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Unveiling Themes of Loyalty and Faithfulness in the Odyssey

Feb 9, 2024 | 0 comments

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Feb 9, 2024 | Essays | 0 comments

Introduction

In Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey, themes of loyalty and faithfulness play a central role in the development of the narrative. The story follows the protagonist, Odysseus, as he embarks on a treacherous journey home after the Trojan War. Throughout his odyssey, the characters he encounters, as well as his own actions, are continually tested and shaped by the concepts of loyalty and faithfulness.
The ancient Greek concept of loyalty, or xenia, which emphasizes reciprocal hospitality and kindness, is a prevalent theme in the Odyssey. Odysseus encounters numerous challenges in his quest to return home, including facing temptations that could lead him astray from his faithful wife, Penelope. Additionally, his loyal companions, such as his son Telemachus and his faithful swineherd Eumaeus, exhibit unwavering devotion to him.
Furthermore, the poem also explores the idea of faithfulness in the face of adversity, as Penelope remains steadfast in her commitment to Odysseus despite the persistent suitors vying for her hand in marriage. These themes of loyalty and faithfulness in the Odyssey continue to resonate with readers today, as they reflect on the timeless values of honor, perseverance, and devotion.

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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 truth and possesses the characteristics of the ideal woman. This includes faithfulness as she waits twenty years for her husband’s return. 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 diverse, unique, and creative ways to keep off suitors who are in plenty. Her pride in her home can be seen as she 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 noblewoman of high honor in society. She endures constant attention and, in one scene, has to hold off a quite persistent suitor. She promises to marry him after completing her father’s burial shroud. This event takes three years, upon which the suitor has given up. While she faces the same situation as Klytaimnestra, she shows more resolve, loyalty, and strength in character, which is 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 a 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 to 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 one-time event; he continues to see Circe and commit adultery with her for a whole year (17).

Further, he begins another adulterous affair with the nymph Kalypso when out at sea. 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. He seems unable to help himself and often has to consent to unfaithfulness. This is a sharp contrast to his wife, who continues being faithful despite being faced with more temptations.

Athena shows great loyalty and faith in Odysseus. She appears as if 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 leading the loyal soldiers. When Agelaos leads a group of disloyal men to attack Odysseus while he is alone and vulnerable, Athena scatters their spears. She 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 most of the suitors are against Odysseus, she faithfully structures ways, draws confidence, and annihilates the disloyal suitors. It can be said that it is only with her help that Odysseus finally defeats the disloyal suitors, gets purified, and returns to lead his true and loyal comrades. Odysseus’ team only suffers minor damage because they always have the help of Athena (Homer and Pope 32).

Conclusion

Odyssey continuously discusses and emphasizes the most important theme in the story: loyalty and faithfulness. The story revolves around a more than decade-long war and how it affects the relationships of the individuals. The men face temptations to be unfaithful to their wives and the law for society’s benefit. 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.

Work Cited

Homer and Alexander Pope. The Odyssey. Waiheke Island: Floating Press, 2010.

Homer, Robert Fagles, Bernard Knox, and Homer. The Odyssey. , 1996.

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