Odysseus’s Struggles with Trust (The Odyssey by Homer Book Review)



Do you have trust issues? Trust is a feeling of confidence towards someone else that relies on loyalty and faithfulness. A partnership without loyalty from both sides is most likely the reason you struggle to trust people. In Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey, Odysseus is constantly finding himself in tricky situations always relying on loyalty and his trust in people to help him succeed. He is always seen putting his trust into anyone he pleases, he depends on loyalty from his wife, his men, and even hoped to get loyalty from a cyclops, yet Odysseus's relationships with people often not succeed because he is not receiving loyalty in return of the loyalty he gives. The Odyssey expresses that loyalty must be both ways in partnerships in order to work out; Homer shows this through the fate of Odysseus’s men and his wife Penelope.

Homer gives an example in The Odyssey of why loyalty towards one another is essential through the fate of Penelope. In book 16 of The Odyssey, Odysseus has finally arrived in his homeland of Ithaca. He is with his son Telemachus and Eumaeus while being disguised as an old man. Still in his disguise, Odysseus overhears Telemachus asking Eumaeus about his mother Penelope to which Emaeus replies, “At home indeed your mother is, poor lady, still in women’s hall. Her nights and days are wearied out with grieving.” (16.1244). Eumaeus is saying that  Penelope is still grieving Odysseus’s absence and over the 20 years has never been remarried or shown any interest in other men. Penelope shows great loyalty to Odysseus although she could have easily found another man, she remained faithful to Odysseus and his return. Homer shows the importance of this loyalty by reuniting Odysseus and Penelope for their unmatched loyalty and love for one another. When loyalty is present from both sides in the relationship good things happen as we see with Odysseus and Penelope, but when they aren’t the story changes. 

Loyalty can’t be one-sided and returning loyalty is of huge importance in The Odyssey, Homer shows this through the deaths of Odysseus’s men. In book 15 of the epic, Odysseus and his crew have made it out of the underworld and just returned to Circe's Island, Circe advises him and his men to stay away from Helios’ cattle no matter what the circumstances. “Odysseus tries to persuade his men to bypass Thrinacia, the island of the sun god, Helios, but they insist on landing. Driven by hunger, they ignore Odysseus' warning not to feast on Helios' cattle… To appease Helios, Zeus sends down a thunderbolt to sink Odysseus' ship. Odysseus alone survives.” (15.1236) Odysseus’s men disrespecting him by going against his orders is not only unloyal but also selfish considering the loyalty and respect Odysseus gives them. These actions are frowned upon by ancient greek society, and Homer emphasizes this by letting the whole crew be killed off by Zeus, excluding the loyal one; Odysseus. As seen being loyal to one another is crucial in a partnership and without the return of respect and loyalty, unfortunate events can conspire.

Throughout the Odyssey, Homer is constantly expressing the importance of returning loyalty where it is given. He shows this in the epic poem by giving Penelope Odysseus, peace, and tranquility. He shows the significance of returning loyalty by sacrificing the unfaithful crewmates of Odysseus. Trust is a big factor in all relationships, friendships, and partnerships, but one cannot trust another without receiving loyalty. Those who are loyal will not only have loyalty reciprocated but will also have success.