World Literature 10

October 18, 2000

How can one determine a writers feelings about issues by simply reading their literature? Often it seems, one can read more than just the words written on the page. We can read the feeling and emotion the words represent. Homer’s tone in The Odyssey shows his feelings about the past, present, and future of Greece. He portrays Ancient Greece as being overly structured and rigid. He shows the Golden Age he lived in as being perfectly ideal, and balanced. His view of the future predicted chaos, slackness, and confusion. Through particular characters, objects, and settings, he symbolizes accurately these viewpoints to the reader.

Homer used people, objects, and places to symbolize his view of the past. Poseidon was certainly a character Homer used in this symbolization. He represents Ancient Greece as it was-- run by the powerful, unforgiving gods. To show his power, he destroyed the Phaeacian ship which had brought Odysseus safely to Ithaca. “Ah, surely then the ancients are come to pass, told by my father, who said Poseidon was displeased because we were safe guides for all mankind; and he averred the god would wreck a shapely ship of the Phaeacians, returning home from pilotage upon the misty sea, and so would throw a lofty mound around our city” (XII). He perfectly symbolizes the severeness of Ancient Greece. Adding to this view of the former time is the yard of Eumaeus. “He found him sitting in his porch, by which was built a high-walled yard upon commanding ground, a handsome yard and large, with space around”(XIV). This description of the walls symbolizes the past in the way that the past was overly structured and took everything to extremes just like the yard was over protected. One can also see a symbolization in the stool thrown at Odysseus by Antinous. “So saying, he seized his footstool, flung it and struck Odysseus on the back of the right shoulder, near the spine” (XVII). This stool can be understood as a symbol or anger and hurt. The past was a time Homer could remember only as strict and overly structured.

Homer also gave many representations of his time. The Golden Age of Greece was in Homer’s eyes the ideal generation. Odysseus, disguised as an old beggar, could hardly represent this time. Yet, through this beggar’s transformation into royal looking Odysseus we can see a symbolization of past changing into an improved current period. “For lately you were old and meanly clad; now you are like the gods who hold the open sky” (XVI). Strong, beautiful Odysseus is a model character illustrating this time. Homer uses places such as the Phaeacian ship to symbolize the Golden Age. “Then as the sea-borne ship drew near, running full swiftly, the Earth Shaker drew near her too, turned her to stone and rooted her to the bottom, forcing her under with his outspread hand, and went away” (XIII). The ship, representing balance, was forced down. Homer knew Greece’s Golden Age was coming to an end. It would be forced down like the balanced ship. The bow of Odysseus finishes this view. “I offer you the mighty bow of prince Odysseus” (XXI). This mighty bow completes Homer’s view of the ultimate Golden Age in which he lived.

Homer foresaw the future as looking chaotic. This is portrayed throughout the book. Telemachus, a young and forgetful man, symbolizes the future as he is always not quite thinking about what he does. “Father, the fault is mine; for I it was who opened the chambers tight shut door and left it open” (XXII). He proves to be a perfect symbol of the distracted unfolding time. The hall of Odysseus can also be called a representation of the future time. It was where all the suitors were trapped in their own confusion. “ Into a tumult broke the suitors round about the hall when they saw the fallen man. They sprang from their seats and, hurrying through the hall, peered at the massive walls on every side” (XXII). Each of the suitors were so involved in eating they failed to pay attention even after Odysseus had strung the bow. “The man was in the act to raise his goodly goblet,-- gold it was