Essay on Odysseus as Pawn of the Gods in Homer's Odyssey

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Odysseus as Pawn of the Gods in The Odyssey

Throughout literature characters have relied upon entities greater then themselves to furnish them with aid as they meet the many challenges they must face. The Odyssey is a tale of Odysseus’ epic journey and the many obstacles that bar his return home. But Odysseus is not alone in this struggle and receives aid from many gods, especially the clear-eyed goddess Athena. There are times when Odysseus beseeches the gods for aid, but other times he is too foolhardy to receive aid from even the immortal gods. In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus’ journey revolves around the cyclical phases of his dependence, independence and his return to reliance upon the gods’ aid.

While with Calypso
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The clear-eyed goddess Athena herself tells Telemachus that "…not unbefriended of the gods have you been born and bred" (19). Her reference highlights Telemachus’ greatest inheritance, which is the aid of the immortal gods. Even Nestor, a mortal, notes the aid which Telemachus receives from the gods, and marvels that Telemachus must be truly favored "…if when so young the gods become [his] guides" (26). Such qualities in Telemachus constantly remind the reader of the dependence on the gods’ aid Odysseus has developed in his travels.

Though Odysseus is as great a man as ever lived, he is still only mortal and at the gods’ mercy. Odysseus does not control his own destiny, but instead the gods determine what shall befall him and whether he shall ever reach his home. Odysseus is only a man and "hard is a god for mortal man to master" (36) even if he is great amongst his brethren. Odysseus can not control the gods anymore then he can control his fate and so he is left at their mercy. Even Zeus, who gives Odysseus many signs, will sometimes deal Odysseus woe which he is powerless to stop. To avenge the Sun god upon Odysseus’ evil crew, "…Zeus with a gleaming bolt smote [Odysseus’] swift ship and wrecked it in the middle of the wine-dark sea" (47). Such acts illustrate the control that the gods exercise over Odysseus and his inability to deliver himself from woe.

As Odysseus begins his journey
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