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Odysseus’ Struggle Against the Sea in Homer's Odyssey
The Greek’s conception of the universe was anchored in the ever presence of the sea and they imagined the farthest limits of the earth to be a wide expanse of water. While enabling them to be a sea-faring people, the ocean also forced them to face the constant threat of becoming shipwrecked and dying at sea. In face of the threat posed by the sea, the Greeks sought to demonstrate that the forces of nature must be endured by man, and more importantly, that these forces must also be overcome by his efforts, his action, and his intelligence.
In Homer's Odyssey, it is upon the medium of the sea that Odysseus faces his most dehumanizing struggles. At the onset of the epic, it…show more content…
In his essay , "The Obstacles to Odysseus' Return," Charles H. Taylor, Jr. points out that "of all the Olympians, [Poseidon] is the most immersed in the elements. Although he attends gatherings on Olympus, his sphere of action is the Mediterranean waters and his home is deep in the Aegean Sea." As the "god of the violent sea," "the earth-shaker," and "the earth holder," Poseidon is only superficially detached from the natural environment by his designation as an Olympian deity. Thus, Odysseus' struggle is really one for maintaining individual existence against the sea, against the external forces of the natural world. In order to arrive home, to maintain his identity as a hero, as well as to simply remain alive in the world of men, Odysseus must overcome the obstacles set forth by Poseidon, by the sea itself. To Odysseus, the sea is the elemental barrier through which he must physically and mentally pass in order to restore himself to his home, his family, and his identity. Odysseus must use his physical efforts to
challenge the sea's mortal threat to his very existence as a human being. At the same time, he must also use his mental capacities to avoid the temptation to give into the sea. He must mentally refuse an easy surrender to an unheroic death. A death at sea would mean a loss of fame and reputation, of his identity as a hero. Odysseus must struggle so that he can choose to be a hero, choose life over death. Thus, the struggle