September 10, 2015 - Posted to Writing Tips
Homer, The Odyssey Essay
Even with a really good translation, The Odyssey can be a difficult read. But think about it this way. Odysseus was really the original superhero – a really good guy just trying to get home from a war to his kingdom of Ithaca, his wife Penelope, and his son Prince Telemachus. Unfortunately, he is currently imprisoned by the beautiful Calypso until the gods intervene to free him. Meanwhile, at home, treachery is afoot! Believing Odysseus to be dead, many suitors are after Penelope, and one particularly evil one, Antinous, also plans to murder Telemachus. Of course, all ends well, and the good guy wins.
So, What Will You Choose for Your Odyssey Essay?
Once your instructor has assigned an essay on this poem, you will have many options. You can choose to write a characterization of one or more of the major “players;” you can choose to write an essay on one of the themes – treachery, loyalty, hospitality, or vengeance – as it plays out in the plot. Or you can take a different tack and put the ideas, concepts and themes into the 21st century and relate them to yourself, others you know, or situations in your own life.
Here are some ideas to make you The Odyssey essay unique:
- Think about the struggles of Odysseus as symbolic of the struggles that we all face in our daily lives. Of course, we don’t have supernatural creatures, gods and goddesses, and we are not sailing over seas in which an angry god is trying to kill us. But each of Odysseus’s adventures and trials could be compared to our own less extraordinary ones.
- What obstacles are standing between you and your goals? How will you remove them?
- Are there people or situations in your life that make you feel “imprisoned” in some way?
- Have you taken risks to get what you want?
- Is there something you are willing to “fight to the death” for?
- Now, consider the themes in this epic. How can they relate to either your own life or to society in general.
Consider the different ways in which Odysseus was welcomed by the king and queen to whom he was a complete stranger contrasted with the reception he received when, disguised as a beggar, he returned home. How do you or people in general respond to people who are different from them, especially those who are less fortunate? Are the suitors’ actions similar to modern bullying?
Penelope and Prince Telemachus remained loyal to Odysseus even when they believed he was dead. How important is loyalty to you – loyalty among family members and among friends and among politicians to their constituents?
Everyone who reads The Odyssey cheers at least inwardly when he massacres all of the suitors who have been disloyal and treacherous. Obviously, vengeance by murder is not something we find acceptable today. But, what other types of vengeance do people take on one another that can be just as destructive? And how does vengeance reconcile with our Judeo-Christian heritage? Is killing in the name of vengeance ever justified?
Essays on The Odyssey do not have to dry, dull, and boring. You have lots of options to make them really relevant to today!