Hospitality in The Odyssey Essay Example


In The Odyssey, there is an immensely important theme that rises often as Odysseus travels from place to place, that theme is hospitality. Hospitality was an immensely important practice back in Greek times. People were almost required to provide guests with all they needed when they visited. Considering The Odyssey took place in Greek times, it becomes clearer why people were so focused on hospitality.

Now that we have established what hospitality is, we should look at why it was practiced so much during those times. Hospitality has been around for a while, and despite there being no formal name for a while, it was still practiced. In a way, hospitality can be linked to the Greek gods. The gods wanted the people to do genuine acts for others, that way they were not required to punish them. If someone did not give hospitality to others, it would upset the gods, and horrible occurrences would happen. Considering most people did not wish to upset the gods, they simply just practiced hospitality. So then what role does it play in The Odyssey? Well, hospitality could be used to define someone or label them. If you practiced hospitality, it showed you were a genuine person and cared about the gods. If you did not practice hospitality, then you were considered an unacceptable person and it proved that you did not care for the gods. An excerpt from Book 9 of The Odyssey says, “What fools you are, you strangers, or else you come from far away— telling me to fear the gods and shun their rage. The Cyclops care nothing about Zeus, who bears the aegis, or the blessed gods. We are much more powerful than them. I wouldn't spare you or your comrades to escape the wrath of Zeus, not unless.” That quote shows us just who The Cyclops are. They are just unacceptable people who do not care about hospitality or the gods in general. Henceforth, hospitality does have a large role in determining a character’s characteristics.

As we begin to look at all these topics focusing on hospitality, we should also look at one of the major scenes of the story, The Killing of the Suitors. During this scene, we notice a considerable amount of violence and a considerable amount of mistreatment towards the suitors. Odysseus is extremely mad and seeks revenge on the suitors. The suitors were hitting on Penelope, so Odysseus was obligated to correct this. Now don’t downplay this part of the story, this scene was probably the most exciting part of the story, but where is the hospitality? Where is the kindness that we find in all the other parts of the story? Here is where Odysseus becomes a sort of hypocrite. Throughout The Odyssey, Odysseus is involved with providing hospitality to others. He is either giving it or receiving it, so it would be logical that he believes in hospitality. Odysseus then goes and kills nearly all of the suitors when he returns back to Ithaca. Hospitality, in this story, opposes Odysseus’ actions because he did not welcome them into his home, and he did not provide them with anything. Although the suitors were extreme jerks, if Odysseus believed in hospitality, he would have at least spared a majority of the suitors, who did no real damage to anything.

In conclusion, hospitality is an immensely important theme in The Odyssey and oftentimes can determine a certain character’s characteristics. As we notice in the story of Polyphemus, hospitality determines that he is an unacceptable person, and does not care about the gods. Hospitality also opposes Odysseus’ actions with the suitors, because he killed them, rather than welcoming them into his home.

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