World Literature 10
October 18, 2000
How can one determine a writers feelings about issues by simply
reading their literature? Often it seems, one can read more than just the
words written on the page. We can read the feeling and emotion the words
represent. Homer’s tone in The Odyssey shows his feelings about the past,
present, and future of Greece. He portrays Ancient Greece as being overly
structured and rigid. He shows the Golden Age he lived in as being
perfectly ideal, and balanced. His view of the future predicted chaos,
slackness, and confusion. Through particular characters, objects, and
settings, he symbolizes accurately these viewpoints to the reader.
Homer used people, objects, and places to symbolize his view of the
past. Poseidon was certainly a character Homer used in this symbolization.
He represents Ancient Greece as it was– run by the powerful, unforgiving
gods. To show his power, he destroyed the Phaeacian ship which had brought
Odysseus safely to Ithaca.”Ah, surely then the ancients are come to
pass, told by my father, who said Poseidon was displeased because we were
safe guides for all mankind; and he averred the god would wreck a shapely
ship of the Phaeacians, returning home from pilotage upon the misty sea,
and so would throw a lofty mound around our city” (XII). He perfectly
symbolizes the severeness of Ancient Greece. Adding to this view of the
former time is the yard of Eumaeus. “He found him sitting in his porch, by
which was built a high-walled yard upon commanding ground, a handsome yard
and large, with space around”(XIV). This description of the walls
symbolizes the past in the way that the past was overly structured and took
everything to extremes just like the yard was over protected. One can also
see a symbolization in the stool thrown at Odysseus by Antinous. “So
saying, he seized his footstool, flung it and struck Odysseus on the back
of the right shoulder, near the spine” (XVII). This stool can be
understood as a symbol or anger and hurt. The past was a time Homer could
remember only as strict and overly structured.
Homer also gave many representations of his time. The Golden Age of
Greece was in Homer’s eyes the ideal generation. Odysseus, disguised as an
old beggar, could hardly represent this time. Yet, through this beggar’s
transformation into royal looking Odysseus we can see a symbolization of
past changing into an improved current period. “For lately you were old
and meanly clad; now you are like the gods who hold the open sky” (XVI).
Strong, beautiful Odysseus is a model character illustrating this time.
Homer uses places such as the Phaeacian ship to symbolize the Golden Age.
“Then as the sea-borne ship drew near, running full swiftly, the Earth
Shaker drew near her too, turned her to stone and rooted her to the bottom,
forcing her under with his outspread hand, and went away” (XIII). The
ship, representing balance, was forced down. Homer knew Greece’s Golden
Age was coming to an end. It would be forced down like the balanced ship.
The bow of Odysseus finishes this view. “I offer you the mighty bow of
prince Odysseus” (XXI). This mighty bow completes Homer’s view of the
ultimate Golden Age in which he lived.
Homer foresaw the future as looking chaotic. This is portrayed
throughout the book. Telemachus, a young and forgetful man, symbolizes the
future as he is always not quite thinking about what he does. “Father, the
fault is mine; for I it was who opened the chambers tight shut door and
left it open” (XXII). He proves to be a perfect symbol of the distracted
unfolding time. The hall of Odysseus can also be called a representation
of the future time. It was where all the suitors were trapped in their own
confusion. ” Into a tumult broke the suitors round about the hall when
they saw the fallen man. They sprang from their seats and, hurrying
through the hall, peered at the massive walls on every side” (XXII). Each
of the suitors were so involved in eating they failed to pay attention even
after Odysseus had strung the bow. “The man was in the act to raise his
goodly goblet,– gold it was and double eared,– and even now guided it in
his hands to drink the wine” (XXII). Homer uses the hall and the goblet to
represent the destined chaos that was to come.
It is easy for us to read the epic The Odyssey and see Homer’s tone.
One can read deeper and see the symbolization he uses for his views of
Ancient Greece, the Golden Age, and his predictions for Hellenistic Greece.
We can see this throughout the characters, settings, and objects. He
obviously believed Ancient Greece was overly structured and strict.The
Golden Age was seen by him to be completely ideal. He was slightly scared
of the future because to him it looked chaotic and lax.