Important Quotes from The Odyssey

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

In the Odyssey by Homer, we're thrown headfirst into Odysseus' trials as he tries desperately to make his way back to his beloved wife, Penelope. We'll look at the concept of fate and justice and the important role each plays in the Odyssey. Updated: 06/04/2020

The Odyssey

Would you be willing to suffer the anger of the gods, fight battles, travel to Hades, and have your homecoming trip to your family take ten years, after having fought in the Trojan war? In the first lines of the Odyssey by Homer, we are introduced to Odysseus, the hero, who did just that. ''Tell me, Muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered far and wide after he had sacked Troy's sacred city, and saw the towns of many men and knew their mind.'' For ten years Odysseus traveled, leaving his wife, Penelope, to hope for his return while fighting off suitors who have come to take her and his land. The gods on Mount Olympus soon get involved in his return.

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  • 0:04 The Odyssey
  • 0:47 Fate Plays a Role
  • 3:04 Justice Is Done
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Fate Plays a Role

Zeus agrees to send Hermes to get Odysseus released from the island of Calypso, while Athena, disguised as a man, goes to Ithaca to warn the suitors of Odysseus's return. The gods on Mt. Olympus are aware of the difficulties Odysseus is having and the frailties of man. Zeus is not pleased with how men blame the gods for their troubles. ''Ah how shameless -- the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own reckless ways, compound their pains beyond their proper share.'' Here, we're reminded that it's important to assume responsibility for our own actions, even if we don't want to. We can never move forward until we accept the error of our ways.

Poseidon is angry with Odysseus, and we can see the concept of fate, or destiny, in the way he carries out Zeus's will. ''For his sake Poseidon, shaker of the earth, although he does not kill Odysseus, yet drives him back from the land of his fathers. But come, let all of us who are here work out his homecoming and see to it that he returns. Poseidon shall put away his anger; for all alone and against the will of the other immortal gods united he can accomplish nothing.'' Poseidon must allow Odysseus to return home in order to fulfill Zeus' orders, but there is nothing in that order that says how long it must take, how many obstacles can be thrown in Odysseus' way, or whether he can make Odysseus suffer. We're left to consider the concept of fate versus free will and then ultimately whether our path to an eventual end matters at all.

The seer predicts that things will not go well for the suitors who have come to Ithaca to steal Penelope from Odysseus. ''Poor wretches, what evil has come on you? Your heads and faces and the knees underneath you are shrouded in night and darkness; a sound of wailing has broken out, your cheeks are covered with tears, and the walls bleed, and the fine supporting pillars.'' We should not be surprised when the seer's prediction proves right, and everything goes terribly wrong for those who came to take everything Odysseus treasured.

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