The Odyssey

It's All Greek to the Non-Greeks: Encounters on Odysseus's Journey 10th Grade

The nature of a civilized society or person, rather than an uncivilized one, depends on perspective. Mores that one culture holds dear potentially offend others. Wise travelers remain aware of location before flashing a casual thumbs up or blowing their noses in public–although commonplace in America, these are crude and uncivil gestures to many other cultures. Truly, civility is determined by its source, and no author better captures the essence of civility than Homer in his epic poem, The Odyssey. Homer portrays the ancient Greek values as the pinnacle of civility. He contrasts Odysseus against the Cyclopians, the Laestrygonians, and the Lotus Eaters, who appear barbaric or uncouth because they reject Greek thought and traditional Greek principles. This inability to approach new cultures and locations with sensitivity to differences says more about Odysseus's ethnocentric values, though, than it does about the cultures he encounters. Odysseus refuses to see beyond his own values, showing that he, himself, cares little of observing civility to other cultures and regards only his own worldview as the ideal.

Oddly, Polyphemus the cyclops exhibits a different extent of civility–he knows all his sheep and cares for his animals...

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