Faithfulness and Loyalty in the Odyssey
When the odyssey begins, no one tells the characters the length of their stay away from home. Everyone is ill prepared for the issues they are to face in the next decade. For years, each of the characters faces a unique set of problems and challenges. Their loyalty is tested in many ways and whereas some stand the test, others are found to be wanting.
Penelope, Odysseus and Athena
Penelope, Odysseus wife contrasts greatly with what is expected of a woman in her situation. In her society, she embodies the truthful and possesses the characters of the ideal woman. This includes faithfulness as she waits twenty years for the return of her husband. According to Homer and Pope many may think that her faithfulness comes easily (13). This is a mistaken misconception; she portrays long suffering often having to diverse unique and creative ways to keep off suitors who are in plenty. Her pride in her home can easily be seen as she loyally defends her husband and his journeys for many years. In the end, she sees herself as she will be rewarded with the perfect, distinguishable home as regarded as a noble woman of high honor in the society. She endures constant attention, and in one scene has to hold off a suitor who is quite persistent. She promises to marry him after the completion of her father’s burial shroud. This event in itself takes three years upon which the suitor has given up. While she faces the same situation as Klytaimnestra she shows more resolve and loyalty, and strength in character not observable in the other woman. She continually dwells on the memory of her husband, speaking of him and yearning for his return despite the twenty year exile which seems unending (Homer et al 25).
On the other hand, her husband Odysseus is in quite contrast to his wife. His bravery and strength are the main focus of the film. However, he shows less faithfulness and loyalty. He cries over the memory of his wife, yet succumbs into temptation when it comes. For example, when he meets Circe she seduces him. Unlike his wife who finds creative ways to keep off suitors, he easily succumbs and commits adultery. Homer and Pope indicated that what is surprising is that it is not a onetime event; he continues to see Circe and commit adultery with her for a whole year (17). Further, when out at sea, he begins another adulterous affair with the nymph Kalypso. Although he is anguished at the absence of his wife which shows some semblance of loyalty, consciously becoming emotional at the memory of her; he continues to sleep with Kalypso every night. His wavering resolve stems from a weakness he seems unable to combat despite his best intentions and pleas from his army men. It seems like he cannot help himself and often has to consent to unfaithfulness. This is a sharp contrast to his wife who continues being faithful despite being faced by more temptations.
Athena shows great loyalty and faith in Odysseus’s. She appears as the men are being tested for their strength and worth in battle. She finds creative ways to make Odysseus seem strongest and prove his worth to the Greek army. She also allows the man to prove himself worthy so that he may find confidence in himself to lead the loyal soldiers. When Agelaos leads a group of disloyal men to attack Odysseus while he is alone and vulnerable, Athena scatters their spears and causes her shield to appear mysteriously in the hall (Homer et al 22). The men are scared and many disown the disloyal faction of the army. She continuously defends Odysseus against the suitors showing the strength of her loyalty and faithfulness. Even when majority of the suitors are against Odysseus she continues to faithfully structure ways, draw confidence and annihilate the disloyal suitors. In fact, it can be said that it is only with her help that Odysseus finally defeats the disloyal suitors, gets purified and returns to lead those were his true and loyal comrades. Odysseus team only suffers minor damage because they always have the help of Athena (Homer and Pope 32).
Odyssey continuously discusses and emphasizes the most important theme in the story and this is loyalty and faithfulness. The story revolves around a more than a decade long war and how it affects the relationships of the individuals. The men face temptations to be unfaithful to their wives and also the law for the benefit of the society. The play’s setting is an ancient Greek army itself. The women on the other hand are left to fend for themselves. Each individual reacts differently, with Penelope being the epitome of faithfulness and loyalty.
Homer and Alexander Pope. The Odyssey. Waiheke Island: Floating Press, 2010.
Homer, Robert Fagles, Bernard Knox, and Homer. The Odyssey. , 1996.