The Consequences Of Action In Homer's The Odyssey


Consequence plays a role in one’s identity by being the cost a person has to pay for displaying weakness, whether this is being unable to resist temptation or acting out of arrogance. Both of these weaknesses would cause an individual to experience unfavorable circumstances which keeps one grounded because it allows one to realize that no matter how heroic or successful one is is, they are bound to make mistakes, errors, and wrong decisions in the course of their life that stem from their flaws. Many similar examples of individuals being reminded about how succumbing to temptation and acting out of arrogance, some of the most common character flaws, cost them in the end, exist in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, which shows that imperfection is the nature of human life.

One of the greatest weaknesses shown in The Odyssey is being unable to resist temptation, whether the temptation entails food and drink, sexual desire, or others and how allowing one’s natural desire to impact their sense of judgement has dire consequences. Odysseus, for example, who is the protagonist of The Odyssey, has numerous characteristics that establish him as being the hero of the epic poem, including leadership qualities, courage, and having the will to return to Ithaca, but is flawed when it comes to his sexual desire as he lacks self-control around the beautiful women in the epic, the most important being Circe. When Odysseus reaches the island of Circe in book 10, and is immune to the drug that leaves the rest of his crew helpless, Circe is impressed, and the two engage in an affair shortly afterwards. When this occurs, Odysseus gives no thought to Penelope, who has been waiting for him back home for almost 20 years, because he only sees what is front of him: a beautiful, witch-goddess who is as willing as he is to engage in an affair. Eventually, the affair reaches its limits when  Circe tempts Odysseus to be unfaithful to Penelope, pleading, “‘Come, sheathe your sword, mount my bed and mix in the magic of love--we’ll breed deep trust between us’’’ (Homer 165). Once Circe and Odysseus engage in sexual activity, Odysseus has crossed the line by getting physical with a woman other than his wife, committing both adultery, as well as displaying lust for Circe, which are two of the seven deadly sins. Although he is later advised by Circe to speak to Tiresias regarding how to continue about his journey to Ithaca and is also told that he must be tied up in order to be able to hear the Sirens of Scylla safely, Odysseus and Circe’s relationship still delays his journey back to Ithaca, because he has gotten so used to the comforts of living with her that he refuses to continue the journey and has to be told by his men that it is ridiculous for him to continue to linger. Odysseus admits this himself telling the reader that he had spent a year living in luxury “but then when the year was through and the seasons wheeled by and the months waned and the long days came round again, my loyal comrades took me aside and prodded” and “their urging brought my stubborn spirit round” (Homer 170). Because Odysseus loses the will that he had previously to even return to Ithaca due to his affair with Circe, it is evident that the relationship is more harmful for him than helpful. Due to losing his will to return to his kingdom it seems that he has almost become the opposite version of himself while with her, as he has turned into a man who acts only according to his own desire without care for the rest of the crew and for finishing the journey he had started.

Another example of a weakness that is evident in the Odyssey of leading to disadvantageous consequences is arrogance which is displayed first by Odysseus, and then later by his men. For example, in book 9, Odysseus first shows arrogance by refusing to leave the cave of Polyphemus after sailing through the land of Cyclopes, and then by revealing his identity to Polyphemus after having defeated him, bragging, “‘If any man on the face of the earth should ask you who blinded you, shamed you so -- say Odysseus, raider of cities, he gouged out your eye, Laertes’ son who makes his home in Ithaca!” (Homer 152). Due to Odysseus’s display of arrogance, the prophecy is fulfilled, and Odysseus’s journey is delayed by Posiedon. Odysseus ends up losing all of the ships  except for the one in which he was traveling when they landed at Laestrygonia, land of the giants. Additionally, in book 12 of the poem, Odysseus’s men become impatient with the lack of food resources they have while at Thrinacia, the Island of the Sun and decide to kill the Sun’s cattle in their arrogance, despite being warned by Odysseus to not do so. Finally, it must be mentioned that Odysseus and his men were not sent with nothing --- they already had food, provided by Circe, but it is when that food supply began to diminish that they showed impatience. Euroylchus, who seemingly has been against Odysseus’s leadership for the entirety of the journey thus far, is the most arrogant, arguing that while “‘all ways of dying are hateful to us mortals, to die of hunger, starve to death---that’s the worst of all’’’ (Homer 206). With this argument, Euroylchus persuades the remainder of the men to not only the kill the cattle in order to have access to more food (and that too temporarily), but he also encourages them to disobey their leader which is a failure in itself as it means their loyalty is flawed. Finally, Euroylchus, who also makes the contention that it is better to die of punishment by the gods than of starvation, fails to care that the cost of giving into temptation can sometimes be through one’s life, alleging that he would rather “die at sea, with one deep gulp of death, than die by inches on this desolate island” (Homer 207). This would imply that Euroyclus and Odysseus’s men have such a weak will to resist temptation and are so arrogant that there was no way for them to return to Ithaca with Odysseus; they would lose their lives at some point in the journey because there are simply too many obstacles throughout the journey that would require an individual to resist acting according to their own desire to count.

In all, The Odyssey, and life, go to show that while all of us possess weaknesses that sometimes cause us to make wrong decisions, it is wise to note that giving into these individual weaknesses can only ever have negative effects. It is in one best’s interests, then, to avoid letting our flaws overshadow our strengths by making sure that it is our strengths that guide our choices and trying to resist temptation by having a will that is stronger than our temptation and any obstacle. Individuals that try to abide by these guidelines are likely to find themselves making wiser decisions that have better outcomes in the long run. After all, while neither of us is perfect, knowing how to make the right decisions can certainly get us there.

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