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Odyssey Symbolism Essay

Images and Symbolism in The Odyssey Essay

767 Words4 Pages

The Sea
Odysseus spends so much time sailing home that the sea really takes up a good chunk of his life. This is fitting, since the sea and its perils work much the same way the Odyssey argues that life does, it is full of suffering, but it can’t be avoided. The sea can send blessings like sea breezes to blow him home or obstacles like storms, Skylla and Charybdis, and treacherous islands. Because the sea is ruled by Poseidon, it is also a manifestation of the superiority of the gods and nature over man.
Laertes’s Shroud
The shroud is a symbol of female deception. Because she is a woman, Penelope doesn’t have much power to resist the suitors (as seen repeatedly by her son’s commands to go back upstairs to the bedroom, since everything…show more content…

Of course, that he stops upon request reminds us that he maintains deference to Odysseus’s will.
Argos
Odysseus’s pet dog is a symbol of unconditional loyalty. Though Argos was a puppy when he last saw Odysseus, many years later he still loves him and shows his affection for his master by wagging his tail and trying to move nearer Odysseus when he hears his voice. Though he is ignored and often mistreated by the hands that once fed him, Argos still hangs around the palace hall, waiting only for his master’s return. After seeing him at last, Argos dies happy.
Disguises and Dreams
In the Odyssey, disguises are usually a sign of divine intervention, manipulation, and sanction. The gods have no qualms deceiving mortals and helping their favorites deceive others. They often use disguises themselves, reminding us that the gods, too, can be devious. Dreams as well are the direct result of divine power, but tend to be more straightforward and often comfort the sleeping mortal.
Food and Banqueting
In a culture that holds hospitality as an all-important test of character, feasting and festivities are a measure of hospitality and human civility. Often, defects in the banquet signal some fundamental flaw in the host. For example, Polyphemos feasts on human flesh, which makes him, well, an inhuman monster. Circe seems

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Symbolism in the Odyssey

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In The Odyssey, Homer uses many literary devices to reach out to his audience. He wants the reader to look past the surface of the text and go deeper into its meaning. This is accomplished by using symbolism throughout the epic. The most significant of these symbols are Odysseus’ great bow, the shroud that Penelope weaves for Laertes, the island of Ithaca, and the sea itself. The great bow symbolizes both Odysseus’ strength and the obvious truth: he is the only one fit both for Penelope and to lead Ithaca.

When the suitors struggle to do what Odysseus does without effort, it proves that not a single one of them will be able to replace the king. Eurymakhos admits, “Curse this day . . . What a shame to be repeated of us, after us! ” (489-490 l 256-264). The suitors soon realize he is rightand become embarrassed, realizing they are not worthy to take his place. Moreover, the shroud Penelope is weaving represents how swiftly and smartly she handles her situation at home.

These men are taking advantage of her hospitality and treating her like some poor beggar woman instead of like royalty. Since she is not capable of fighting them out of her house, she uses her mind over her muscle to deceive them. She unweaves the shroud each night for three years, until she is caught, giving Odysseus enough time to come home and take Ithaca back. Obviously, the island of Ithaca stands for Odysseus’ long awaited homecoming and the final destination of his journey.

It is the place where he grows up and works his entire life to build a home, a family, and a kingdom. It is also the place where he fights so hardly to return. Even when he is offered a life of luxury and immortality by the goddess Calypso, he admits his heart’s desire when he explains to her, “Yet, it is true, each day I long for home . . . Let the trial come,” (283 l 228-233). Here he proves he will face any hardship in order to reach Ithaca.

To do so, he travels for many years by sea, which is, ironically, the symbol for his odyssey. His journey is filled with so many ups and downs, like the movement of the waves. The voyage also seems never ending and full of various emotions, such as, loss, despair, and sometimes hope. Similarly, the sea itself is vast and deep. The sea also symbolizes the superiority of the gods over man. After Odysseus blinds Poseidon’s son, the god uses his weapon, the sea, to exile the man from his home.

Although the other gods are willing to see Odysseus home, the wrath of a single god thwarts his arrival for twenty years. Homer’s use of symbolism helps the reader get a better understanding of the characters. Not only does he use the characters’ personal items to represent their personalities, but also uses the places where they reside and travel to represent their desires and hardships. Without these significant symbols, the audience would not be able to grasp the full meaning behind the words of this story.

Author: Christen Curtis

in The Odyssey

Symbolism in the Odyssey

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