyclopes, Polyphemus and escape his cave. A prime instance of Odysseus using his brain is, when addressing Polyphemus he says, “You ask me my name, my glorious name-Noman is my name.” (9. 361-4) It is very clever for Odysseus to get Polyphemus drunk and state “Noman” as his attackers name, for it allows Odysseus to escape because the other cyclopes were under the pretense that no man was attacking Polyphemus. I was also clever when I solved small riddles and clues, integral to fleeing the escape room. Odysseus and I both accomplished our goal, for my friends and I managed to exit the room within the allotted amount of time, and Odysseus finally escaped the cyclopes’ cavern after stabbing out Polyphemus’ eye with his crewmates. Cunning was used in parallel instances for me and Odysseus, because we both had to escape from a situation by using our brains, yet it is not only cleverness, but also hospitality that we have in common.
Everyone must interact with people at some point in their lives, and it can be hard to know how to interact or approach people that one is not familiar with, but Odysseus and I made it work when we were both in an unfamiliar situation with people we did not know. On my first day at Free State High School I was very nervous because I did not yet know anyone but once others acted hospitable towards me, I found it very easy to be friends with them. When he arrived at Phaeacia, Odysseus was in a foreign situation with unfamiliar people, and his struggles were described when he thinks to himself, “How to approach this beautiful girl. Should [I] / Fall at her knees, or keep [my] distance / And ask her with honeyed word to show [me] / The way to the city and give [me] some clothes?” Odysseus’ hospitality is determined by how he chooses to approach Nausicaa, and it this situation it is shown just how well he is able to manipulate people. By first treating others kindly, I found that others would react in kind and I was able to make new friends. By heaping praise upon the royals of Phaeacia, Odysseus was able to make an ally out of the Phaeacians to further attain his goal of going home to Ithaca. By being hospitable Odysseus and I were able to experience the hospitality of others and move a step closer to our goals of making allies within an unfamiliar atmosphere.
By overcoming fear of the unknown, wielding cunning, and determining how to treat others hospitably, Odysseus and I have shared a lot of experiences that shaped me into the person I am today and turned Odysseus into a person who could finally make it home to his family in Ithaca.
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